The blue form of New Zealand Burr with finely divided pinnate evergreen foliage that forms a vigorous creeping ground cover. In summer 3″ stems support round white flowers that appear for several weeks. Easy to grow dense-growing plant to 3″ tall and covering up to 3 square feet in a year. Rich, well drained soil with regular summer moisture to speed growth and keep the appearance fresh. Best in part shade to shade- seems to resent hot sun and permanently dry positions. Excellent for a fast cover that blocks weeds and roots as it grows- perfect erosion control for steep shady slopes. Plant on 1′ centers for a fast cover. Adaptable to dry conditions when established.
Plant Type: Ground cover
Ground covers are useful for many different places. The important things are scale, vigor, and fertility of the soil. We advocate for plants that actually cover the ground in the most efficient way possible. Prepare the soil, at least double dig it so that there is oxygen in the soil. Smaller ground covers all uniformly require NON- compacted soil. And most benefit from an annual top dress of compost. Pour it right over the top and then water it to settle between the leaves. Water them reqularly unless they are completely drought adapted. For ground covers between pavers its important that the soil never becomes compacted- if it does (see above with compost).
Be realistic and care for your ground cover
A good ground cover blocks out weeds and creates the effect of a pool of foliage. Don’t try to cover the whole planet- that is rarely successful. Instead be realistic about what each plant can do. Some ground covers excel at erosion control, they often root into the ground along the stem stabilizing soil as they grow. Others work efficiently at blocking the growth of other plants- that means in the correct conditions they will be the dominant plant. Remember that weed seeds are born on the wind. They don’t just miraculously sprout from below. Therefore, you must concentrate on eliminating invaders. If that means hand pulling then that is what it takes. Very few desirable ground covers can get by with absolutely no care. Consider these plants your team and you are the coach. Heh. Here is a list of plants that do this job well.
Climate Adapted Plants for Gardeners in the PNW
Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’
Such a good good plant. The purple-foliaged New Zealand Burr covers the ground in pinnate dark purple foliage. Low spreading evergreen ground cover for full sun to part shade in rich, well drained, moisture retentive soils. Avoid compacted dry soils- it will die out. Instead provide an annual mulch of compost- put it right over the leaves and let the foliage grow up through it. This will give you a dense spectacular ground cover of purple with blue tints. Excellent as an understory in containers as well. In summer sporadic 4″ stems support spiky maroon orbs- these are the flowers. Best as a small scale ground cover, 3’x 3′ is reasonable. It will flow around low shrubs such as Hebes and around paving stones. Regular water. New Zealand.
This is the locally native form of our wild yarrow. A rambunctious, easy to grow evergreen perennial for rough sites in well drained soil in full sun. Continuously from spring to autumn ‘umbels’ of pure white flowers rise 18″ above low spreading aromatic, finely divided ferny foliage. Most often it is green with variants that have gray foliage from time to time. Low water perennial that can even be used as a lawn substitute. A single plant spreads to several feet wide. Moderate deer resistance. Butterflies oh the butterflies.This is a pioneer perennial and will often out compete less robust native perennials. Its best use is as a contained weed. It is great for pollinators Individual plants rarely persist more than 3 years. Oregon native plant.
Achillea millefolium ‘Calistoga’
A fine form of our native Yarrow that has leaves that are a striking gray with pure, clean white flowers. A great combination. Spreads to form a low wide plant that is evergreen (gray). The flat clusters of flowers appear continuously from May to frost. More consistently if you remove spent flowers. The umbels, unusual for the daisy family, are loved by butterflies. Well, actually all pollinators. They are given a flat landing pad and tons of flowers- what more could you want. Excellent for low care areas where this romping perennial will happily out compete weeds and hold ground with very light amounts of water. Full sun and well drained soil. its best to double dig the soil to incorporate oxygen and de-compact the soil. Does not like compacted soil. Light but consistent summer water speeds growth and vigor. Otherwise very drought tolerant. Excellent on slopes. To 20″ tall in bloom on a low spreading foliage plant to 2′ wide or wider. High deer resistance. Great cut flower. Mix with other low water plants. Pretty with other colors of yarrow. Oregon native plant.
Himalayan Maidenhair fern is one of our favorite groundcovers for shade and rich, moist soil. The divided fronds in the shape of an arrow are always soft and fresh. In spring this deciduous variety emerges with tones of amber and soft pink before taking on a mature soft green hue. These delicate leaflets are held on thin, wiry black stems to 10″ tall and it spreads prodigiously to form vast colonies. It doesn’t smother neighboring plants however, instead it seems to just flow around such woodland neighbors as Epimedium, Hellebores, even woodland bulbs like Erythronium. Regular summer water. Avoid hard, compacted dry soils. High deer resistance.
