Ground covers can be invasive

Q. What are my alternatives for a non- invasive ground cover after removing my English ivy?

John from Boardman

A. Many of the plants we call ground covers are used as such because they grow quickly and spread quickly. This is great if you are trying to fill a space, but many times this means the plants are either overpowering the space or just plain invasive.

Traditional ground covers include English ivy, ajuga (bugleweed, carpet bugle), pachysandra and vinca minor (myrtle, common periwinkle).

Many times these plants are just like mint. Once it is in the ground, you may be sorry about your choice and the location. Vinca is considered truly invasive in many areas.

Ground covers can provide cover for rodents for the winter. Thus, they are not a good idea right next to your home. Mice, chipmunks and others can use these areas for their habitat.

You might want to consider how fast it spreads, how many plants you’ll have to purchase and whether it dies back to the ground in winter. (That is not necessarily a problem.)

Here are a few of my favorites:

Hosta: There are many shorter varieties (and some truly miniature ones.) Consider a sea of different varieties for color, or just a large bed of one variety.

Sweet woodruff: Loves lots of shade, grows well in our zone, beautiful white flowers in spring, dainty green foliage, dies back in drier areas.

Liriope: This dark green leafed plant is often mistaken for a short grass. It is mostly evergreen (but only partially last winter). Some varieties will spread moderately, others a clump forming. The plant sends up a lovely purplish bloom in August/September as other plants are fading.

To make a decision, look to your neighborhood. What looks good or bad? Does mulching look like a better option? And don’t forget to view public gardens such as Fellows Riverside Gardens. You’ll be able to see plants up close with the proper names. Take a photo to purchase the correct plant later.

A ground cover can be anything you want – even junipers make an impressive show. Try to decide the purpose of the ground cover before making a decision.

Eric Barrett is OSU Ext. educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hot line at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.

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