Spring is happening, and one of our favorite native ground covers is ready to impress.
Packera aurea (formerly classified botanically as Senecio aureus) is also known by the common names Golden Groundsel, Golden Ragwort, and Butterweed. It’s hard to think of a ground cover that can match Packera for flower power. In April, it sends up flower stalks that stand 12 to 24 inches above the heart-shaped leaves. By early May, it bursts into bloom with bright yellow daisy-like flowers that last up to two months. It is simply stunning!
When the bloom finally finishes, you can cut back the flower stalks or leave them standing. Allowing the seeds to ripen and fall will keep the plant colony fresh. The bright green leaves of Packera form a weed-suppressing mat that looks good all summer and well into the fall. Packera is vigorous, spreading by shallow runners, and will fill in quickly where it is happy, but it is also easy to control. Transplanted divisions do well if you want to share extras with friends.
Packera is an effective and attractive ground cover even when it’s not in bloom. The foliage will fill in under shrubs and around tall perennials, but it can overwhelm shorter plants unless you trim it back. Packera is semi-evergreen, and will continue covering the ground throughout the winter, even under snowfall.
Hardy in zones 3 through 9, Packera’s native range extends from the upper Midwest throughout the Eastern US. It naturally occurs at the edges of moist woodlands and in wet meadows. It is happy in light shade or part sun, but it can take full sun as long as there is adequate soil moisture. It prefers rich acidic soil.
Packera is very valuable to native bees, especially to small cuckoo and halictid bees who benefit from its early supply of pollen and nectar. The plant is not at all attractive to deer. This time of year, you can find Packera for sale at good nurseries, native plant sales, and on line.
So, are you among the many in our region who use non-native ground covers like pachysandra, ivy, or vinca? If so, we just have to ask…
Can your ground cover do this?