Help choosing a groundcover near my roses

thahalibut(Z-9 CA, SSZ-9)March 9, 2012

I would like to plant a ground cover plant next to my roses. I was thinking a sedum or ice plant, but it is going to be watered from above & be fairly wet for a sedum or ice plant.

Any ideas for something "6 or under, can take water, full sun & will spread but not be invasive.


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Hi Tim, when you say "next to my roses", do you mean in a strip in front of or around the roses, separated from them? Or, are you meaning between the roses, grown over their root zones? It makes a huge difference.

Personally, the only kind of "ground cover" I use over the ground surrounding any roses are shallow rooted annuals such as alyssum. Anything more permanent, more deeply rooted, both competes with the roses for resources and presents maintenance issues caring for them.

Whatever it is, it must be able to be stepped on without destroying it for you to be able to prune, dead head, cut flowers, etc. Permanent types make it impossible for you to mulch, easily rake up debris after clean-up and may be damaged by fertilizers and any other chemicals you choose to use.

Alyssum is shallow rooted and makes a very effective ground cover around the roses. It self seeds so once you have it, you pretty much always will. It's easily pulled up when it gets old and woody, smells great, flowers any time you expect the roses to and will continue reproducing itself even after being walked on and buried under mulches. I would simply go with the plain, old white type you can find as either seed or started plants in pretty much every source's annuals.

Any and all of which may, or may not, be of interest or importance to you. Just my suggestions. Hope they help. Kim

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 5:30PM
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littlesmokie(Portland z8)

Ajuga aka Carpet Bugle?

I like "Bronze Beauty," but there's also "Black Scallop" with larger darker leaves or "Chocolate Chip" with smaller leaves. Blooms in May here and provides nice winter color/structure too.

A perennial cranesbill (like my favorite Rozanne) will grow taller than requested but does very well in the moist somewhat shady feet of roses, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ajuga Bronze Beauty

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 5:32PM
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thahalibut(Z-9 CA, SSZ-9)

Kim, it will not be in between the roses, it will be in front or sides & will be far enough away to not compete with the rose roots.
I love perennials, annuals not so much, dont like the idea of planting over year after year.
Not worried about stepping on it, I can easily step over or around it where it will be planted.
Do all Alyssum self seed? We bought some the last 2 years & they have not come back from seed, not 1. Self seeding plants scare me, dont want them to take over or take all my time picking them out. I am going to look into the alyssum, I saw some nice looking ones on google.

Ajuga looks like a possibility, not sure if it can handle full sun in zone 9 though.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:36PM
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One of my favorite underplantings is Geranium Rozanne. It's blue, so it goes with almost everything, and it's almost always in bloom.

I don't know about stepping on it, though. I pretty much work around it, but then again my garden is on the small side. Makes me look like I'm playing a game of Twister (and losing), but the roses seem happy enough.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:56PM
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I'm not sure what alyssum you might have gotten that hasn't helped itself to the area, but yes, the plain old white one is extremely durable and nearly "invasive". That's why it's included in the "weed mix" they use for hillsides. Don't worry about spending inordinate amounts of time picking them out from everywhere. While they DO help themselves to any bit of soil, they are easily gotten rid of. Don't use them if you are very "particular" about plants growing precisely where you want, and no where else. I'm picking them from my rooting cuttings as they've self seeded in the pots.

Not really for the perennial border type planting you're describing but good for around the roses if you don't like bare dirt. Kim

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 10:02PM
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Campanula UK Z8

erigeron karvinskianus, aka mexican daisy
osteospermum jucundum or any of the african daisies such as ursinia, felicia, gazania, arctotis
hardy geraniums esp.sanguineum and wallichianum
campanula - many types especially portenschlagiana or pocharskyana and the ubiquitous C.carpatica (clips)
nemophila - a lovely little annual along with phacelia, come in lovely blue colours.
perennial wallflower such as Bowles mauve
dianthus - many smaller pinks such as gratianapolis, deltoides,
petrohagia aka tunic flower
lysimachia nummularia
phlox subulata, drummondii or stolonifera
vinca minor - a good white called Gertrude Jekyll is small and well behaved
asarum - the little shiny leaved ginger
veronica gentianoides
lithodora or lithospermum 'Grace Ward'(for a more acid soil)
stachys (although i am not keen on this0 also artemisia stelleriana or santolina for grey/silver foliage
The spellings are quite likely a bit dodgy as this is just off the top of my head and some of the things I use.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 7:44AM
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I like my 'Walker's Low' Catmint. Fills in nicely. Super tough. You can cut it back twice a summer and it pops back and blooms again. Good at softening edges. Says it is good in zone 5-9. A few plants go a long way, so you won't have to buy flats of groundcover. Also, they're not really as high as they say they are. They bloom at bit and then fall over. Mine probably tops out at 12" H.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 9:36AM
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seil zone 6b MI

