Ground Cover for Steeply Sloped Banks
We’ve got two driveways and the banks next to the first one are steeply sloped, shaded and have horrible, clay soil. When we moved in 15 years ago, we planted several flats of variegated ivy on one bank hoping that it would scramble up the bank and cover it quickly. The ivy proved to be slow growing and while it has spread, it’s not doing the job.
We’ve planted vinca minor on a third bank and discovered vinca major growing wild at the other end of that same bank. It has mostly filled in, and is beautiful when covered in periwinkle blooms. Vinca has glossy, evergreen leaves and looks great year round. It is on the Virginia invasive plants list, but we haven’t found it difficult to control.
In an effort to cover the other two banks, I’ve been researching evergreen ground covers. The banks are steep enough that withstanding foot traffic is not a concern. This will likely be a multi-year project because both banks are large. The first one is 52′ x 10′ and is under an ancient, oak tree. We’ve successfully grown Solomon’s Seal there, but it dies back in the winter. The second bank is 125′ x 22′ (yes, that’s 2,750 square feet!) and has the slow-growing ivy on it.
With such a large area to cover, we need a plant that is inexpensive and will quickly spread to fill in. Last fall, we transplanted about a dozen plugs of liriope as a test to see if it would tolerate the deep shade, extremely poor soil and root competition from the oak tree. Surprisingly, they survived and are thriving this spring.
This spring, we’re transplanting liriope from two other areas in our yard; an unruly border and the bed of black-eyed Susans. Aside from lots of sweat equity, this project is free. My favorite price!
Because the test plants grew well in our poor soil, we’re not amending the planting holes with garden soil or compost. With thousands of holes to dig, it would only increase the time needed to complete this project. And I don’t think the extra expense is necessary.
We’re transplanting the liriope bare root so that we do not have to move a lot of soil. This enables us to dig smaller planting holes, and to tuck the liriope in next to the tree roots without damaging them. We started by using a trowel, but switched to a hand weeder to dig the holes.
Until they are settled in to their new home, we’re watering the transplants daily. We’ll mulch the banks once the transplants are established. This project is slow-going, but we’re hopeful that this is the tough-as-nails ground cover these banks need.
To read more on vinca:
For more information on liriope:
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