Groundcover for sandy soil

jankay(7b)June 6, 2006

Today the big trench behind my house was finally filled in and smoothed over! This is a great day! And it only took a year to get the builder to do it!

Okay, I'll try to calm down. I need to know what kind of groundcover would be good for this space. They filled with a very sandy clay-mix (I have all South Carolina red clay in the rest of the yard), and I'm wondering about erosion control. Reading some of the posts here, it sounds like people don't like vinca vine -- could I ask why that is? I guess I'm looking for something that will grow fast in shade, and will help with erosion control. The rest of the yard will be the showplace (one day, I hope), not this area. I'd love to not have to amend the soil at all, but is that possible?

Many, many thanks. You all are so good to give advice to those of us here on the learning curve.

Here is a link that might be useful: Yard dirt done

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maro(z8 WA)

First try the Groundcovers forum.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 10:03PM
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Will do.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 10:38PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)


    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 9:45PM
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Thanks for the reply -- Groundcovers forum is pretty dormant. I'm thinking that sedum wouldn't be that great at erosion control -- am I wrong? Also, now that I look at the area, it's pretty big. Just one groundcover over everything might look silly. Any suggestions for how to fill this area? I do have volunteer trees around that I could try to transplant. Hmmmmm.

Thanks for any help or advice,


    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 8:58AM
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Ajuga makes a pretty solid mat of foliage; I've never needed to be concerned with erosion, but I'd think that ajuga would work well. Or how about a lamium?

Do you have a photo you can show us?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:01AM
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I love ajuga and lamium. Do you think they'd do well in sandy soil? The pictures are linked below. Can you see the whole area done in just one ground cover? This area is at the back of my yard, and half of it is off my property line.

Thanks so much,


Here is a link that might be useful: Yard dirt done

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:15AM
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I have sandy soil too, and my lamium does fine in it. I believe ajuga likes moist conditions *best* but will settle in anywhere it's planted.

At my last home, I had some ajuga planted on the far side of a large boulder, so the sprinklers never hit it. It did fine, but didn't spread as wildly as it might have. That was fine by me; I didn't want to weed it out of the lawn anyway.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:23AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

Ok Jan, I'm no complete expert but I do know a little bit about this, and I had a feeling the answer to your question was a little bit more involved than just "plant this." The reason is, one plant isn't going to control erosion, it takes a mix of plants at a mix of heights. One aspect of erosion control is stopping the rain from ever hitting the ground. Trees and shrubs are most effective at that. Then there's covering the ground, but also a network of deep and shallow roots that knits the soil together. Your best long term bet is a mix of trees, shrubs, and perrenials.

Below is a really good Web site I found that explains the situation. It's written for CA, but the same principles apply to SC. Also, when I took a look at the size of the area we're talking about, I realized that your instincts are correct to think in terms of a mix, for aesthetics as well as functionality.

Here's a quote:

A planting can stop nearly all erosion and hillside movement in a landscape. The planting needs to be a mix of groundcovers, shrubs, trees, and perennials with the areas between plants(if there are any openings) covered with appropriate mulch and/or boulders. A varied planting is FAR more effective than a monoculture on a slope. Why? When you have a mixture of plants you have layers of vegetation that the rainfall will hit and when it finally hits the ground the force of it hitting the ground is much reduced. Generally the bigger the plant grows to, the deeper the roots. There are exceptions; pines and some manzanitas have shallow roots; you can use them within the planting but not as the total solution. Some of the pines (Pinus spp.) and manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.) can grow on one foot of soil. If you only have a foot of soil on the slope this is VERY useful. If the soil is deeper, a mix of deep roots are needed to tie the top soil(s) to the bottom rock, but the top 1-2 feet of soil needs to be tied tightly together. The shallow rooted plants like monkey flowers (Diplacus spp.), Penstemons (Penstemon spp.), Sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), sages (Salvia spp.) or some manzanitas do this well. Also, the type of mulch you use is important. Do not use compost, rice straw, hay straw, large chunks of bark, etc.

A mixture of deep-rooted California native shrubs, and trees, mixed with shallow-rooted shrubs, and perennials, mulched and with no weeds, will control erosion on the slope. Why should you plant a California native plant community on the slope and not grass or ice plant! Because the native plants connect with each other underground, and the microorganisms that live in association with them produce tiny threads that ramify through the soil, coiling around particles of sand and clay and holding them, and also producing glue-like compounds to hold the soil particles. This interconnection, I guess you could think of it as a natural microorganism community underground living in cooperation with the plant community aboveground, which the grass and iceplant, and other alien plants do not possess, is why it is critical to plant California native plants in a spaced plant community to control erosion on a slope.

Here is a link that might be useful: Simple erosion control for a hillside or garden slope

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 3:35PM
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Wow! That is great info! It makes so much sense, too. I went to the nursery today with some of the fill and a guy there said it was actually very good stuff, with excellent compactibility. I think I will try to move some of native tree volunteers over to the sloped area, after first checking to see which ones will have deeper root systems. I also have some vinca vine, and a little shrub that I got at a plant swap, and that can get things rolling a bit, too. Then I'll do a bit more planning, taking into account the info on the link and suggestions given by everyone. Many thanks for taking the time to help out :D Jan

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 8:09PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

Around the edge where you have shade you can't go wrong with rhododenrons. There's even one named after your state, Rhododendron carolinianum or something like that. We had some gorgeous ones at the arboretum where I used to work. Below is a whole Web page devoted to native Carolina rhodies and azaleas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rhododendrons of the Piedmont

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 5:28PM
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