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Reliable Ground Covers for Warm Climates

Transform your lawn with drought-tolerant clump plants and watch your maintenance efforts go  down while they grow easily.

Gardening in warm regions presents its own set of challenges, including hot summers, dry shade, heavy rain, drought and soils that range from pure sand to impenetrable clay and soggy mud. But believe it or not, no matter how hot, dry, shady or wet it is, there will be a suitable ground cover for your garden. This ground cover will give the eye a place to rest in your garden, and since nature is unfussy, it will give you a bit more rest too.

Some of the plants listed here can be grown as shrubs or specimen plants, but they are too useful as ground covers to ignore. Although firecrackers are often considered shrubs, their delicate arching stems cover a lot of ground without obscuring the view. Cinnamon ginger will grow slightly taller if left alone, but it nonetheless forms a tall, weed-suppressing ground cover that matches well with short ground covers such as lily grass.

Speckled cast iron plant

This is a small, speckled relative of the cast iron plant, commonly grown as a houseplant, but
expect to see it listed in nurseries as Aspidistra ‘Milky Way’.

Let’s be honest: Aspidistra plants, regardless of their name, work very well as ground covers in your landscape. They are short and striking enough to be used as lawn substitutes and are readily available at local nurseries.

The only maintenance you will need to perform on your cast iron plant is the occasional removal and division of dead leaves that appear every few years. There is no need to dig up the ground and replant. They’re so beautiful and useful that you’ll look forward to spreading them all over your landscape.

Where to grow: Evergreen in zones
Water requirements: Low to average; well-drained soil
Lighting requirements: Full shade to partial sun.
Mature size: 1 foot tall, 2 feet wide.
Seasonal interest: Inconspicuous flowers; green leaves all year round
Sowing time: Spring – fall

 

Bulbine

It has the drought resistance of a succulent, the low, grassy texture of a lawn, and the bulbs bloom with spikes of bright orange flowers. Plant this South African native at the edge of a flower bed or along a path to use as a foil for stronger plants. The waving orange flower stems attract bees and butterflies. Almost any bulb will add wonders to your outdoor space, but ‘Hallmark’ varieties require less seed and are easier to find at nurseries.

Bulbines are drought tolerant and mostly maintenance-free, but may benefit from mulching, deadheading and dividing in the spring or fall. In extremely hot, sunny or dry environments, additional irrigation or shade may be needed in the summer to sustain the flowers until they bloom again in the fall.

Where to grow: Hardy to 20 degrees F.
Water requirement: Low; well-drained soil
Lighting requirements: Partial or full sun.
Mature size: 1 to 2 feet tall, eventually forming clumps 2 to 3 feet tall.
Seasonal interest: Orange flowers bloom in spring and fall, sometimes in summer and winter.
Sowing time: Spring – fall

Cinnamon ginger

If your garden is too wet or shady for other ground covers, you will love this plant. Cinnamon ginger, also known as false cardamom ginger, is very similar in every way to the dwarf version of the more widely grown bark ginger. But another notable difference is the amazing cinnamon scent that you can smell when crushing the leaves or cleaning the plant. No matter how small your space, use cinnamon ginger as a ground cover or accent in a shady garden or anywhere you want a lush, tropical feel.

Because of its slow growth rate, trim the large stems every two years to keep them short or allow
them to grow up to 4 feet as a tall ground cover, giving you the opportunity to see rare porcelain
flowers.

Where to grow: Remains evergreen to temperatures of 25 degrees F.
Water requirement: Average. Once established, it can tolerate standing water and drought.
Lighting requirements: Full shade to partial sun.
Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.
Seasonal interest: White and orange bark-shaped flowers are rare. Grow for lush foliage.
Sowing time: Spring – fall

Social garlic

It is drought tolerant and has edible purple flowers with a garlicky scent in the grass. Another reason to replace your lawn with social garlic? Colonies of these suffering plants can be found anywhere on hard surfaces, including parking medians and hellholes, but they respond very well to regular watering and occasional top-up with fertilizer, creating a full, weed-suppressing ground cover in just a few sessions.

The large blue and white flowers looming overhead in the photo here are those of the commonly planted Lily of the Nile. They make excellent companions for community garlic because both plants bloom at the same time, are native to South Africa, and thrive in nearly identical conditions.For an even more impressive display, add yellow bulbs to the mix.

Where to grow: Hardy to 20 degrees F.
Water requirement: Low; well-drained soil
Lighting requirements: Partial or full sun.
Mature size: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide.
Seasonal interest: Purple flowers bloom in spring and summer, with occasional blooms in fall and winter.
Sowing time: Spring – fall

Lilyturf

Lilyturf is a common sight in gardens around the world because it provides a lawn-like resting place for the eye, but requires no maintenance. It only needs to be trimmed twice a year, once inlate winter before new growth begins and again in the fall to remove spent purple flowers and ripening fruit stems. However, not pruning at all is not the end of the world, and it will continue to form dark green clumps year after year.

Clumpy lily grass like this is not considered invasive. I’ve personally never had any problems with Liriope spicata, a creeping relative of the ‘Evergreen Giant’, but it can spread quickly via runners and is considered invasive by some. But the same goes for grasses like St. Augustine. Liriope is often confused with mondo grass and it is also important to note that neither is a true grass.

Where to grow: Hardy to 20 degrees F.
Water requirement: Low
Lighting requirements: Partial or full sun.
Mature size: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide.
Seasonal interest: Purple flowers bloom in spring and summer, with occasional blooms in fall and winter.
Sowing time: Spring – fall

Firecracker plant

Firecracker plants are a bit neater than the other ground covers listed here, but their airy, transparent attitude means they’re not too visually striking. Ideal for slopes or retaining walls where their undulating, delicate stems can arch downward, producing a cascade of tubular red flowers that hummingbirds find irresistible.

It is drought tolerant enough to be commonly planted in warm areas of the southwestern United States and requires little care other than pruning errant stems. This is especially true if you plant at least a few feet from the road. The long, thin stems go well with architectural plants such a agave and crinum, and firecrackers can also be grown against walls or trellises in small spaces.

Where to grow: Hardy to 70 degrees F.
Water requirement: Low
Lighting requirements: Partial or full sun.
Mature size: Feathered stems from clumps up to 3 feet tall.
Seasonal interest: Red tubular flowers bloom from spring to fall, sometimes in winter.
Sowing time: Spring – fall

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360' MoTo
360' MoTo
2023-12-14
Great work! Highly recommended+++
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Hunter Vasanth
2023-12-08
Well serives
anne gorman
anne gorman
2023-11-29
I highly recommend RDK landscaping!
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Elisabeth Sageev
2023-11-18
Roy and Jay did a super job fixing up a very overgrown yard. They were fast, friendly, and responsive. Thank you!
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Nila Kutty
2023-11-11
Great work 🔥🔥🔥 Thank you guys

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