Beware of Invasive Vines!
by Ruth S. Foster

Beware of vines as ground cover. If you have bare ground but don't want more lawn (and it's high maintenance), evergreen ground covers are very good but think carefully which variety is best for you.

Evergreen Ground Covers spread slowly when first planted while neat, reddish bark mulch serves as their lady-in-waiting. These plants are not cheap and they don't provide instant landscaping, but they're a good long term investment not to mention an attractive design element.

But the Problems Arise when climbing vines, such as ivy, euonymus, evergreen honeysuckle and creeping fig are planted as ground covers because when they finally become established, they begin to climb. They climb on everything, trees, houses, rocks, mulch piles, and in the woodlands. Then begins the time consuming task of regularly pulling them off everything.

This problem came home to roost here as I tried to remove a euonymus vine out of my fine, beautiful myrtle. When I first designed the garden, I thought a nice creeping vine of variegated euonymus up one tree would be interesting. A big mistake! For lo these many years I have regularly been pulling it out, again and ever again.

Finally I decided to eradicate it once and for all which is easier said than done. I started and yanked. Long fat rooted tendrils had spread everywhere under the myrtle, far and wide. The more I pulled, the more there seemed to be. I filled a large garbage can with rooted sections. To buy just one of these choice plants would cost several dollars. Yet here I was throwing out a hundred that had become invasive weeds.

If Kept In Bounds with proper, frequent pruning, ivy and euonymus are both fine plants, however, without regular maintenance, these vigorous non-natives have a tendency to spread invasively into the countryside where they smother our native plants. And as they climb up trees, they produce seeds which the birds spread even farther.

You can avoid this by choosing ground covers that do not vine and climb. One of the best is Myrtle. With shiny, delicate evergreen leaves and blue spring flowers, in the shade it remains an elegant plant that can cover large areas. Evergreen Pachysandra is useful for shady areas as is the ever reliable deciduous Hosta. Ajuga tolerates both sun and shade, while Creeping Juniper bushes need a sunny location. For shaded areas in warmer climes, consider evergreen Mahonia and Liriope.

Maintenance Requirements for these ground covers are hand weeding once or twice a year, depending on rainfall. If the myrtle or pachysandra begins to look worn and shabby, it can be trimmed back to about 4 inches high in early spring, and fertilized. New young shoots will sprout to thicken the bed.

Leaves Fall into the evergreen ground covers, but as the leaves slowly decay, they turn into a nourishing mulch. They don't need raking or blowing, except if so many leaves fall that they mat down heavily on top.

When making landscaping decisions these days, consider future maintenance, and beware the vining ground covers.

In Truth I Mow a section of lawn that was taken over by ground covers and it looks fine, that is if you’re not into golf fairways and perfect putting greens. When these creeping vine ground covers are mowed, they appearance is mostly green, mottled and much more interesting than just a plain green carpet. During the cold season, ajuga leaves actually turn bronze or deep red-purple.

As this information age comes of age, the old type gardeners who did maintenance have become almost non-existent or prohibitively expensive. Which means that more and more we all will have to do it ourselves, so don’t plant yourself a future maintenance headache.