Spreading Dogbane is a pretty semi-shrubby native perennial that is found in every biome in our area. David Douglas mentioned this billowing perennial with clouds of light pink/white bells. Mostly he hated tripping over it in the Willamette Valley. This very permanent plant spreads to form big drifts in the wild. Streambanks, prairies, alpine meadows it can appear. The rounded downward pointing leaves emerge on semi-woody stems. In June-August clouds of flowers appear for weeks. Loved by pollinators and birds specifically attractive to native hummingbirds and butterflies. To 2′ tall and spreading by stolons to a wide area. Water to establish then none in subsequent years. Mulch after planting. Virtually any somewhat rich soil type including amended sand. Full sun to part shade. Wonderful plant and floral texture for meadows. I have great childhood memories of this plant in July in full bloom perched with our huge native black bumble bees. Very convenient bloom time- it begins to bloom just as most other natives are finished. Dogbane is toxic when consumed by humans or animals- hence the common name. When stems are broken a milky sap is exuded. Moderate deer resistance. Distantly related to milkweed. Once very common in the Willamette Valley its territory has shrunk. Great performance in hellstrips and verges that are lightly or completely non-irrigated. Give this plant room to spread and plan ahead. Limited availability. Oregon native plant
Arctostaphylos hookeri ‘Wayside’
At the North Willamette Experimental Station in Wilsonville where OSU conducted a trial of scores of Arctostaphylos species and cultivars this special ground cover Manzanita has been consistently one of the best performers. Deep green pointed leaves are held perpendicular to the sun on cinnamon red stems. In time it forms glossy red bark that is very showy. Low and dense growing to 2′ tall and 6′ wide. Excellent bank cover or ground cover in any soil that is not amended or boggy. Profuse white flowers in spring. First rate weed suppressing plant for hellstrips, rock gardens, dry borders. Excellent appearance year round. No summer water. Take advantage of its low dense growth to cover and suppress weeds. Wonderful plant for baking hot locations. Very easy to grow.
A very compact and slow growing form of this species.. Round glossy leaves add to the the overall dome shape. In winter into spring a continual procession of whitish-pink flowers. They come in groups and decorate this small shrub evenly. To about 1′ tall by 3′ wide not very quickly. Dense and smothers weeds effectively. Grows about 3″ per year, faster in more fertile soil. Great in year round containers where its restrained growth and ability to adhere to contours makes it perfect for life on the edge. Not quite as vigorous as kinnnick kinnick and actually a better specimen than ground cover. Great in rock gardens. Little summer water when established. Nice resistance to black spot. Appreciates a warm location. Moderately deer resistant. We have yet to see it produce berries. Or they were snagged by birds before we could notice. Demure little shrub. Looks glossy and fresh year round.
Arctostaphylos nummularia ‘Select Form’
Stunning glossy perfectly round leaves line wiry stems on this dense, mounding, very happy low-growing Manzanita. New growth is tinted red and settles to bright green. To 2′ tall and 4′ wide creating a dense weed-suppressing dome of foliage. White flowers in spring. Very garden tolerant for full sun to very light shade. Moderately fast growing. Excellent candidate for hellstrips, hillsides, etc. Great performance at the Oregon Coast. Little to no summer water once established. Very very good looking plant. It thrives in perfect conditions- neglect and sun and is much more fussy in shade. Cold hardy to 5ºF. Nummularia= coin shaped, referring to the leaves Takes a little bit of shade- especially if there is a very high tree canopy. Adapted to coastal conditions including sandy soils. The glossy leaves and dense nature of this shrub make it hard to capture in photographs.
Arctostaphylos x ‘Pacific Mist’
Wonderful low spreading Manzanita that we have grown for more than 20 years. Silver/gray pointed leaves densely clothe the spreading stems of this adaptable shrub. In time the lax, decumbent stems point upward at the tips. In spring white flowers are a bonus. To 2′ tall and 6′ wide it may be employed as an informal ground cover. Full sun to light shade and well drained soil of average fertility. Little to no summer water when established. Nice looking plant year round. In time it develops glossy cinnamon colored trunks/stems. Excellent on slopes. Takes more shade than most cultivars. Excellent cold hardiness. Plant on 30″ centers for a large ground cover. Tips may be pruned in spring to encourage density, otherwise it covers the ground densely. A hybrid of obscure parentage that has been around for decades.
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