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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Weekly Primetime ArticleThursday, April 6, 2006By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist 
Shade Loving Groundcovers 

Shade is a blessing in the San Antonio area but it also can be a problem when it comes to trying to grow a lawn.  Even St. Augustine grass requires 4 hours of sun for a thick lawn.  Zoysia grass can tolerate shade but requires more sun than St. Augustine.  Bermuda and buffalo grass do not last long unless they’re in full sun.  The solution for shade is to grow one of the wonderful shade tolerant groundcovers.  The list includes Asiatic jasmine, dwarf ruellia, monkey grass, English ivy, and liriope for groundcovers under 18 inches tall.  If you have lots of ground to cover and want a taller groundcover consider Texas gold columbine, blue plumbago, Turk’s cap or shrimp plant.


Planting groundcover is not really that difficult.  If the ground is bare the ideal thing to do is add 2 inches of compost, spread 1 cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per 50 square feet and till up the soil.  In rocky uneven soil you can forego the compost or tilling if you must, the groundcovers like tender loving care but they are tough and will survive and prosper with much less water and care than a lawn. 


Even if you have a lawn in place it is easy to replace it with a groundcover.  Spray the growing lawn grass with Round-up or Finale.  In a week you can plant the groundcovers in to the dying grass.  The killed sod will serve as a mulch to help prevent weeds while the groundcover is spreading.  The first year water the groundcover as much as you would a lawn and fertilize again in September.  By year 2 the groundcover will not require any irrigation.  Your water bill will fall significantly.


  • My favorite groundcover for shade is Texas gold columbine.  It has light green scalloped leaves that form mounds 18-24 inches tall.  Planted under deciduous trees it blooms in March and April.  The flowers rise out of the mound of foliage and resemble shooting stars.


  • Asiatic jasmine is the favorite groundcover for sun or shade.  It is evergreen with dark green waxy foliage that is not bothered by pests or disease.  Deer do not eat Asiatic jasmine from established beds in most situations.  Jasmine can be allowed to grow natural or manicured.  In the natural state it makes a rolling groundcover about 1 foot tall.  With a string mower it can be trimmed to form straight edges, steps or any other form you want.  Once Asiatic jasmine is established it is nearly invincible but it is slow to establish itself.  Use 1 gallon plants placed every 2 feet to have a full bed at the end of the first growing season.  Rooted cuttings are inexpensive but it may take 3 years to have a lush, full planting.


  • English ivy grows much faster than Asiatic jasmine.  Rooted cuttings planted on 2 foot centers and fertilized and irrigated at the rate recommended for jasmine will fill in the area by the end of the first growing season. Deer love ivy so only use it where the hungry pests are not present.  In wet years English ivy will sometimes a develop foliage diseases.  The planting usually recovers after the weather dries.


  • Monkey grass and its larger cousin, liriope are spectacular groundcovers for deep shade.  They look like turf but do not require mowing, watering (after establishment), or pesticides.  A circle of liriope around a shade tree surrounded by a bed of Asiatic jasmine pruned flat has a very neat and formal look.


  • Dwarf ruellia is a blooming groundcover.  The Katy selection has quarter size tubular purple-blue blooms and Belinda has pink blooms.  There is also a white blooming selection. The plant makes a 12 inch tall groundcover in sun or shade.  The more sun, the more bloom, but it is still an attractive groundcover in the shade.  Four inch plants planted on 1 foot centers will fill in a bed within the first growing season.  Dwarf ruellia is not a favorite deer food but they will eat it in a drought, especially if it is irrigated.


  • Tropical Giant Spider Lily-This amazing plant has excellent shade tolerance.  Use a clump in the shade for a different look.  The 2.5 feet tall straplike blades are very attractive.  Tropical giant spider lily is drought tolerant and can survive poor soils.


  • My favorite groundcover for shade is Texas gold columbine.  It has light green scalloped leaves that form mounds 18-24 inches tall.  Planted under deciduous trees it blooms in March and April.  The flowers rise out of the mound of foliage and resemble shooting stars.


  • Taller Groundcovers- If you have a large shady area to cover consider using a tall groundcover for part of the planting. Shrimp plant, Turks cap and blue plumbago all make good tall groundcovers for the shade and they bloom from spring through late autumn.  The hummingbirds will visit your Turks cap and shrimp plant.  Plumbago is a special favorite of butterflies.