Spreading and trailing plants fill a niche in the landscape and in containers. Gardeners who want to cover bare spots in these areas often turn to dichondra plants, as they produce a myriad of leaves held closely to their stems, giving a lush look between pavers, as a lawn alternative, or as a trailing feature in hanging baskets and window boxes. Dichondra plants are heat tolerant, and the rounded leaves provide textural interest in shades of green or silver.
|Botanical Name||Dichondra spp.|
|Common Names||Carolina ponysfoot, silver ponysfoot, silvernickel vine, kidney weed|
|Plant Type||Tender perennial|
|Mature Size||Two to four inches, spreading to three feet|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy loam|
|Soil pH||Acidic; 5.6 to 6.5|
|Flower Color||White, insignificant|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA growing zones 9 to 12|
|Native Area||New Zealand and Australia|
How to Grow Dichondra
Is it an invasive weed, or an attractive ground cover and hanging basket filler? Like many plants that are vigorous and happy where they are growing, dichondra can develop invasive qualities in the landscape. In frost free climates, dichondra is more likely to spread out of bounds, sending out creepers that root along the way. These are easy enough to keep in check with a little grooming and snipping. If that isn't your thing, you can confine dichondra to containers, where its draping stems will add a graceful touch. There is a benefit to dichondra's vigor: it makes an excellent lawn alternative where it is hardy, as it needs little irrigation and it smothers competing weeds.
Dichondra is at its best in full sun areas. Without a full day of sun, dichondra stems will not develop dense foliage, and leaves will be smaller.
Great drainage is important to dichondra plant health. A sandy loam is the best situation, while clay soils result in a slow plant demise. Plant dichondra in raised beds or containers with a soil-free potting mix if your landscape is characterized by clay soils.
Dichondra plants tolerate dry conditions well. Overwatering is more detrimental to the plants than under watering. If you stick your finger in the soil and the top inch is dry, it's time to water your dichondra.
Temperature and Humidity
Warm and hot weather help dichondra plants get growing. The plants are not frost tolerant, so don't plant them outdoors until the last frost date has past. Dichondra plants tolerate high and low humidity. In dry desert areas, the silver varieties are more resilient to very low humidity than the green types.
One positive attribute about dichondra plants is their ability to thrive in gardens of low fertility. No supplemental fertilizers are necessary. If your soil is particularly rocky and poor, you can improve it by amending it with compost, which will provide trace nutrients.
Potting and Repotting
Dichondra plants don't have a deep root system, allowing you to plant it in a shallow dish garden if you prefer. Excellent drainage is key, so choose a lightweight potting soil. Dichondra needs repotting when the plants look crowded in their pot. Divide them at this time to rejuvenate plants.
The creeping habit of dichondra makes it a snap to propagate. Dig out some stem pieces with roots attached. Replant in moistened potting soil. Keep the soil moist until the plant begins to show new growth.
Varieties of Dichondra
'Silver Falls' dichondra is the most common in the trade, and its grey leaves act as a lovely foil to any color of flower in the container garden. Dichondra repens is the common green species that makes a good lawn alternative or rock garden filler.
Toxicity of Dichondra
The sap or juices of Dichondra micrantha can cause skin irritation, according to the University of California. Wash skin with soap and water after contact.
Dichondra doesn't require pruning, but you can trim off the ends to give it a neater appearance in your containers or around paving stones. For a dichondra lawn, you can mow it at a height of about two inches to keep the plants from getting rangy.
Being Grown in Containers
Dichondra is an attractive addition to any container garden. Plant it at the container's edge, where it will take up little soil space as it spills over the rim. Plant at least three dichondra plants side-by-side to prevent a thin, scraggly appearance.
Growing From Seeds
Dichondra seeds need light to germinate, so press them gently into the soil. Keep the seedbed moist until germination occurs, which takes about two weeks at 70 degrees F.
Flea beetles and cutworms may feed on dichondra plants. You can treat plants with an approved insecticide, but healthy plants will usually overcome pest nibbling. Dichondra doesn't suffer from disease problems, except for root rot in areas with poor drainage.
Dichondra vs. Creeping Jenny
Creeping Jenny plants (Lysimachia nummularia) have the same rounded leaves and trailing habit of dichondra plants, but the two are not even in the same plant family. Both plants thrive in warm climates, but creeping Jenny needs more moisture and less sun than dichondra does. The chartreuse leaves of creeping Jenny add another layer to color to the garden design scheme, and make handsome companions to blue or purple plants and flowers.