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Drought-Tolerant Ground Covers

Perennial Options for Dry Soil

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Why is it important to know about perennial drought-tolerant ground covers? Well, often your turfgrass of choice will not grow very well in dry soil. Wouldn't it be nice if the same could be said of most types of weeds? Regrettably, such is not the case.

Yes, we're all too well aware that weeds will quickly invade a bare patch and take it over. So if you've ruled out turfgrass as an option or simply wish to grow perennials in that location because they are more attractive or more interesting than grass, you may get an idea for a drought-tolerant ground cover that fits the bill by reading the information below. Be sure to follow the links provided to learn more about how to grow the particular perennials suggested.

1. Angelina Sedum

Picture of Angelina sedum. A drought-resistant ground cover, Angelina sedum is used in rock gardens.
David Beaulieu

Angelina sedum or "stonecrop" is a flowering ground cover. In this case, however, the blossoms take a backseat to the foliage. I value Angelina as a low-growing plant with chartreuse foliage. As a bonus, this drought-tolerant ground cover spreads quickly, effectively filling in your problem area, with a little help from you (in the form of laying down mulch, etc.). Like many succulents, it will root where its leaves come into contact with the soil.

As for all the entries on this list, to access further information about growing Angelina sedum, just click the link above the photo, at left.

2. Yellow Alyssum

Picture of yellow alyssum, a yellow flowering ground cover.
David Beaulieu

You're probably familiar with sweet alyssum, which is treated as an annual plant in the North. It's very popular in the U.S. as the white element in July 4th plantings, where a red-white-and-blue color scheme is called for. But in this entry I'm talking about a different kind of alyssum.

Yellow alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis) is a hardy perennial. Like Angelina sedum, it sports attractive leaves -- in this case, leaves of a blue-gray or gray-green color. But unlike Angelina, Aurinia saxatilis is grown more for the display created by its flowers. It looks especially nice tumbling over stone walls, as in the photo at left.

3. Ice Plant

Iceplant is a flowering ground cover. The iceplant in this photo has purple flowers.
David Beaulieu

Pictured on your left is purple ice plant (Delosperma cooperi). Like Angelina sedum (above), this plant has succulent leaves.

Not only is this a drought-tolerant ground cover, but it positively does not like for its roots to be sitting in moisture. For that reason, ice plant can be challenging for someone experimenting with it for the first time. So unlike the other plants listed here, I would not classify this one as easy to grow.

Still, its flowers are gorgeous, so I recommend giving it a try. Its unusual foliage (the look of which gives it its common plant name) is moderately attractive, as well.

4. Candytuft

Picture of candytuft. A flowering ground cover, candytuft flowers become tinged with lavender.
David Beaulieu
Candytuft is one of my favorite perennials, hands down. Unlike the other plants featured here, though, it does not bear attractive leaves. No, it's all about the flowers with candytuft. But oh, what flowers! Not only are they breathtaking when massed together, but each individual bloom will merit close study if you enjoy intricate patterns.

5. Vinca Minor

Vinca picture. Vinca minor is a groundcover with blue flowers, as the photo shows.
David Beaulieu

With Vinca minor, we come to a plant that is somewhat problematic. That's because this viny plant, which features glossy leaves and blue flowers, and which is often grown in shade-covered areas, has made many a list of invasive plants for North America.

The fact that some drought-tolerant ground covers (more of which follow below) are at least mildly invasive shouldn't surprise us very much. After all, plants need to be tough to survive in dry soils. And they don't turn that toughness on and off to please us! A tough plant will, in many cases, out-compete its competition for available resources, including water. Another example that's tempting to plant but definitely invasive is lily-of-the-valley, famous for its great-smelling blooms that resemble little bells.

You'll have to make up your own mind as to whether you wish to grow plants such as Vinca minor. I am neither endorsing nor condemning the plant. I am simply giving you information you need to know to make an informed decision.

6. Ajuga or "Bugleweed"

Photo showing dark foliage of an ajuga plant.
David Beaulieu

Bugleweed (Ajuga) is another invasive plant. Based on my own experience, it is more difficult to control than Vinca minor, so I'm certainly not urging you to grow it. I'm tired of pulling it out of places where it doesn't belong in my own landscaping, frankly.

Nonetheless, some folks might consider growing this drought-tolerant ground cover under certain conditions. Its proponents point to its spiky flowers and (in the case of some cultivars) attractive leaves as selling points, although I do not count myself among those "sold" on bugleweed.

7. Chinese Lantern Plants

Chinese lantern picture. The pods of Chinese lantern plants are orange.
David Beaulieu

Chinese lantern is another invasive. But I include it here because so many folks are interested in this novelty. As with other aggressive plants, if you feel you truly must grow it, there are ways to contain it. Among other matters, I discuss ways of containing Chinese lanterns in my full article, which you can reach by clicking the link above the photo (on your left).

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