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December 1, 2018


Could you give me some info on this ground cover? It is located in a wooded area near my home in Hot Springs Village. I am interested on acquiring some to plant in an area that has mostly shade


Picture of partridgeberry

The evergreen small-leafed, dark green ground cover is a wonderful native plant called Partridgeberry- (Mitchella repens).  It is a ground-hugging plant that thrives in the shade, but is slow growing. It has a small white flower in the spring and beautiful red berries in the fall.  I would encourage it and let it spread. I wish it were common in the landscape trade, but I think its slow growth is the reason it is not commonly sold.  If you can find it at a nursery, buy it.  Unfortunately, in your picture, you also have a good stand of poison ivy and some hickory seedlings.  Use care in killing those so you don’t damage the partridgeberry. 


August 4, 2018

QuestionAcross the back edge of my yard is a drainage ditch. There are 14 trees, mostly pines, along the 130 feet of my yard along the bank. What would be a good shade loving ground cover to help prevent erosion? Something not supper aggressive that I can control with a mower and won't over grow the trees.


 AnswerThere are several “grassy-like” plants that would work including one of the acorus (sweet flag) or carex (sedge) plants.  There are several options to choose from with green foliage or variegated and even yellow foliage.   You could also use mondo grass or monkey grass.  If you want a vining plant that is not overly aggressive you could use Asiatic jasmine. 


May 19, 2018

QuestionOur backyard is rather small and we have several large mature trees.  We are located in the Washington-Willow neighborhood in Fayetteville - so very established trees!  The tree roots have completed choked out almost everything we have planted in the beds we made several years ago.  We brought in topsoil and amended the beds, etc.  Things looked great for a few years, but then the tree roots took over.  So much so that we cannot even grow grass.  We have gravel and a concrete patio - with empty beds.  The canopy from the trees in the summer makes the majority of the yard shady (one area is sunny).  We had several Cherry English Laurel bushes that worked, but some of those also were choked to death.  We have had the canopy trimmed over the years, but the question remains - what do we put in those beds that will survive?  I'd like some evergreen shrubs as well as some perennials so I don't have to plant every year.  Any advice you have would be much appreciated.  

AnswerTree roots do compete for nutrients and water, and often invade the soil around shrubs and perennials, but they do co-exist if you are prepared to water a bit more. Grass is hampered not by root competition but lack of sunlight. Grass does not grow in the shade.  I would look at putting in some groundcover in some areas where you are wanting a more “grass-like” look.   Mondo grass or monkey grass could do well.  For shrubs, there are a variety of things to choose from including hollies, boxwood, Otto Luyken laurel, and yews.  For perennials try hosta, heuchera, asarum, ferns, epimedium and hellebores.  For annuals, impatiens, Torenia, coleus and caladiums.  Work up the soil, plant and water.  There are many lovely gardens in deeply shaded yards that work alongside trees, but they will need extra water.  Large containers can also be interspersed in the yard to add interest and grow above the root line. 


January 13, 2018


I have a North facing slope measuring about 15’ X 100’ probably 75% shaded & am interested in cleaning up the weeds, poison ivy, privet & various other volunteers and planting a ground cover that is dense & low to the ground. Also we need to take into account all the leaves that the fall presents me with from multiple dogwoods, red buds, hackberry and a very mature water oak. Any suggestions?

AnswerThere are several options.  Moss would be a great option--it gives you a green blanket and you can still walk on it.  You can blow the leaves off of the groundcover with no problems each fall.  You can also plant ajuga, Asiatic jasmine, or any number of others.  This is a large area that you are planning on covering so I would do it in stages.  Do a thorough job of cleaning up a small area, then plant. Each year you can spread out the area and gradually get it planted, and control the tenacious weeds.  Privet and poison ivy are tough performers.


December 30, 2017


I am looking for a good ground cover for a shady area and one for a sunny area to plant in the spring. I would like something without stickers/thorns and would like it to be something that stays green all year.



 For the shade there are many options including ajuga, Ogon Acorus, Liriope, asarum or ginger (there are evergreen and deciduous forms), and Partridge Pea – Mitchellia.  For the sun you could train Carolina jasmine as a groundcover instead of a vine, or plant Asiatic jasmine, sedum, thyme, or Liriope.


 April 1, 2017

Question Please help me identify this plant. Thank you.

Image of strawberry geranium 


The plant in question is a strawberry geranium, Saxifraga stolonifera.  It is a shade loving perennial which can be used as a groundcover or a small spreading plant. 


September 10, 2016


I have several healthy pots of ground cover.  I want to plant these in several beds but wondered if I should try to carry them through winter in pots of would it be best to go ahead and plant them now? 



What type of groundcover do you have and where are they growing. If the plants are hardy like monkey grass (liriope), ajuga, Asiatic jasmine, etc. and they are already outside, then by all means plant them in the ground and get them growing.  If they are in containers indoors, then leave them inside until next season. If they are only moderately hardy, you may want to wait until next spring to get them established to build a strong root system to survive the winter.  

