The MGS Forum

Plants for mediterranean gardens => Perennials => Topic started by: Alisdair on November 07, 2011, 08:34:04 AM

Title: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Alisdair on November 07, 2011, 08:34:04 AM
To see a discussion of Bidens ferulifera click here ( And Myoporum, one of the plants discussed in the lawn substitutes ( thread, has pretty white flowers in spring.
What other suggestions do forum members have for flowering perennial (non-shrubby) ground cover? One of my own favourites is Felicia amelloides, with its cheerful little blue flowers over a very long period.
Title: Re: Felicia amelloides
Post by: Alisdair on November 07, 2011, 12:39:12 PM
Here's a picture of Felicia amelloides in spring. To keep it flowering, it does need a little water - only a little, as it gets leggy and messy if watered too much. It stands weeks of drought, but did not survive the five months of hot drought in a southern Greek summer. If flowering tails off, cut it back and it will flower again in a very few weeks. It can take hard cutting back if needed. Easy to grow from cuttings.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Paul T. on November 21, 2011, 12:54:36 PM
Convulvulus are brilliant for summer flowers, perennial, and if you chose carefully, quite nicely sized.  Some of them can be a bit enthusiastic though, so choose carefully.  A favourite of mine is one called 'Two Moons' which has white flowers predominantly, but throws random blue or striped blue and white flowers.  Tough as old boots once established.  There's heaps of really good tough groundcovers around. 8)
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Alisdair on November 21, 2011, 04:45:17 PM
Thanks for that suggestion, Paul; and do let us have some more of those "heaps" of yours!
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Paul T. on November 22, 2011, 02:49:29 AM

I'm not sure exactly which species 'Two Moon's is derived from, but it woud be something closely related to sabiatus I would imagine.  There are some thugs amongst the Convolvulus unfortunately, so care need to be taken in choosing them for ones that aren't so thuggish.  I would avoid those which twine (the bindweed types) as they can smother things, but those allied to sabiatus, while stoloniferous, tend to stay pretty flat and make a great groundcover.  I can take some photos locally if you want to show you what they look like in full bloom?


Some of my other "heaps" are....
numerous varieties of Grevillea.....'Bronze Rambler', 'Gaudi Chaudi', 'Royal Mantle' to name some of the older more established ones, but there are so excellent new varieties coming out bred by someone less than 50km from where I live.

Myoporum as mentioned previously here comes in a range of varieties.  Thick or thin leaves types, white, pink or pinkish flowers, and purple leaves or stems on some varieties.  The larger types end up looking like a huge rug that you just want to roll on.  ;D

There is a species of Verbena with red flowers that is a wonderful flat groundcover.  It isn't thick enough as a weed supressant, but it makes a lovely display, spreading metres on long flat stems.  It did better before I came to this garden and started better watering.... I think it liked it drier and less looked after.  ::)  There are other ground cover Verbena types as well, but I think they benefit from more summer water?  

Acacias have various species that now come in groundcover forms.  Extremely hardy drought-wise, they make a permanent cover whereever they are, some up to 3 or 4 metres across.  Some other Aussie genus with groundcover forms include Kunzea, Leptospermum and Hardenbergia.

Trachelospermum jasminoides can be used as a groundcover, I have seen it used as such, although usually something like 30 or 40cm deep, but T. asiaticum is the best for this.  It doesn't want to climb, but rather sperads out laterally.  It has creamy yellow flowers rather than the white of the former.

Some of the smaller pea species work well... think things like Lathyrus laxiflorus (from memory?).  I have seen it growing no more than 6 inches tall, spreading to about 1m across.

I'm really not sure exactly what scope this group has for summer watering, or whether the Mediterannean refers to stuff that will grow without extra summer water?  The ones mentioned above should do well with little in the way of summer watering I think?  The above are just off the top of my head, but I am sure I could come up with more or expand more on any of these if anyone is interested?  I've also been thinking of things that just grow here for me, so they take moderate frost.  I'm sure those in areas where they get colder in winter than me would have some problems with some of the things I mention.  There's a whole bunch more that would thrive in milder areas as well, and that others with milder winters than me could grow that I can't.