Don't feel bad, halibut, my alyssums have never seeded themselves either. I wanted them to grow as a ground cover too and planted them several times. They were nice the first year but never came back. I tried sowing alyssum seeds once too thinking those would work better. Didn't happen.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 11:33AM
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I love verbena and fan flower. Verbana will come back every year and spreads great. Just 2 plants covered a 6x8 space for me. Fan flower will bloom its head off all summer with no pruning or deadheading required.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 11:31PM
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thahalibut(Z-9 CA, SSZ-9)

Kim, I was at a few garden centers today & saw alyssum I had before. Its just called plain (generic) alyssum with no details, came in a six pack.

Ive wanted to try Walker's Low but we have enough cats using out garden as their toilet & I understand cats are VERY attracted to it.

Didnt think about verbena, we have some I could propagate & that might be perfect.?.

campanula, I will be googling all your suggestions tomorrow.

I have several small spots so I can try a few different ones & see what works out.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 11:48PM
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Suzy, thanks for the handy list: I know relatively little about perennials. I checked quite a few of these out at once on the Internet. Thank God Italy has a good nursery specializing in herbaceous perennials.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 3:51AM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

What nursery is that, Melissa? Can you tell me the name so I can Google it and see if they do mail order? Thanks, bart

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 5:34AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

About Verbena: In his book on roses, Field Roebuck stated, "Marigolds grown for several seasons in the same spot prior to the time you plant your roses will discourage root-knot nematodes... but marigolds, columbines, and verbenas attract spider mites."

More bad news for verbena, my favorite plant: "Plants like nasturtiums, asters, mums, cosmos, hollyhocks, larkspur, tuberous begonias, verbena, dahlias, and zinnias are very attractive to aphids. Grow these plants away from the plants you wish to keep aphids off."

I like Zaphod's suggestion of "Walker's Low catmint" for my garden. I saw them along the road side. I killed most of my giant catmint (too floppy and invasive), but the "walker's low catmint" patch by the roadside has been the same for the past decade.

Field Roebuck recommended garlic chives for companion plants, very effective against both spider mites and aphids. But after digging giant clumps of them out, I don't like them anymore. I prefer Calendula, self-sowing but NOT invasive (you can kill them in 5 minutes, versus half an hour for ugly garlic chives). Calendula attracts green lacewings - the best aphids control. It comes in bright yellow and bright orange, very pretty. One of its type is near extinction. It's very drought tolerant.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plants that attract aphids

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:16PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

I'm not sure where sunset zone 9 is. Must be in the foothills? or far northern CA. SF area is zones 14-17 so colder than there, which is where I used to live.

White alyssum self seeds normally. People use that a lot around roses in NorCal, along with CA poppies. Lobelia is good too in places where summer is not too hot for them to take full sun. Ajuga may not take the summer sun, plus the roots are pretty invasive for around roses. Ditto for any of the vincas, not good companions.

Dianthus and hardy geraniums will certainly take the summer sun. Dianthus works well here, but down there I remember it being prone to root rot and being short lived. Some geraniums can be too invasive for roses, with thick dense shallow root mats similar to vinca and ajuga. Stachys can be nice where it's off to the side, not getting constant water.

Bowles Mauve wallflower will get too tall where you are, and it's very short lived. The african daisies will be good though, also the nemophila, erigeron, helianthemum and lithodora. Phlox won't do well in your area probably. I remember it being prone to root rot. Does well up here in cooler summers with extremely well drained soil. I remember using a lot of erigeron karvinskianus with roses - it was called Santa Barbara daisy in the SF area. For some reason no one grows it around here.

I've tried thymes around roses, but they root too tightly and shallowly to work well. You can't cultivate through them to work in fertilizer. I have used sedums in some spots with mini roses, but the sedums turned out to be too invasive! not bothered by the water, but then I was using sedums native to the Olympic Mtns.

Aphid attractors - not all aphids are created the same. Those that attack roses tend to be pretty specific to roses and the stone fruit trees they overwinter on, like plums. I don't believe that the aphids attracted to that list of herbaceous plants in the list above will also attack roses.

