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  • Waterwise Gardening | David Salman

Groundcovers in the Xeric Garden

Groundcovers are the flowering carpets of our gardens, acting as a living mulch to shade the soil, holding the soil in place on slopes, and providing flowers for pollinators when they’re in bloom. A well-designed garden uses groundcovers to edge pathways to soften the edges, planted between flagstone to help color-up expanses of flat rock and to soften the borders of raised beds when they cascade over the edges. And groundcovers are excellent to plant bulbs and taller growing perennials into. Wooly thyme and wildflower tulips make a wonderful spring combination. Hardy Plumbago and Salvia greggii cultivars provide nectar and refreshing flower color combinations in late summer and early fall.

Agastache x pallida 'Globetrotter' (Hybrid Hummingbird Mint)

Ajuga reptans Catlin’s Giant (Catlin’s Giant Ajuga)

This large growing Ajuga has huge blue flower spikes in late spring/early summer that bees love as a nectar source. This is a shade lover and is very useful for planting under pinon and other trees and large shrubs that cast shade. Ajuga likes regular irrigation to keep it happy and growing vigorously.

Full sun or partial shade. 8-12" tall x 12-18" wide and cold hardy to zone 4.

Cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-Summer)

White, fragrant flowers cover the fuzzy, evergreen gray foliage in late spring and attract lots of pollinating insects. A tough but beautiful groundcover, Snow-in-Summer is long-lived in the xeric garden and tolerates light foot traffic once established. It's an excellent choice for covering large areas. Full sun. 4-6" tall x 15-18" wide and cold hardy to zone 3.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Hardy Plumbago)

This outstanding Old World groundcover hails from China but is superbly adapted for planting in New Mexico. Blooming in late summer with deep blue flowers, the foliage provides outstanding red fall foliage to beautify our xeriscapes for many months. It grows in full sun or full shade in all types of soils including clay. And if it likes its spot in the landscape, it lives forever. I have a thirty-year planting that’s still healthy and colorful. Full Shade, Full Sun, Partial Sun. 9-12" tall x 12-20" wide and cold hardy to zone 4.

Delosperma cooperi (Purple Ice Plant)

The first cold hardy ice plant to be introduced in North America, this South African succulent is an outstanding groundcover renowned for its summer-long display of large purple, honeybee attracting flowers. It makes a great groundcover for covering gravel mulch to reduce glare and reflected heat. But if rabbits are a problem, this is not a good choice unless protected in courtyards and other fenced areas. Full or part sun. 24-24" tall x 24-36" wide and cold hardy to zone 4.

Paronychia kapela ssp. serpyllifolia (Nailwort)

A marvelous, very long-lived Old World groundcover from the Spanish Pyrenees. Highly recommended for planting between flagstones and in the patio where it will tolerate light foot traffic. Evergreen with white flowers/seedheads, nailwort is a top choice for xeriscapes. Full Sun. Grows 1" tall x 12-15" wide and is cold hardy to zones 4.

Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite' (Aromatic Aster)

Teucrium aronanum (Creeping Silver Germander)

It's showy, lavender-pink flowers perfume the garden with its honey-scented flowers. The gray evergreen foliage is finely textured and makes a handsome groundcover when out of flower. This is a tough, long-lived perennial for planting on gentle slopes, between flagstones, or as an edging plant along walks. Rabbit resistant. 2-3' tall x 18-24' wide and cold hardy to zone 5.

Coreopsis pubescens Gold Standard

Tanacetum densum v. amani (Partridge Feather)

Another Old World plant, Tanacetum’s best attribute is its attractive feathery silver foliage and nice bright yellow late spring/early summer flowers. Partridge Feather is nicely xeric and grows equally well in the full, blazing sun or partial shade. Absolutely rabbit-resistant once established. Rabbit resistant. Full Sun & Partial Sun

Grow 3-8" tall by 12-24" wide and cold hardy to zone 4.

Thymus pseudolanuginosus (Wooly Thyme)

A cottage garden favorite, this fuzzy grower has been a garden favorite for hundreds of years, being useful planted between flagstones, along the edges of paths, and as a large-scale groundcover in flower beds. Non-flowering, its primary beauty comes from the carpet of soft gray evergreen foliage. An outstanding choice for NM. Full sun. 2" tall x 16" wide and cold hardy to zone 4.

Thymus Reiter (Reiter Thyme)

A vigorous evergreen cultivar originally introduced from California is one of the fastest-growing thymes for use as a groundcover or crack filler between flagstones. The plant has attractive dark green foliage and a profusion of small, light pink flowers in early summer.

Full sun. 3" tall x 30" wide and cold hardy to zone 4.

Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®​

One of David’s first native plant introductions from the late 1990s, this incredible groundcover spreads via underground stems and flowers with a blaze of orange tubular flowers beginning in July. A hummingbird favorite, Orange Carpet® appreciates modest irrigation to be its best. Use on slopes, to cascade over railroad ties and retaining walls or as a carpet around taller growing perennials like Salvia FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows and other Sages. Orange Carpet originates from the arid, mountains of southern Idaho and thrives in northern New Mexico gardens. Wait until spring to cut it back. 4-6" tall x 15-18" wide and cold hardy to zone 3.

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