I hope some of this is useful?

Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Alisdair on November 22, 2011, 07:26:43 AM
That's a fascinating list, Paul, thanks very much!
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: MikeHardman on November 22, 2011, 08:10:53 AM
Indeed - thanks Paul.

Just to make a cross-reference re flowering groundcover:
Asteriscus maritimum - similarly, no butterflies, but it continues to flower in a modest way as it has been for months; it forms a useful firm and thin groundcover.
Lantana montevidensis - like L. camara, this continues to flower and spread, and is a good butterfly attractant (Papilio machaon and Chazara briseis especially). I find it more scented than L. camara, but less easy from cuttings.
Portulaca umbraticola - I was sold this as P. grandiflora, but I am fairly sure it is not. I selected this one for its gorgeous colour, but the others in the nursery were very tempting, too. In the evening its foliage tends to look like it is collapsing, but it is gradually spreading and otherwise seems healthy. It remains to be seen if it proves at all perennial here in Cyprus; if so, it could prove a useful groundcover; we'll see.

Click on the quote title to go to the topic itself, where there are photos.

Talking of L. montevidensis, I saw at a friend's garden another prostrate lantana, but with orange flowers. I know there is L. horrida, which is prostrate-ish, but the plant I saw seemed more prostrate than that. Maybe it is L. camara 'Radiation' ( (
There are some interesting cultivars on that page. For instance, I had not heard of a white L. montevidensis before, but they show one, 'White Trailing'.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Fleur Pavlidis on November 22, 2011, 10:04:12 AM
The white Lantana montevidensis spreads well but will climb up neighbouring plants if allowed - see the gaura being used as support below. The yellow version on the other hand grows in a fan shape, flowers less profusely and dies down in the winter. I think they both need to be pruned back each year at the end of winter.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Alisdair on November 25, 2011, 08:26:01 AM
I have moved all the messages about Phyla (syn. Lippia) nodiflora to Grass and lawn substitutes (, as in spite of its little (bee-attracting) flowers it is best thought of as that, rather than as a flowering plant.
Title: Lantana montevidensis leaf colour
Post by: MikeHardman on December 12, 2011, 09:43:06 PM
Michel - since you mention Lantana montevidensis here (
Mine has mostly dark purple leaves at the moment. Does yours?
Title: Lantana montevidensis leaf colour
Post by: Michel GAUTIER on December 12, 2011, 10:14:36 PM
No Mike, no dark purples leaves, just only some one with the edges little colored. I'd take a photo tomorow ... (I believe to remember that they were red this summer in full sun, but I'm not sure)
Title: Lantana montevidensis leaf colour
Post by: Michel GAUTIER on December 13, 2011, 07:46:13 PM
There are two photos take this morning : the first shows a global view, the second, more close, shows the leaves. There is no leave red, only someone with a few of color on the edges... (sory for my translation this evening : I'm pressed for time !)
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: MikeHardman on December 14, 2011, 11:30:41 AM
Thanks Michel.
Here are photos of mine. You'll see there is a range of colour from green (yellowish in some cases) to almost black. The greener leaves get a tiny bit more shade. All the leaves are quite small, but they all seem healthy, as do the stems and flowers.
Comments on the blackness appreciated.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Michel GAUTIER on December 15, 2011, 10:44:01 PM
About some plants, I noticed a trend to become red or red-brown in full sun and with a dry climate. By exemple, my Lantana montevidensis was red-brown this summer, but not so much your. I'm very surprised of the color of your lantana, almost black on some leaves. I think they are in full sun, ...but mine also ! I have not other explanation ...