I never liked the catmint everyone planted with their roses in the SF area. Got too big and rangy and woody. But, if there's a reliably low cultivar like people are posting, that would be worth trying.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:56PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Hi Seil: alyssums don't seed themselves here either, so I give up on them. Hi Zaphod: the stores here only carry the giant catmint, but not the "Walker's Low" catmint that I want. If you want to trade a tiny branch of that LOW CATMINT with my Calendula's seeds, please e-mail me here at Gardenweb. Catmint is sturdy, so a tiny rooting can be sent in a sandwich bag with one postage stamp.

We had 49" rain last year, the Calendula loved it - they can withstand wet or dry, hot or cold. They bloomed during 90s' days, and onto late November with the snow. They are tough, yet not invasive, that's why one marine yellow type is near extinction. Here are pics. of Calendula in my garden, which attract both ladybugs and green lacewings. They are less than 1 foot here:

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 2:28PM
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grandmothers_rose(z6b VA)

Johnny's Selected Seeds has more colors of calendula, and I love it in my garden, too. Yellow is still the basic color, though. It self seeds but has not caused problems.

As another bonus, Johnny's has oat seeds that I grow into cat grass for my cats to eat. Way, way cheaper to buy the one pound bag than buy the grass at the pet stores. I grow it for my friends, too, and just about all their cats like it.

Can you tell I really like Johnny's? They have other cool stuff like 1 lb bags of ground cover that farmers use and mildew resistant Zinnias (Benary's).

Here is a link that might be useful: Calendula at Johnny's Selected Seeds

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 10:25PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Hi Grandmothers_rose: I also like Johnny's Seeds. For $13 I got a giant bag of brocolli seeds so I can sprout for salads, enough for the next decade. Calendula flowers are edible in salads, known as poor man's saffron, but those with allergic to ragweeds should avoid.

Some medical properties of Calendula: "Calendula is useful in reducing inflammation, and has antiseptic properties. The herb promotes healing in skin diseases, including ulcerations, lesions, boils and eczema. Research into its anti-cancer properties is ongoing, especially in the Ukraine, where it is useful in treating cancers, such as Heren's Carcinoma." The higher the quercetin (anti-inflammation) content of a plant, the more beneficial insects it attracts. Dill is also my favorite.

I found that there's more than one type of low catmint, such as Dropmore and Blue wonder, besides Walker's Low. I'll get a rooting from the clump by the roadside, to make sure that it's under 1 foot. Marigold is a mites and aphids magnet in my former garden. So was cilantro with its many lacy leaves. Verbena leaves are also tiny and many on one stem, perfect for bugs to nest.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 10:39AM
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seil zone 6b MI

I have a lot of dianthus because it winters for me and it really does not spread much at all. I do have some on top of the soil of my tree rose pot to fill in. It looks very pretty all summer. I might try some with the roses in the beds too.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 11:57AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Geranium 'Rozanne' or 'Jolly Bee', which is nearly the same. No reseeding, roots won't bother rose roots, blooms nearly year round here, flower color goes with every rose. Just no negatives at all.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 12:40PM
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Alyssum self seeds itself here, Central Coast CA, and is pretty much a weed in my garden. I find it everywhere because the seeds are carried by the wind or animals. I planted it many many years ago and it still is coming up on it's own.

Calendula also seeds itself but don't mind that as much. It is one of few blooming flowers in winter. I have read that you can eat it by putting it in salads but I never have. I like the range of bright yellow and orange flowers. That goes for marigolds too.

I have tried all of these under my roses and it works except I have to hand water them because I have my roses on drip so gave up on having anything but bare dirt. It was too much work to keep up. It is easier to cultivate, fertilize, and pull out weeds without anything being around the roses.

The only thing now that I have is mini daffodils mixed in with wild violets under the tree roses.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 3:32PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I was looking through the catalogs for the Geranium "Rozanne" that Hoovb mentioned - too bad it's not hardy here. I bought lots of dianthus but they died in heavy wet clay. Since I don't mulch, snapdragons have been seeding themselves and coming back for the past 4 years. Snapdragons come in a rainbow of colors, and they are 6" short here. They re-seed themselves and attract beneficial insects.

Bachelor's Buttons come in blue and pink - they also attract beneficial insects. They don't re-seed themselves in my zone 5a, so I'll have to collect seeds. They are less messy than catmint.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:05PM
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Cerastium "Snow in Summer" works well here in hot/dry summers. Overwinters well. Supposedly can be invasive, but that's not the case in 6a. I really like the grey foliage and texture. A bulletproof critter that forms a nice dense mat.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:54PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

Hi ptboise: Yes to "Snow in Summer" - I'm glad you mentioned it. I saw it looking really good in my neighbor's front yard, she said she'll give me a cutting this spring. It's very elegant looking, nice tidy clumps here in zone 5a.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 10:35AM
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