(February 2011)

QuestionLast spring I planted bugle weed (chocolate chip variety) on steep slopes at each end of our house. They didn't seem to get a great start. I feel the hot, dry summer was a factor, even though I watered regularly to get them started. The winter weeds have been rampant now and other weeds have popped up. Due to my age and arthritis problems and the steep slopes, I'm not able to hand weed them. Is there a spray I can use to kill the weeds and not do damage to the plants?

 AnswerBugle weed or Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’ is a great groundcover, but I would suspect that last summer took its toll, especially due to the slope combined with heat and drought. Unfortunately, ajuga is a broadleaf plant, and anything that would kill the weeds that you have which are broadleaf plants too, would also damage the ajuga. If Bermuda grass or other grasses comprise the base of your weeds, then there is a grass specific herbicide that would kill the grass (once it is green and growing) without hurting the ajuga. Many of the winter weeds are annuals and will die with the heat of summer. See if you can get some mulch in there around the ajuga to help exclude more weeds, and fertilize it to get it kicked into gear this spring.

 (June 2006)

QuestionI have a field behind my house which we hydro-seeded with weeping love grass. The weeds have taken over and I am losing my patience. Will a common weed and feed kill them, or will that kill the weeping lovegrass too?


AnswerWeeping love grass can be treated almost like a lawn grass in many respects. Weed and feeds can be either fertilizers with a pre-emergent herbicide, or fertilizer with a post-emergent herbicide. The pre-emergent herbicide prevents weeds and would be of no use now. If it is a true weed killer—post-emergent type, see what type of weeds it is labeled to kill. Some will kill broadleaf weeds, some will grassy weeds. If you have both types of weeds, you are probably out of luck. Broadleaf weeds will be easier to kill than grassy weeds. If it is a grassy weed killer, make sure weeping love grass is not labeled as one of the weeds it will kill. This is a good example of why good site preparation is important prior to seeding or planting groundcovers or lawns.

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(September 2007)

QuestionWe have some creeping liriope that has become invasive and it is also hard to keep weeds under control in the bed. I would like to kill it with something like Roundup and then dig it up before replanting something else in the spring. My concern is, will the use of Roundup be harmful to the next planting?


Answerhe Round-up will not be harmful to next years planting, but I doubt it will completely kill all the liriope either. Running liriope--Liriope spicata, is quite tenacious. It will probably take more than one application of Round-up. The fact that you want to dig up the roots will definitely help, but don't ignore the site--watch for sprouts next spring.

(September 2006)

QuestionAbout 17 years ago we planted a tree in celebration of my son getting his Sturgis scholarship to University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. We knew nothing about trees! We bought and planted what was tagged as a Silver Maple. A few years later during a holiday get-together at our house, we were showing off the tree we planted to our relatives. My sister-in-law informed us that the tree was not a Silver Maple because the back of the leaves were not silver-shaded-- it was just a Maple tree. We were a little disappointed but the tree was very straight and thriving very healthfully! Today it is a beautiful shade tree. With strong branches and roots! It is beside my husband's garage and has to be trimmed occasionally. But the roots are huge and on top of the ground! They are very unsightly! Is there anything we can do to cover up the roots? My daughter-in-law said that if we covered them with top soil that the tree might die. Any suggestions?

 AnswerBe grateful it is not a silver maple--they are often considered trash trees. They grow so fast that they often have a lot of limb breakage. A red maple is a much more sturdy and desirable tree. All maples have the tendency to put roots on the soil surface. Your best bet would be to add an extra layer of mulch to cover the exposed roots. This looks more attractive and won't hurt the tree. You could also put a vining type groundcover underneath--planted in pockets of soil, but the mulch bed is the easiest to maintain.

(June 2006)

QuestionI have a raised bed around a silver maple that is so infested with roots that nothing much grows in it. The hostas around the edges are not doing well and there are some ferns in the middle, but it just looks terrible. Any suggestions as to what to plant?

 AnswerSilver maples are known for their prolific surface roots. Probably your best bet would be to either plant a vining ground cover underneath to mask the roots or simply put down a layer of heavy mulch--that is better looking than bare soil and exposed roots. The more you try to bring in decent soil, the more prone the roots are to fill it up.

 (March 2005)

QuestionSome of your readers have asked about plants for planting between stones in their walk, let us suggest what we did. We planted thyme between the stones. It thrives beautifully, grows out somewhat over the edges of the stones, and immediately gives off a very beautiful and pungent scent of thyme when the leaves are walked upon. It totally recovers from any trauma of walking in just hours, and is then quickly ready for a repeat performance In addition, when we need fresh thyme for cooking, we just pinch some off some between the stones. No matter how much one pinches off, it seems to recover in virtually no time.

