How to Grow Dymondia

A Drought-Tolerant and Steppable Groundcover for Warm Climates

Dymondia margaretae
Dymondia margaretae

Stephanie Falzone / Plant Right / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Groundcovers to fill the spaces between stepping stones or pavers need to fulfil two main requirements: they must be very low-growing and withstand foot traffic. For warm climates, dymondia (Dymondia margaretae) fits the bill. This South African native evergreen is also a good choice for rock gardens, walkway borders, and cascading down from stone walls. When planted on slopes, it mitigates wind erosion and retains the soil. 

Its narrow, bluish-gray or pale green leaves form a dense mat. The underside of the leaves are silvery-white and fuzzy and this is increasingly visible when the leaves curl up (a sign that the plant could use water). But, in an established plant, this is not a reason to panic. When this happens, dymondia won’t die right away. The plant is very drought-tolerant. 

During the summer, dymondia blooms on and off, and the small, yellow, daisy-like flowers attract bees and other pollinators.

Dymondia was named after Margaret E. Dryden-Dymond, the plant collector who found a specimen in 1933 during an expedition for the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Capetown. Dymondia margaretae is the only species of the Dymondia genus. 

What’s so intriguing about the plant is that since its discovery, it has been found less than a dozen times in the wild in its native area, sometimes decades apart. Dymondia has become a popular groundcover that is commercially grown and sold by nurseries worldwide and sold even in flats.

Botanical Name Dymondia margaretae
Common Name Silver carpet
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size One to three inches height, one to two feet spread
Sun Exposure Full sun, part shade
Soil Type Sandy, silt, loamy
Soil pH 6.5 to 7.5
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 9b-11, USA
Native Area South Africa

Dymondia Care

During the first six months after planting, dymondia needs regular care during the growing season until it is well established. Generous watering, mulching, and weeding are all important.

It spreads by rhizomes and will eventually fill in bare spots with its dense mat but it is a slow grower. That’s why it does not compete well with invasive weeds. The slow growth rate is also the reason why dymondia might not be suitable as a lawn substitute for large areas.

After it is established, it requires little maintenance. Removing the spent flowerheads for a neater appearance is optional.

If an established dymondia becomes less dense, it’s time to divide it, which will restore its vigorous growth.

Dymondia is a low groundcover that forms a dense mat
Dymondia is a low groundcover that forms a dense mat Stephanie Falzone / Plant Right / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Dymondia fills the spaces between stepping stones
Dymondia fills the spaces between stepping stones CountryMouse13 / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Light

Dymondia does best in full sun but partial shade is also acceptable.

Soil

Sandy soil is ideal but any type of soil with excellent drainage can work. The plant will do poorly in soggy, wet soil.

Water

After the plant is established, it is very drought-tolerant because its roots reach deeply into the soil, but it will grow faster when watered.

The curling up of the leaves is a sign that your dymondia needs water. Watering it will unfurl its leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

Dymondia is a tender perennial for warm climates. It can survive a light frost but not temperatures below 28 degrees F.

It is tolerant of salt spray and suitable to be planted in coastal gardens.

Fertilizer

Fertilize dymondia once a year at the beginning of the growing season with a slow-release complete fertilizer.

Propagating Dymondia

The easiest and most successful way to propagate dymondia is from cuttings. In the late winter or early spring when the new growing season begins, cut some runners or shoots from a mature plant.

Replant the cuttings immediately by first dipping them in rooting hormone powder and then planting them in well-drained garden soil or in pots with potting mix. Keep the soil moist at all times but not wet until you see new growth, which indicates that new roots have formed.

Growing Dymondia in Containers

Dymodia can be grown in containers, where they will have a cascading effect. Make sure the container is large enough for the rhizomes to spread, and keep in mind that in a container, the plant needs more frequent watering.

Common Pests/Diseases

It is not affected by any serious pest or disease problems. However, dymodia attracts gophers so, if those are a problem, it might not be the best groundcover to plant in your yard.