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Where I live (Adelaide plains, South Australia) it's very hot and dry in summertime and so I think a lawn is a waste of water if you don't get to enjoy it, such as where the yard is exposed to the street.

What is a good ground cover to put in the front yard plot to:

  1. prevent weeds;
  2. look "nice" for the neighbourhood (there isn't a specific law, but strong expectation);
  3. survive pretty much by itself, perhaps with a little extra watering midsummer, but must be hardy; and that
  4. will only need trimming four or less times a year.

Bonus for something that is easy to either trim with clippers or possible to mow with very high setting.

The plot I need to cover with something is approximately 2x5m, has standard roses at the front edge already, and is backed by a huge bougainvillea at the side. The soil is not great, so I'll probably turn in 0.5-1 cubic metres of compost before planting ground cover.

UPDATE: Must be able to survive in summer. Means can handle four-day heatwave reaching to 45 degrees (113 F) mid afternoon.

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3 Answers

I will recommend two excellent (at least I think they are) low level ground covers, that I have personal experience with (have both of them in my garden), they:

  • Love sun.

  • In the heat of summer (MO, USA: 90°F to 115°F / 32°C to 46°C) they do best if given a good drink of water once a week.

  • Neither of them need to be trimmed.

From what I can workout about Australian hardiness (growing) zones, the couple of plants I'm recommending might be border line for Adelaide's Zone 4 (Plant Hardiness Zones for Australia):

  1. Mazus (Mazus reptans)
  2. Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina')

If the plants are suitable for your Australian hardiness (growing) zone, the Mazus may be a better option for your particular needs, as they will take "light" foot track and the odd mowing.

Mazus (2 plants), have been in the ground over 3 years (Photo taken 2011-04-30):

Mazus groundcover

Mazus (6 plants total), 3 have been in the ground 1 year, other 3 were put in this year (Photo taken 2011-05-31):

Mazus groundcover

Same 6 Mazus plants (Photo taken 2011-07-13):

Mazus groundcover

Stonecrop (4 plants), only one visible in photo, have them in the front of a small rock garden (Photo taken 2011-06-16):

Stonecrop groundcover


Below is another plant that might do well in your conditions, situation (was made aware of it today, 2011-07-26):

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Both look gorgeous, thanks. Mazus reptans seems perfect for what I want and local websites promise it's suitable to plant out here. Hopefully with the extra all-year-round sun it will grow quicker than yours is doing under that overhang! –  Lisa Jul 21 '11 at 8:05
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@Lisa, thanks! That's good to hear, if you do decide to go with Mazus, I don't think you will be disappointed. Where we have them under the window (part shade) isn't ideal, but it's South facing, we needed something low level to fill in that space, and we're hoping the overhang will protect them somewhat from the cold winters we get here, below 0°F (-18°C) occur every year (& please don't talk to me about Wind Chill Factors). St Louis Climate. –  Mike Perry Jul 21 '11 at 14:10
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@Lisa, I almost forget, again if you do decide to go with Mazus, I would say it's very important to keep them moist (well watered) during their first year, while they "bed in" and establish them self. After that, one good watering a week during hot, dry spells should be enough to keep them looking good. –  Mike Perry Jul 21 '11 at 14:16
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I found it difficult to mark just one answer as correct because all are. I am providing my own answer for this question, but it's only more correct than earlier answers in that it's the best groundcover for my specific situation and location.

What I eventually went with (on professional advice) was creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) for its outstanding suitability for the climate, soil type and hardiness zone in which it will be planted.

Myoporum parvifolium

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NB: I am considering mixing and matching other groundcovers (eg. Mazus reptans) in with the creeping boobialla if it can work, as it's a large space and could be more interesting to create some variety. –  Lisa Jul 24 '11 at 11:05
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+1 looks to be a good choice for your location & situation, see here –  Mike Perry Jul 24 '11 at 22:54
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I reccomend "Monkey Grass" because it is like a slow growing weed that reproduces slowly and looks nice! I almost doubt you can kill it without chemicals or digging it up. It has survived several weeks without rain in my yard during 38 (Centigrade) degree weather. Don't worry about the soil either - unless it needs to fill in quickly.

Every Winter its leaves become shabby and then are replaced in the spring. Some people cut off the old leaves before the new shoots come out. Others just leave the annual eye-sore to run its course, which usually takes about 3 months.

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I might not have made it clear enough, but it must be able to survive a summer heatwave reaching to 45 degrees in the hottest part of day (that's 113 F) and this looks like it might struggle based on a little reading. –  Lisa Jul 21 '11 at 5:01
    
+1 Because it still looks like an excellent choice for more temperate climates and may be useful for others browsing the question. –  Lisa Jul 21 '11 at 5:04
    
Sorry, I take back my first comment because there does seem to be more indication it can handle really hot weather (reading monkeygrass.org/ophiopogon-japonicas). Any better resources? –  Lisa Jul 21 '11 at 5:09
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*I forgot to mention that while it is slow growing it will spread and can slowly advance into areas it was not intended - it fills out basically. Local resources are best (ask your local nursery). Until then this is a good summary: lawncare.net/spruce-up-your-lawn-with-monkey-grass –  JoeHobbit Jul 21 '11 at 17:59
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