Californians are accustomed to ongoing drought conditions and have spent years honing our water conservation efforts. With so much else going on in the world at the moment, it is easy to let something like watching our water consumption fall to the wayside, particularly knowing that we moved out of a state of drought earlier this year. But La Niña seems to be making this winter drier than usual, which could mean an end to our current reprieve.
This means we cannot let up on our efforts and must continue making water-saving choices whenever possible. One easy way to conserve water is to choose drought-tolerant ground covers when designing or re-designing your landscaping. So, if installing or replacing a ground cover is on your pandemic project list, here are five low-water options to consider.
1. Gravel: In the realm of drought-friendly ground covers, it does not get much better than a ground cover that requires no water at all. Gravel comes in a variety of sizes and colors and is a good choice for driveways, walkways, areas around fire features, and other outdoor living areas. Using gravel as a ground cover also limits weed growth and can help control erosion and runoff.
2. Mulch, Bark, or Wood Chips: This type of ground cover requires no water, is more affordable than many options, and is available in a variety of sizes, types, and colors. Like gravel, these can help limit weed growth, but they will eventually break down or fade, so you can expect to replenish these ground covers more often.
3. Lantana: One of the great things about lantana is that it is very easy to find. This flowering, evergreen perennial spreads easily, requires little water once established (I hardly ever water mine), and comes in some beautiful colors, including purple, pink, white, blue, red, yellow, and orange. When purchasing lantana, make sure you choose a ground cover cultivar, since it also comes in shrub cultivars that will not work well as a ground cover.
4. Creeping Rosemary: This evergreen perennial herb cascades quite nicely, so this is a good choice for raised borders or allowing to grow over walls. As a ground cover, creeping rosemary spreads quickly and is drought tolerant once established. It blooms with clusters of blue blossoms, attracts bees to your garden, fills the air with its aroma, and can even be harvested for culinary purposes.
5. Mexican Fleabane: Mexican fleabane is a fast-growing, flowering perennial native to Mexico and Central America. Often chosen for planting in rock gardens or in spots where it can thrive in the crevices between paving stones, this hardy ground cover loves full sun and will happily self-seed to promote spread. This one requires a bit more maintenance and water than lantana or creeping rosemary, but if you love the idea of a carpet of daisy-like flowers, you might not mind.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
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