Use flowers that create mats of color in gardens

Photos by MSU Extension/Gary Bachman

Crossvines such as this Tangerine Beauty create a vertical carpet of color scrambling up and over an arbor or fence.

One of the landscape views many gardeners ignore is the horizontal plane. Plants that create mats or carpets create a lot of interest and serve an important role in landscapes and gardens.

Let’s look at a few of my colorful carpet favorites.

In my opinion, vinca is one of those perfect landscape plants. It produces loads of color and handles the high heat and dry conditions of our Mississippi summers.

Use flowers that create mats of color in gardens

Purslane forms a dense mat of drought-resistant color, or it performs just as well when used in small patches.

One group of vinca I always recommend is the Cora vinca. These vincas have dark-green foliage that has a leathery look and texture, making the perfect background to show off a heavy production of colorful flowers.

Upright Cora grows to about 14 inches tall with a wider spread, and it has colors of white, lavender, violet, strawberry and red.

I like Cora Cascade vinca because of its heavy production of colorful flowers. Cora Cascade produces good-branching plants that spread up to 36 inches wide. It has a trailing growth habit perfect for displaying its big, showy flowers that come in colors of cherry, lilac, peach blush, polka dot and strawberry.

Purslane is another plant that is perfect for carpeting many places in your garden. Purslane forms a dense mat of drought-resistant color. It also does great in small patches. Purslane is a tough summer plant for our Mississippi heat, and it has become one of my flowering favorites.

Use flowers that create mats of color in gardens

Vinca Cora Cascade such as this Cora Strawberry has a trailing growth habit that is perfect for displaying its big, showy flowers.

The selections Yellow Pazazz and Tangerine Pazazz have a spreading habit that forms a carpet of succulent foliage and bright flowers. Purslane Fairy Tale Cinderella is covered with 1-inch, yellow-petalled flowers with pinkish-orange puffball centers.

Ornamental sweet potatoes are perfect for laying a gorgeous carpet of vivid and attractive leaves. They are vigorous plants that produce thick mats of color.

The Sweet Caroline series offers a wide selection of heart-shaped and cut-leaf foliage in a variety of colors for the landscape. Foliage colors include purple, red, bronze and light green. Sweet Caroline selections Raven and Bewitched have dramatic black foliage.

Since ornamental sweet potatoes can be vigorous, they may become unruly and overrun other plants. Simply prune back to keep them in bounds. Ornamental sweet potatoes perform best with consistent moisture. Be sure to water during dry periods to help maintain good plant health.

Use flowers that create mats of color in gardens

These Sweet Caroline Bewitched ornamental sweet potatoes have heart-shaped and cut-leaf foliage in dramatic black.

Not all colorful flower carpets are horizontal. Tangerine Beauty crossvine is perfect to create a vertical carpet of color scrambling up and over an arbor or fence. It is simply covered in flowers.

Tangerine Beauty crossvine is the well-behaved cousin to its rambunctious relative, trumpet creeper. The flower buds are a pinkish red and open into funnel-shaped orange, salmon and yellow flowers. The flowers bloom on old wood, so prune immediately after flowering if needed.

There’s nothing like creating a floral carpet of color to create landscape interest. Now’s the time to be planting colorful, summer-season plants that will grow into a beautiful garden mat of color.

• Dr. Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also the host of the popular Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at southerngardening@msstate.edu. Locate Southern Gardening products online at http://extension.msstate.edu/shows/southern-gardening.]

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