Garden & Landscape Tips

For these tough spots, look for plants that stay low to the ground and form mats, which naturally help suppress weeds. Plants may have a trailing habit, which cascades down walls or over the rims of containers. Many of these plants can even handle light foot traffic.

Plants for these areas are valued for their flowers, foliage and texture. They thrive in hot and dry places in the landscape, such as where a driveway and sidewalk meet.

Here’s a sampler:

Ice plant

ice plant
Ice plant
Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

This perennial anchors much of the California hills and coastline, and it does just fine in the warmer climates of the Lower Midwest and eastern United States and South. Native to South Africa, ice plant (Delosperma) is available at most garden centers or through mail order and online catalogs.

What to do:

  • Plant in full sun. Water sparingly.
  • Cut back weather-damaged foliage as needed in late winter or early spring.
  • Ice plant is rated winter hardy to USDA Zone 6, but has been grown successful in some locations in Zone 5. Generally in Zone 5, poor drainage will cause this plant to die in winter.

What to expect:

  • Flowers will be pink, purple, reddish or yellow. Most bloom from June until frost.
  • Ice plant gets 2 to 6 inches tall with about a 12- to 24-inch spread, depending on the cultivar selected.
  • Succulent foliage is evergreen and takes on a purple hue in winter. Forms a loose mat.
  • Recommended cultivars include: purple ice plant (D. cooperi); Starburst (D. floribundum); yellow ice plant (D. nubigenum); ‘Kelaidis’ Mesa Verde series; and ‘John Proffit’ Table Mountain series.

Cheddar pinks

cheddar pinks
Dianthus ‘Tiny Rubies’
Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

Cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus), a member of the carnation family, gets its name from the fringed flowers, which look like they’ve been trimmed with pinking shears. This is one of the most fragrant perennials in the garden in spring and early summer, so try to plant this where you can enjoy that attribute.

What to do:

  • Plant in full sun. Water sparingly.
  • Usually no clean up from winter is needed because the new growth camouflages any brown leaves. Shear back flowers when done blooming.
  • Most Cheddar pinks are rated winter hardy to USDA Zone 4, some to Zone 3. Poor drainage will cause this plant to die in winter.

What to expect:

  • Flowers will be pink, red, white or pink and white. They bloom in late spring and early summer with occasional flowers through summer.
  • Cheddar pinks are 4 to 8 inches tall with a spread of 12 inches or more, depending on the cultivar selected.
  • Plant forms a tight, evergreen carpet of blue-green foliage.
  • Recommended cultivars: ‘Tiny Rubies’; ‘Feuerhexe,’ sold as Firewitch; ‘Bath’s Pink’ and ‘Spotty.’ ‘Brilliant,’ a maiden pink (D. deltoides), also is a good choice. It has deep green foliage and gets about 6 inches tall with a 10-inch spread.

Sedum

sedum
Sedum ‘Angelina’
Photo courtesy ProvenWinners.com

Stonecrop or live-forever (Sedum sp.) is a succulent like perennial that can take a little foot traffic and, depending on the variety and the weather, holds its looks through winter, too.

What to do:

  • Plant in full sun. Water sparingly.
  • Snip off winter-damaged parts of the plant, as needed.
  • Most of the low-growing sedums are rated winter hardy to USDA Zone 4, some to Zone 3. Poor drainage will cause this plant to die in winter.

What to expect:

  • Flowers will be pink, reddish-pink or yellow, usually in early to mid-summer.
  • Low-growing sedums get 4 to 6 inches tall with a 10- to 12-inch spread.
  • Sedum has blue, green or yellow foliage. Leaves will be rounded or needle-like.
  • Recommended cultivars: ‘Angelina’ (S. rupestre); ‘John Creech’ (S. spurium); Russian stonecrop (S. kamtschaticum); gold moss sedum (S. acre) and ‘Blue Spruce’ (S. reflexum).
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