Sustainable Urban Groundcovers for Baltimore

This past Monday, I attended a talk by Vincent Vizachero of Roland Park Native on native plants for Baltimore landscapes. The talk was useful, and I hope to connect with Vincent – who is a self-taught amateur on this topic – on such issues in the future.

But one point particularly interested me. For a while, I have been contemplating what I will call “sustainable urban ground covers.” (I’m sure there’s an actual term for it out there somewhere.) By sustainable, I mean that: 1) it grows fairly quickly; 2) it grows horizontally, not vertically, thus precluding the use of lawnmowers, and minimizing shelter for rats, drugs, or guns; 3) it is non-invasive.

Vincent said that there are few if any such groundcovers. English Ivy is a notoriously invasive tree-killer, and also terrible for bricks…Wrigley Field notwithstanding. Creeping Myrtle (a.k.a. Periwinkle or Vinca minor) is a likely candidate, but Vincent said that is also considered invasive. I have a small patch of Vinca minor in the tree pit in front of my house, but it grows very slowly, so how invasive can it really be? It certainly fulfills criteria 1 and 2 as outlined above.

So, what are the best groundcovers for the Mid-Atlantic? Again, the idea here is to cover the ground in a way that does not require mowing or extensive weeding, but also does not hurt valuable street trees or provide havens for rats and other urban scourges.