 AnswerThyme and stepping stones is a great idea where it is dry and sunny. Thyme is not very happy in wet spots or heavy shade. There are numerous varieties with both green, gray and yellow leaves. Thanks for the suggestion

(March 2005)

QuestionWe moved here 5 years ago and bought a home with a beautiful landscape. The former owner planted (on the advice of her landscape architect) a few clumps of that monster called "Monkey Grass". We have been told that it is a form of liriope or mondo grass. We have plantings of true liriope that simply stay in nice, self-limiting clumps, however, the other one, the monster, spreads wildly by subterranean runners and is unbelievably invasive. We ruthlessly dug up all we could see, but it just seemed to relish it. It is coming up inside all the major azaleas, ferns, hostas, etc. Can you suggest a herbicide that will kill this monster? We tried numerous chemicals, including Round-Up, but the monster responded as it if were fertilizer. We can't tolerate it. Should we just move? We hate to contemplate it, but our outdoor living area and our gardens are our life, and if there is no cure for the monster, we would rather just take the punishment and the financial loss and move on. In passing, we would like to suggest that any landscape architect (certified or novice), developer, or plant and/or garden center, no matter how small, recommending, or even offering, this horrible plant be automatically committed to some small, very cruel, Central or South American jail for a very extended stay with unspeakable punishment.

 AnswerOccasionally everyone makes a mistake, and sometimes what seems like a great plant, takes over. Think about kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle and common privet. They were all planted intentionally at one time, and then took over! There are two basic types of monkey grass or liriope. The one most people want is Liriope muscari--the clumping form. Unfortunately, I think the one you have is Liriope spicata--the running form, and run it does. It spreads by underground rhizomes, and can be quite vigorous—(as you have learned), and unfortunately--hard to kill. Moving is by far the easiest method to fight it, but should you let a plant beat you? No, I didn't think so. Cut out as much of it as you can. If you can get a tiller in the beds, till it up, and then use a heavy lawn rake and rake out as much of the root system and crowns as possible. Then wait for new growth--which is inevitable. Then spray with a glyphosate (Round-up) product. I know you have tried it in the past, and didn't have good results, but use it on the young growth, wait two weeks and spray again. Repeat as needed. There is nothing else you can use around other plants without injuring them--use caution even with the Round-up--only spraying what you want to kill. If you are diligent this season, you should be able to conquer it--but don't turn your back on it, or it can reappear!

 (March 2005)

QuestionWe have a thirty ear old pin oak tree in our front yard. There isn’t a lot of sun under the tree, and as the years have gone by, there is less and less Bermuda grass. The ground is covered in green moss. What can we do to get the grass growing again and get rid of the moss?


AnswerGrowing grass underneath a large shade tree can be difficult, if not impossible. First, do you need grass everywhere in the yard? You may want to attempt grass in the areas where shade is not so intense, and let the moss or other groundcover grow where the shade is deepest. Zoysia grass, turf-type tall fescue, or for central and southern Arkansas—Centipede and St. Augustine, will all tolerate more shade than Bermuda, but all will need some filtered light to grow. Have the soil tested to determine the pH and fertility levels, and then assess the situation. Trees and shade are great—especially in the summer, so I would never advocate removing them to grow grass. I personally wish we grew more moss, but not everyone would agree with me!

(November 2005)

QuestionMy neighbor and I were wondering if we could cut back our variegated Liriope now instead of spring


AnswerI know that there has been some damage to Liriope or Monkey Grass this growing season due to the dry, hot summer. If it is really hideous, I guess you could cut it back, but in my opinion, the cut look is not that much better, and you may have to cut even further in the spring. Doing the pruning in the fall could lead to some winter damage--however, Liriope is a tough plant. We often get some discolored leaves during the winter, and use the late winter/early spring pruning as a means of rejuvenation and clean up.

 QuestionThe ivy in my yard is starting to die. Not in one spot but all over the yard. I have had other people in Dumas state they have experienced the same problem. What do you think is the problem?


AnswerIvy was one of those die-hard plants that were rarely plagued with anything, but the past few years we have seen some diseases and insects on it. One of the main ones seems to appear in heavier soils with some drainage issues--hard to believe it could be happening this season, unless you really watered. Investigate a little. Do you see any spots on the leaves? If you dig up one of the plants that are dying, are the roots white and full, or small, dark and slimy to the touch? Do you see anything on the stems or backs of the leaves? You can take a sample in to your local extension office and they can send it to our plant clinic. You have to first pinpoint if it is disease or insect before we can recommend a spray program.

All links to external sites open in a new window. You may return to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture web site by closing this window when you are finished. We do not guarantee the accuracy of the information, or the accessibility for people with disabilities listed at any external site.

Links to commercial sites are provided for information and convenience only. Inclusion of sites does not imply University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's approval of their product or service to the exclusion of others that may be similar, nor does it guarantee or warrant the standard of the products or service offered.

The mention of any commercial product in this web site does not imply its endorsement by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture over other products not named, nor does the omission imply that they are not satisfactory.