University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article


LOW SPREADING PERENNIALS

 
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
           
There are quite a few low spreading perennials that are suitable for use along walks, between pavers, in rock gardens, and small spaces. All prefer full sun and well-drained soils.          
           
Turkish speedwell (Veronica liwanensis), unlike most of its taller and more upright relatives, only reaches about 2 inches high, with a spread of up to one foot the first season.  It has tiny but noticeable rich blue flowers in early summer.  It is hardy to USDA zone 4a (-30F air temperature) with snow cover, and for brief periods to at least 14F soil temperature. 

           
Another low and spreading speedwell (Veronica), the hybrid Waterperry Blue has light blue flowers in early summer.  It has a similar to greater spread than its Turkish relative, and is slightly taller (4 inches or so).  It is hardy to USDA zone 4a with snow cover, and for brief periods to at least 23F soil temperature.  Leaves turn an attractive bronze in fall.

           
Two speedwells form a loose mat over a foot wide in one season, and have blue flower spikes in early summer above a mat of green leaves.  Alpine speedwell (Veronica allionii) has flower spikes to 6 inches high, while those of Heavenly Blue prostrate or harebell speedwell (Veronica prostrata) may be slightly taller.  Both are hardy to USDA zone 4a with snow cover. 

            
Himalayian Mazus (Mazus reptans) forms a dense green mat several inches high and up to a foot or more wide, with stems rooting at the nodes.  The snapdragon-like flowers appear in
early summer, purple in this species and white in the cultivar Alba.  Although it is hardy to USDA zone 4a with snow cover, it wont tolerate soil temperatures much below 28F for very long.  The cultivar Motley has flowers that are white on the top, purple on the bottom, and bronze leaves.  Mazus will tolerate moderate foot traffic.
           
The Kew Dwarf cultivar of spindle tree (Euonymus fortunei), unlike its shrubby relatives to several feet tall, only gets an inch or two high, and spreads to form an open mat about a foot across.  The tiny green leaves turn a burgundy in fall.  Flowers are inconspicuous if even present.  It is hardy to USDA zone 4a with snow cover, and for brief periods to at least 23F soil temperature. 

           
Tiny Rubies pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) forms a slight but dense mound with spread to a foot or more across the first season.  The bluish green leaves are covered with double, deep pink flowers in early summer.  It is quite hardy, to USDA zone 4a with snow cover and for brief periods to at least 8F soil temperature.  Tiny Rubies is fragrant, similar to its other taller Cheddar Pink relatives.  They are called Cheddar Pink after the Cheddar gorge of southwest England, one of its native habitats, and after "pinking" shears due to the serrations on the petals.

           
The cultivar Pleniflorus is a double-flowered form of our native Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).  The tiny pea-like yellow flowers in early summer are close to the mat of leaves, each divided into leaflets.  This plant can spread over one foot the first season.  It is hardy to USDA zone 4a with snow cover, and for brief periods to 18F soil temperature but not colder.
 
                

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