Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Jeepers creeper

As the weather warms up, the annual tyranny of the lawn-mowing begins. Gardeners who have large areas even acres of grass seem to spend the best part of their waking lives mowing. I understand the appeal of the neat green sward, but being rather lazy, Ive opted for mondo (on sloping ground) and dichondra everywhere else.

Dichondra repens is a delightful little plant, native to Australia and very adaptable. Its low growth habit and pretty rounded leaves make it a great background plant, or even lawn substitute. It can be mown if you want the dead-flat look, but can also be left long as a neat ground cover. It never grows very tall, as you can tell from the species name repens means creeping. Dichondra spreads rapidly when there is adequate moisture, as it roots at the nodes like grass, as well as setting seed.

This hardy little plant is a great help to those with lawns that are struggling in the shade. It will out-compete a sickly patch of grass in the shade, but will be kept down by strongly-growing lawn in the sun. Another useful place where dichondra pops up is between pavers and on the edge of paths. In these tough areas the plants leaves will remain small and close to the ground, ideal to walk on while also softening the hard edges.

Although sometimes hard to find, seed is the most economical method of propagation. A potted dichondra can also be divided into clumps and spread over quite a large area It will thicken up and provide good cover quickly if given sufficient water. The silver-leaved cultivar Silver Falls has very attractive foliage which looks great streaming over the edge of a hanging basket, but again, make sure that watering is consistent to get the best result.

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