Aggressive and unsightly crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) creates added work for busy mothers. Planting thick ground covers in the area can thwart crabgrass, making your life a bit easier. Ground covers with a mat or clumping form can crowd out crabgrass, making it impossible for the unwanted plant to reestablish. First you will need to remove the existing nuisance, and then you can relax and let a pleasant but powerful ground cover go to work for you.
1. Ground Covers for Sun
Moss phlox (Phlox subulata) is a perennial evergreen growing in USDA zones 3 through 9. It thrives in full sun reaching heights of about 6-inches with a 24-inch spread. In the spring, clusters of fragrant flowers appear that attracts butterflies. Once established, moss phlox tolerates drought, erosion, deer and pollution. Another ground cover option to thwart crabgrass in sunny areas is lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), which grows in USDA zones 3 through 8. This clumping perennial ground cover grows to about 1 foot tall in full sun to partial shade. It has attractive scallop edge leaves covered in soft hairs and star-shaped greenish yellow flowers in late spring.
2. Ground Covers for Shade
Blue wood sedge (Carex flaccosperma) grows to about 1 foot tall in USDA zones 5 through 8, producing grass-like bluish green leaves. Blue wood sedge thrives in heavily shaded areas and can tolerate overly wet soils and deer. Greenish-white flowers appear in the spring but are unimpressive. Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is another ground cover that grows well in shaded areas in USDA zones 5 through 9. This mat-forming perennial grows to about 1 foot tall in partially shaded areas. Plumbago spreads via rhizomes with shiny oval-shaped foliage and clusters of blue flowers. The foliage of plumbago has attractive fall color turning shades of bronze and red in the autumn months.
3. Flowering Ground Covers
“Golden Fleece” goldenrod (Solidago sphacelata “Golden Fleece”) is a flowering ground cover growing full sun in USDA zones 4 through 8. It grows to about 1 foot tall with a low spreading mat form. “Golden Fleece” has heart-shaped foliage and tiny bright yellow blooms that attract butterflies. “Golden Fleece” tolerates deer, dry soil, drought, erosion and clay soil. Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is another ground cover that can suppress weeds. This sun-loving clumping perennial grows in USDA zones 3 through 9 reaching heights of 1 to 3 feet tall. It produces clusters of orange or yellow flowers in midsummer that entice butterflies and hummingbirds to the area. Butterfly milkweed contains a milky sap that -- when stems are broken -- will seep out of the plant and irritate skin.
4. Evergreen Ground Covers
Creeping lilyturf (Liriope spicata) and “John Creech” stonecrop (Sedum spurium “John Creech”) are two evergreen ground covers that thwart the problematic crabgrass. Creeping lilyturf grows in partial sun in USDA zones 5 through 11. This creeping plant has a grass-like appearance with attractive foliage and pale lavender flowers that give way to ornamental black berries. Creeping lilyturf is a fast grower reaching heights of about 12 inches with an 18-inch spread. “John Creech” stone crop reaches only about 2-inches tall in USDA zones 3 through 9. It has scalloped leaves and tiny pink flowers creating a carpet of foliage and blooms across the ground. This evergreen grows best in full to partial sun, and is tolerant of seacoast exposure and drought-like conditions.
- Cornell Cooperative Extension New York State Integrated Pest Management Program: Weed-suppressive Groundcovers
- Plants for a Future: Ground Cover Plants
- Colorado State University Extension: Xeriscaping: Ground Cover Plants
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Phlox subulata
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Alchemilla Mollis
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Carex Flaccosperma
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Ceratostigma Plumbaginoides
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Solidago Sphacelata "Golden Fleece"
- Fine Gardening: Asclepias Tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
- Monrovia: Creeping Lilyturf
- Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images