Originally created 01/25/02

Ground cover helps reduce water needs



If you aren't looking for ways to improve water efficiency in your landscape, then maybe you should. Municipal water prices continue to climb, and the latest word from Georgia's Department of Natural Resources is that we may have water restrictions from now on.

To help with water efficiency in the landscape, consider using more ground covers. Most ground covers are drought-tolerant and water-efficient. By replacing grassy areas with drought-tolerant ground covers, you can lower your water and fertilizer needs.

Ground covers require water and fertilizer to become established. Once established, they eliminate weeds and bind the soil against erosion.

Some of the toughest, most drought-tolerant ground covers are junipers. They do best planted in full sun and require good soil drainage. Blue Pacific and Emerald Sea shore junipers grow 10 to 12 inches tall. Blue Pacific is a nice blue-green, and Emerald Sea is a bright sparkling green year round. Shore junipers spread rapidly and can be spaced 3 feet apart and cover in one to two years.

Parson's juniper is taller, growing to 18 to 24 inches. Its fine, feathery growth is gray-green. Branches are strongly horizontal with enough side branching to develop a dense plant. Blue Ridge juniper grows extremely flat and only 3 to 6 inches tall. The normal silvery blue foliage develops a purplish color in winter.

Asiatic jasmine is a small-leafed evergreen ground cover that is drought-tolerant and hardy in our area. It is tolerant of full sun or partial shade. It will reach 10 to 12 inches over time as stems layer on top of each other. Asiatic jasmine is a very refined ground cover that works well in beds along the edge of lawns or shrubbery borders.

Day lilies are another perennial ground cover that can be used in full sun. These plants are available in a number of varieties, heights and colors.

Ground covers such as English ivy and liriope can provide a lush, green cover in shady areas. English ivy thrives in partial to deep shade. As a ground cover, it grows 6 to 8 inches tall but will climb trees and other structures.

Common liriope forms clumps that enlarge each year and can have dark-green or variegated foliage. Silvery Sunproof is a variegated selection that is highly sun-tolerant. Monroe White is a flowering form and requires heavy shade for best flowering. Liriope is highly adaptable to the Augusta area and has many landscape applications.

Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call him at 821-2349, or send e-mail to smullis@uga.edu. The Richmond and Columbia counties' offices have a Web page at www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.