Some people say that the only things in life you can depend on are death and taxes.
If you live in Texas, there are two more: sun and drought.
Although weather patterns have grown more erratic in recent years, most of Texas gets at least 2800 hours of sunlight each year, or an average of nearly 8 hours a day.
When it comes to drought, 2022 is proving to be the 12th driest year in Texas out of the past 128 years, with nearly 16,000,000 people already dealing with drought conditions by the end of April.
To counteract the effects of so much sun and so little water, some sort of alternative to grass, such as a ground cover lawn replacement, is necessary to maintain an attractive landscape.
Here are 10 of the best low-maintenance drought-tolerant ground covers that do well in the Lone Star State.
Each of these loves the sun and can withstand Texas drought conditions.
1. Creeping Thyme [Thymus Praecox]
Creeping thyme is an excellent drought-tolerant ground cover for Texas as it prefers well-drained, sandy soil and full sun.
Creeping thyme belongs to the mint family and has a pleasant scent; while not grown as an herb, it can be used for cooking.
Most thyme plants are perennials with pointed, blue-green leaves that softly blanket the ground.
Many also produce flowers in pink, purple, and white shades in late spring or early summer.
Slow-growing in its first year, creeping thyme spreads quickly after that.
It ranges from 2” to 6” tall and 6” to 18” wide when mature.
2. Clover [Trifolium Repens]
Thought of as a weed by some homeowners until it sprouts small white flowers in late spring, white clover is an herbaceous perennial that tolerates drought better than turf and aerates the soil.
It prefers full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.
White clover spreads aggressively, although it does not spread as much in drought conditions.
Mature plants reach 3” to 6” tall and 12” to 18” wide.
3. Moss [Hypnum Imponens]
Moss doesn’t have a vascular system or any roots, so it absorbs water and nutrients through its leaves.
It grows slowly and propagates through spores instead of seeds.
Moss grows well in poor soil, compacted or rocky ground, and on slopes and hillsides and is often used for erosion control.
Mature plants reach up to 4” tall and can withstand light to medium foot traffic.
Moss stays lush green when well hydrated.
During periods of drought, moss will turn dry and go dormant until water is available.
4. Chamomile [Chamaemelum Nobile]
As pretty as it is functional, chamomile has medicinal qualities and thrives in Texas sunshine.
There are two varieties: Roman, a ground cover, and German, used to make tea.
Chamomile reaches full bloom within about ten weeks and is best planted in the spring.
In summer, it produces a fragrant flower with white petals around a yellow center, reminiscent of daisies.
The Roman variety is a perennial that reaches between 8” and 24” tall and close to 12” wide.
5. Ajuga [Ajuga Reptans]
Ajuga, also called bugleweed, is a fast-growing herbaceous perennial that’s good at choking out weeds.
Its shiny, dark-green leaves are accompanied by blue, violet, and purple flowers in May and June.
Bugleweed can reach as high as 10” tall and up to 12.
It should be planted in the late spring or early summer and spreads aggressively through runner vines.
Preferring full sun to partial shade, ajuga likes well-drained soil and moderate moisture.
6. Carpet Sedum [Sedum Lineare]
This low-maintenance, sun-loving, evergreen succulent plant with leaves about an inch long thrives where others do not.
Very tough and drought-resistant, carpet sedum is perfect for slopes, walls, rock gardens, and similar Texas landscapes.
It will grow in almost any soil with good drainage but prefers sandy, gravelly soil and does well in poor, shallow soil.
Carpet sedum grows tiny yellow flowers in late spring that attract pollinators.
This plant reaches a height of between 3” to 9” when mature and between 6” to 12”.
7. Creeping Phlox [Plox Subulata]
Creeping phlox is often found in rock gardens and the crevices of stone walls.
Its small, fragrant, five-petal flowers in hues of purple, pink and white emerge in late spring to summer, just in time to attract butterflies and other pollinators.
One reason creeping phlox does so well in Texas is that it loves full sun and loamy, well-drained soil, although it does need to be watered weekly during periods of drought.
Mature plants reach 6” to 12” tall and 9” to 18” wide.
8. Artificial Grass
When you want the look of green, lush ground cover but water supply is an issue, artificial grass is a great drought-tolerant ground cover even in spots where nothing else will grow.
It’s easy to maintain, tolerates high traffic and always looks its best.
A solid investment in drought-resistant ground cover, artificial turf technically never needs water unless you want to clean off accumulated dust.
Artificial grass infill is a layer of synthetic material or sand that rests on the backing at the base of the synthetic grass blades.
All grass should have infill to help extend its lifespan and give the grass itself a fuller look.
The same material used for infill depends on why the grass has been installed.
Silica sand infill is the most common and affordable.
Crumb rubber is often used on sports fields to add padding and “bounce” to the surface.
Gravel can provide a neat, appealing look with no water needed and almost no maintenance required, making it a popular choice in Texas.
Many different kinds of gravel are used for landscaping purposes, with numerous color schemes and textures.
Decomposed and crushed forms of granite provide a soft, rustic look.
Pea gravel is a sound weed barrier.
Lightweight lava rock comes in bold colors.
River rock is smooth and can be used to direct drainage through your property.
Marble chips provide a classy appearance.
10. Mulch or Wood Chips
To help retain water and increase curb appeal, mulch is an excellent choice as a ground cover in Texas.
Add a layer to cover the soil, reduce grass growth around trees, or fill a muddy patch.
Mulch ranges in texture from leaves and grass clippings to straw and wood chips.
Additionally, as an organic material, it can be an excellent long-term source of nutrients for the soil it covers.
Wrapping Up the 10 Best Drought-Tolerant Ground Covers
Fortunately for Texans, several attractive, low-maintenance drought-tolerant ground covers do well with full sun and low moisture.
The ten outlined above are some of our favorites, but there are even more.
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