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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 Express-News Article
Saturday, September 2, 2006
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist

“The Groundcover Option”

Have you enjoyed trying to keep your lawn green this summer? Do you have pets or children that need an expanse of lawn on which to run and play games? If you answered no to all of those questions, it may be time to consider replacing all or part of your lawn with an attractive groundcover. Every autumn, area nurseries have sales on groundcovers in 1 gallon or 4 inch containers of Asiatic jasmine, dwarf ruellia, monkey grass, and English ivy. The groundcovers are evergreen and once established are easy to maintain and drought tolerant.

Kill the lawn with Roundup or Finale and plant the groundcovers right into the killed sod. Alternately, you can add 2 inches of compost and till it into the planting area. If stubborn Bermuda grass or St Augustine reappears next spring, just use one of the grass specific herbicides (Fusilade II, Over-the-Top, Vantage and others) to control it.

Asiatic jasmine has shiny green leaves and makes a very tight groundcover. It has a spreading growth habit and when left on its own, makes an attractive undulating cover about 18 inches tall in sun or shade. One of the best characteristics of Asiatic jasmine, however, is that it can be molded and manicured. Shape it however you want with your string mower. You can even make steps and sharp edges if you are skillful with the string mower. Most landscape use the string mower to make a flat surface from 6 inches to 18 inches tall. Deer do not eat jasmine in most neighborhoods.

Asiatic jasmine sometimes burns in cold winters. A quick run through with the lawn mower at the highest level in the spring removes the brown foliage.

The major complaint about jasmine as a groundcover is that it is slow to become established. Rooted cuttings are inexpensive but it requires at least 2 years of weed control and watering to have it fill-in. The best strategy seems to be to take advantage of the Fall sales on 1 gallon containers and plant them on 1 to 1.5 feet centers. Planted in that manner the bed will fill-in in 1 year.

Once Asiatic jasmine is established weeds are not usually a problem because the planting becomes so thick, but the waxy coating on the leaves makes it very tolerant of Round-up. So tolerant that it can even be weeded with the spray.

Dwarf ruellia grows to about 12 inches tall. The foliage is attractive but the main claim to fame is that it blooms throughout the growing season (violet, pink, or white). Deer eat ruellia in droughts but it is not their favorite food. Dwarf ruellia is aggressive enough to fill a bed in one season when the plants are placed on 1 foot centers. The dwarf version, however is not as aggressive as the related full size Mexican petunia. Dwarf ruellia will not take over the neighborhood.

Monkey grass leads a whole family of grass-like groundcovers whose major difference is their height and the thickness of blade. Dwarf mondo grass has a fine blade and only grows to 3 inches. Giant liriope may grow to 2 feet tall. The most useful plant of this group is standard monkey grass. It is 6 inches tall. Grow the grass-like ground covers in the shade or in partial sun. Some great examples of monkey grass used as a groundcover exist in the King William neighborhood. It looks like grass but never requires mowing. Like Asiatic jasmine, monkey grass is difficult to establish. Rooted pieces can be harvested from established beds, or purchase 4 inch containers. Plant them on 8 to 12 inch centers. Liriope is available in 1 gallon containers.

English ivy is a fast spreading groundcover for shady landscapes. Rooted cuttings placed on 1 foot centers in the autumn will cover a bed in one season. English ivy is a favorite deer food so do not use it in a neighborhood blessed with high populations.