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Low Maintenance Ground Cover for Hot, Dry Sites

Shore juniper forms a thick groundcover and tolerates hot, dry sites. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS

We all know that when you have bare ground in Florida, eventually something unwanted moves in or the soil moves out. To avoid either of these negative outcomes, a good practice is to grow robust vegetative groundcovers, especially if the soil slopes and is at high risk of eroding. Turfgrass is one option, but what if you don’t enjoy caring for a lawn or the site is difficult to maintain or even unsafe to mow? An often overlooked option in our area is Shore Juniper Juniperus conferta.

Although some people find this plant less than exciting, its easy to explain why it can be a good option in certain situations.

  • Easy to find at nurseries
  • Inexpensive
  • Low water requirements once established (you’ll need to turn the irrigation off on these!)
  • Salt tolerant
  • Evergreen
  • Cold tolerant
  • Low, spreading growth habit (won’t block view)
  • Do not require pruning (junipers cannot tolerate heavy pruning!)

A common cultivar of shore juniper is Blue Pacific Juniper which grows to be about one foot tall but spreads two to three feet wide. The new foliage has a blue cast that gives it the common name. It creeps along the ground and will provide good ground cover to sloping sites. This plant should be planted on 3 foot centers so they have room to expand without crowding. Plant in well-drained soil and apply two inches of mulch on bare soil between plants to reduce weeds while the plants are filling in. Only water until established, then stop automated irrigation and only water as needed. Read more at Establishing Shrubs Florida Landscapes.

PG

Author: Julie McConnell - juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Horticulture Agent B.S. Horticulture, Auburn University M.S. Entomology, University of Florida

Permanent link to this article: http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2018/03/13/low-maintenance-ground-cover-for-hot-dry-sites/