March 9, 2013

1 - There are indeed some evergreen, water-conserving groundcover plants for New Mexico landscapes.

Yard and Garden March 9, 2013


Would you have a recommendation on an evergreen groundcover that is drought tolerant? I think this may be something impossible, but I thought I would ask.

Portales, NM


There are a some evergreen drought tolerant groundcover plants. Creeping (or prostrate) juniper is fairly drought tolerant and can be irrigated with drip irrigation (when done properly) to sustain it if supplemental irrigation is needed. The plant self-mulches, cooling and preventing drying under its stems and foliage. There are some that have bluish casts, some that turn more bronze or yellowish in the winter. By mixing these properly, it is possible to have some interesting color patterns in the landscape even in the winter. It will not do well in dense shade.

I am aware of a front lawn in Roswell that was composed of sedum plants. These are succulent plants that need very little irrigation. The one in Roswell was mostly irrigated from roof runoff. Over time it had some problems. Many of the plants died back when the perhaps because it was overwatered or because disease organisms accumulated in the soil over time. It may need to be rejuvenated periodically to help avoid diseases. Sedum also needs full sunlight.

Both of the plants mentioned above may have some weed problems, but grass-specific herbicides may help, or a wick (carefully brushed on) herbicide to the foliage of weeds while avoiding contact or splatter onto the groundcover plants may work.

Of course there is the broadleaf evergreen vinca that is often used as a groundcover. It will use more water than the juniper and sedum, but drip irrigation may be used (when emitters are properly placed) to provide a fairly water efficient landscape. The vinca plants will tolerate more shade than either sedum or juniper, so it will be more useful in shadier location, but not in dense shade.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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