It's the same phenomenon with Aloe saponaria. From late spring to begin automn, mine is red-brown. Recently, with the decrease of the sun and the rains of automn, it is become green in less of one month. It's very spectacular. It's a pity, but I have only a single photo that I made recently, with the leaves green, but not in the "form" red. You can imagine the same contrast between this two appearence, like you have in your lantana.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: ezeiza on December 16, 2011, 01:08:23 AM
So very interesting to read as practically everyting that appears in this great forum. First hand information. Both Lantana camara and L. montevidensis are natives to this part of the world and the only time you can see black foliage is when chilly nights hit it. Here at least black foliage is cold damaged foliage. The rest fo the year it is green to deepest green.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Alisdair on December 16, 2011, 08:25:31 AM
We're really glad of your encouragement, Alberto (ezeiza), thanks so much! That's exactly what we'd hoped for with this forum, direct first-hand experience. We do our best to encourage members to tell us of their own experiences and knowledge, as the central focus of this forum - always so much more valuable, we feel, than simply recycling stuff from other parts of the internet!
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: MikeHardman on December 16, 2011, 05:34:57 PM
Thanks Michel & Alberto.
I readily agree that cold may be a factor. I am familiar with some species of Viola being prone to develop a more-purple colouration to their leaves given low temperatures, usually in association with sunshine. I guess, under those conditions, something in the phytochemistry promotes anthocyanins.
The blackness (extremely dark purple if you like) is not accompanied by any loss of turgidity; functionally, the leaves seem fine. It is not like the blackening that can be caused by frost damage.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: David Bracey on December 17, 2011, 11:16:18 AM
Yes, but why do they produce anthocyanins etc.  I suppose they must be under stress or is it energy conservation (starch and sugars) as suggested by JTh.    I have referred to the Forum "Autumn Colours", incidentally Alisdair it does not come up under the "search" engine.  If cold weather produces "autumn colours" then we can add summer stress as well.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: JTh on December 17, 2011, 01:20:14 PM
When I was a student I was taught that the red and yellow (some of them produced by anthocyanins) are there all the time, but they are covered by the green colour of chlorophyll. When it gets colder, the chlorophyll production stops, and the chlorophyll also breaks down, unmasking the other colours.  It seems as if this has been modified somewhat today, it is still valid for colours caused by carotenoids and other pigments, but the anthocyanins will not be produced before the chlorophyll starts to break down, supposedly as protection.There is an explanation on how they protect the plants in an interesting article in Plant  Physiology: Resorption Protection. Anthocyanins Facilitate Nutrient Recovery in Autumn by Shielding Leaves from Potentially Damaging Light Levels ( ), it says that: Foliar anthocyanins arise in a great diversity of plant species across a broad range of environments, often occurring in response to environmental stresses such as nutrient deficiency, drought, and low temperature, it  is not unlikely that also excessive heat and strong sunshine may be stress factors.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: David Bracey on December 17, 2011, 02:19:29 PM
Thanks JTh.  I wonder if foliar anthocyanin work has been carried in this area viz plant stress in excessive heat and strong sunlight.?
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: JTh on December 17, 2011, 03:04:12 PM
Sounds reasonable, David, but I can only guess.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Alisdair on December 17, 2011, 05:09:00 PM
As I understand it the "unmasking" process described by Jorun does happen in those plants where the anthocyanins or other non-green pigments already exist but were previously masked by chlorophyll (presumably explaining why those few plants that show colour before leaf fall even in warm-autumn climates actually do so); but in other plants autumn-colour anthocyanins are produced as a stress-response to cold. Incidentally, blood oranges don't gain their "blood" colour until exposed to cold.

