Ask the Gardener: Ground cover, kudzu, celosia and more

Posted on: October 22, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

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(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

Question 1: Ground cover

Evelyn: I have some hills and terraces that need ground cover to protect loose soil. There are very large boulders at top of two hills, with some pachysandra in spots that are doing well and spread quickly. I am curious if blue rug would do well in only partial sun? I also have path between hills. Would thyme be good for the path, and are these ground cover available this time of year?

Doug: I’d get everything I could out of that pachysandra. That’s one of my favorites, and it reminds me of all the gardens I grew up admiring. You might be able to split up some of the pachysandra to help it spread. There’s a variegated variety, but I’ve only seen it when it’s twice the price of a normal flat. One is Pachysandra terminalis ‘Variegata,’ but there are a bunch of others.

Blue rug junipers will work there, but it will take a while to cover and sometimes it starts getting tired after about 15 years. If you didn’t have deer and were up for something taller, daylilies would be something to think about. Sweet woodruff, false plumbago, myrtle are all ideas, but once they get established they are here to stay.

The creeping thyme makes a great plant in between walkways. This is a great time to plant ground covers, and you should be able to find them at your local nursery.

Question 2: Kudzu

Nick: Please see the attached two photos of the same vine, the first in June of 2018 and the second recently. I thought it was some sort of poison oak until I saw flowers on it. I’m hoping you can identify it.

Doug: Bad news, that’s kudzu, an invasive vine. If you want to remove it, the best way is to cut it to the ground and don’t let it rebound. Continual top cutting (once a week) will go a long way to removing the weed.


Question 3: Celosia

Pam: Last year I planted these celosia plants and around this time last year I pulled them out because I thought they were done blooming. However, they came back up in late spring early summer. What can I do to bring them back next year? I thought they were annuals.

Doug: Don’t cut the shrub to the ground. It’s great that you got most of the bugs off. Winter will probably take care of what’s left. Keep an eye out in the spring for them and do the same thing.

That’s pretty cool that the celosia came back. We do grow them as annuals, but they can handle some cold. That brick wall they are next to is helping them survive. I would leave them in place, cross my fingers and see if they might come back. You don’t have anything to lose.

Question 4: Honeysuckle

Sue: What can I do to rejuvenate an older (about 8 years) honeysuckle vine? It’s not the old, yellow flowered variety. The first stem to flower is about 5 feet from ground. I thought I’d ask you before cutting to an inch from ground. When should the rejuvenation be done?

Doug: Honeysuckle is a pretty tough plant. As long as it’s blooming nicely, don’t worry about it. If it’s slowed down, it can be cut to ground as soon as it goes dormant when things get cold. You could put a little granular organic fertilizer like Flowertone on the plant in the spring to get more blooms.

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