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I need ground cover for a large area over 1000-sqf (the area is fenced). I live in the middle of Vancouver Island, so I get lots of rain, but there are periods of dry-spells in the summer (my soil drains very quickly).

So far it seems that white-clover is the clear choice...except, I am worried that the clover will invite a lot of rabbits who may nibble on or destroy other plants, vegetable etc.

My intent is to create a mow-free "lawn"; there will be very little foot traffic and no vehicles parked on the site.

Do you have any suggestions, that would be low to the ground and rabbit resistant?

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    Is your intent to create a mow-free lawn? Will you or others be walking on this area quite a bit? Will you be parking any vehicles on it?
    – Jurp
    Jan 26, 2022 at 21:23
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    My experience with white clover and rabbits in a yard with a large-ish garden is that the rabbits ignore everything in the yard EXCEPT the white clover. The only exception is the stems of dandelion flowers (but not the flowers themselves, unfortunately). Clover seems to be their definite food of choice, especially when in bloom.
    – Jurp
    Jan 26, 2022 at 21:24
  • I have white clover coming up in my flagstone pathways and it is a clear favourite with the local rabbits. They will eat it over anything else except for early spring flowers when the clover is not up yet
    – kevinskio
    Jan 27, 2022 at 12:28
  • Thank you for sharing your experience!. Also @Jurp no vehicles, very little foot traffic and yes to mow-free lawn
    – hba
    Jan 27, 2022 at 15:01

2 Answers 2

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According to this site specific to Vancouver island, Phlox diffusa is a possibility for you. It grows only 3-4 inches tall, has very pretty flowers in the spring, and, from a "lawn" aspect, has narrow grass-like leaves. According to some sources, it handles both rocky and moist soils but does not do well in clay. It seems to be a Western cousin of the Eastern Phlox subulata, which may also do well for you.

Other options include the creeping thymes (Thymus serpyllum and Thymus praecox), although like the Phlox they won't do well in clay. Because the leaves are scented, they do not attract rabbits. The creeping thymes are about 1-2 inches tall when not in bloom and 3-4 inches tall when blooming; the flowers are typically pink or rose-colored. Although there are some cultivars that you could use, your best bet from a cost and installation point of view would be to get seeds of the species, if you can find them.

Note that all three of these plants require good drainage. If you install any of these plants, once they've become established you may want to mow them after blooming to remove the spent flower heads. This will show off their foliage rather than the dried seedheads.

One other note - regardless of the groundcover you choose, if you have to walk on the site when that plant is in bloom, wear shoes because the flowers will attract bees!

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  • Thank you I'm following up on this - I was not able to download the pdf is the link correct?
    – hba
    Jan 31, 2022 at 1:04
  • Try opening the site, not downloading it (you can then print the page). I'd be very surprised if you can't open the page, as the site is Canadian (Master Gardeners of BC). Here's the home page for the group that published the list, although I can no longer find the PDF on that site: mgabc.org/content/victoria, There's also a Facebook page: business.facebook.com/victoriamastergardeners/… The Title on the PDF is: "NATIVE PLANTS OF SOUTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND" (all caps)
    – Jurp
    Jan 31, 2022 at 13:25
  • found it. Thank you. They may have changed the name of the document: mgabc.org/content/native-plants-pacific-northwest
    – hba
    Feb 1, 2022 at 17:25
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Something I have not seen as a lawn but I think will work is Ajuga. Keeps low like 2" purple green leaves, purple flower stalks. I have seen it grow well in zone 5 and 8 , shade or sun . Spreads by runners. It may be costly to start but spreads well; it's other name is Bugle Weed which is an indication of hardiness. I do not remember rabbit damage in zone 5 or deer damage in zone 8 ( we have deer as pests instead of rabbits). In one area ,it has spread between flagstones on a walk path and occasional foot traffic does not bother it.

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  • Actually , you give me an idea; I have Ajuga in a few random areas. I will now try to expand to get full coverage in some problem areas. Jan 29, 2022 at 16:51
  • thank you is this an invasive species? It looks beautiful...
    – hba
    Jan 31, 2022 at 1:04
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    According to Allan Armitage (American plant expert) in his massive book "Herbaceous Perennial Plants", Ajuga "can become a persistant weed particularly if planted on the edge of the lawn" and "Ajuga reptans [the most popular cultivar] is stoloniferous and can spread rapidly. This characteristic makes this species an excellent groundcover... Plant where its invasive qualities are welcome." Like white clover, ajuga WILL get into your garden by "hopping" any edging you have. Note that in the Southern US it suffers from crown rot (likely due to the humidity).
    – Jurp
    Jan 31, 2022 at 13:16
  • " Persistant weed, spreads rapidly" ; perfect. Feb 3, 2022 at 19:22

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