David, To do a full search you must be on the Home page before you press the Search key; otherwise, the search will cover only the page that you are on.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: John J on December 19, 2011, 11:31:28 AM
The main function of anthocyanins is to provide colour, in flowers, leaves, stems and fruit. (Incidently, Alisdair, the most common anthocyanin, cyanidin, was first isolated from your favourite Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus)). They also have a secondary function and that is to provide protection against tissue damage caused by the effects of ultraviolet radiation. Along with other flavonoids and carotenoids they absorb UV wavelengths. Maybe increased stress levels due to high exposure to UV triggers a response reaction and anthocyanin production is increased as a protective measure.
Title: Centaurea bella - or rather Psephellus bellus
Post by: Alisdair on February 04, 2012, 05:37:00 PM
A few years ago the plant quite widely cultivated as Centaurea bella was moved to a different genus, as Psephellus bellus (see Wagenitz, G & Hellwig, F H: The genus Psephellus revisited with a broadened concept, Willdenowia 30: 29-44, 2000) ( Under either name, this Caucasian plant is extremely useful in mediterranean gardens.
In our hot dry Greek garden, given some shade from morning (but not afternoon) sun, it grows well without any watering, standing many months of drought. It is easy to increase by division, and once planted spreads by self-layering. Eventually it covers the ground, and the dense low foliage is quite attractive, with a silvery reverse; this species appears to have some allelopathic quality – perhaps giving some weed control. But its pretty pink-like flowers are its main appeal.
With us it has some flowers from late autumn on, flowering more from January, reaching a peak in April or May. The pictures below were taken this January.
In cooler mediterranean areas (it is frost-hardy) it is more likely to flower from March onwards; gardeners in northern Europe will instead think of it as summer-flowering.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: ezeiza on February 05, 2012, 04:05:51 AM
Provided conditions are frost free, Plumbago auriculata in both its white and light blue  (actually several shades of it) forms  make an exceptional ground cover for sun. It flowers for many months and remain tidy.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: John on February 05, 2012, 11:30:14 AM
Presumably Plumbago would not be low growing although I realise this is not a strict requirement for a ground cover. Unless there are prostrate forms of it or it can be trained easily to grow flat?
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: ezeiza on February 06, 2012, 09:46:37 PM
If you do not give it any support it will creep and grow horizontally without any evident problem. Of course not a lawn substitute but in a large bed a glorious sight.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: MikeHardman on April 04, 2012, 06:30:07 PM
Further to my posting photos of Lantana montevidensis showing near-black leaves in the autumn, here are some photos today - fresh light green foliage showing the plant is in good health (I also cut it back some while ago).
Title: Mixed carpet of Aptenia cordifolia, Myoporum parvifolium and Lippia nodiflora
Post by: MikeHardman on July 28, 2012, 05:46:44 AM
In places, my plantings of Aptenia cordifolia, Myoporum parvifolium and Lippia nodiflora have intermingled. They can all be quite aggressive, especially if watered well. In these photos you can see they are reasonably balanced - able to survive each others' bullying, and making a nice (thick) mixed carpet. First photo: Aptenia cordifolia and Myoporum parvifolium; second photo: all three.
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: pamela on July 28, 2012, 07:18:15 PM
I find Convolvulus sabatius ( also called C. mauritanicus) an excellent ground cover.  It is not like other convolvulus in that its slow growing and very manageable. I am very fond of the little blue funnel shaped flowers which grows so prettily over rocks. It needs full sun. Recommended medit.plant
Title: Re: Convolvulus sabatius
Post by: Umbrian on July 29, 2012, 08:04:17 AM
I love this plant but find it burns up once the really hot weather sets in if not watered which I don't do. I do however use it in pots where it provides a lovely softening effect when trailing over the edges and of course performs well since its water requirements are met. :)
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: Alice on July 29, 2012, 02:28:04 PM
Your combination of Aptenia cordifolia, Myoporum parvifolium and Lippia nodiflora looks smashing, Mike. Well worth copying.
I also find Convolvulus sabatius a very attractive ground cover, Pamela. Growing in relatively shallow soil and watered once a week in summer it has spread quite a bit - to the extent that we have to crawl on all fours in search of its tap!
Title: Re: Flowering ground cover
Post by: JTh on April 25, 2013, 06:55:43 PM
Has anybody tried Scorpiurus muricatus as groundcover? It’s in bloom here in Halkidiki right now, and besides having shiny, green mat-forming leaves, the tiny flowers are really stunning if you look at them closely.

I read that: ‘This is mainly a garden plant used as a groundcover. Its densely haired pods may be added to salads for interest, but are rarely eaten.’ (Wikipedia). I haven't tried that as a salad yet, maybe I will.