A barren bank or slope in a landscape can be quite a challenge. Mowing a lawn on a steep bank is dangerous. Leaving it barren creates an eye-sore and in a full-sun spot, a weeding nightmare. Watering a bank with a sprinkler results in run-off, as does rain on the bare soil. And the longer your sunny bank sits uncovered, the more the soil erodes. Fast-growing ground cover is a green, practical and aesthetically pleasing solution. To make life easier, make that a drought-resistant ground cover or consider drip irrigation.
Attractive Fall Color
Jouin clematis (Clematis x jouiniana) and rock cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis var. perpusillus) will swiftly cover your sunny bank and offer divine fall color. A sprawling ground cover that spreads 3 to 6 feet wide and 3 to 10 feet long in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, Jouin clematis likes sandy soil. It tolerates deer, as well as black walnut trees, begets lavender-white flowers and in autumn, cheerful yellow leaves. For best coverage, plant two rock cotoneaster plants per square yard in USDA zones 4 through 7. The plants stand 1 to 2 1/2 feet tall by 5 to 8 feet wide and produce pale-pink flowers followed by bright-scarlet, bird-attracting berries that turn reddish-purple in autumn. Rock cotoneaster tolerates air pollution, drought and rabbits.
The interesting foliage displayed by some ground cover adds interest to your sunny bank. Versatile lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) tolerates dry, shallow, rocky soil, as well as air pollution and black walnut trees in USDA zones 4 through 8. With velvety soft, green leaves that appear silver-grey, lamb's ear grow 9 to 18 inches tall by 6 to 18 inches wide and looks best when planted 12 to 18 inches apart. A Pacific Northwest native, beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) offers toothed, glossy green leaves and white flowers that yield edible berries. Tolerant of moderate food traffic, this evergreen grows 4 to 6 inches tall by 23 to 29 inches wide. Both ground covers tolerate drought and resist rabbits.
Tolerates Light Foot Traffic
Some ground covers, such as showy evening primrose “Siskyou” (Oenothera speciosa “Siskyou”), won’t perish if pets and kids step on them once in a while. Showy evening primrose also holds up well to rabbits, grows on hot, dry banks and puts out deep-pink flowers and grows in USDA zones 5 through 9. If deer nibbling on your landscape is a problem, try creeping broom “Vancouver Gold” (Genista pilosa “Vancouver Gold”). This evergreen produces yellow flowers and looks best when you plant two to four plants per square yard. Both drought-tolerant plants spread 23 to 29 inches wide and stand 6 to 8 inches tall.
Ground cover that thrives in full sun, but tolerates dense shade, is just the right choice for some young landscapes because once trees and tall shrubs mature to their full size, they may cast a shadow. Lesser periwinkle (Vince minor) bears lavender-blue flowers, spreads 6 to 18 inches wide and grows 4 to 6 inches tall. This evergreen prefers moist, rich soil, but tolerates dry, rocky, shallow soil and drought. Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) displays chocolate-purple flowers, followed by seedpods with edible pulp in USDA zones 4 spreads 6 to 9 feet wide and grows 20 to 40 feet along the ground. Both species resist deer, grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8 and are listed as invasive in some regions.