Dichondra (Dichondra spp.) plants are members of the morning glory family. The genus includes low-growing, spreading plants that can be used as a ground cover or even a lawn substitute. They also grow well in containers, spilling over the edges with their trailing foliage. Dichondra plants sport tight clusters of numerous rounded leaves that range from green to silver in color. They do bloom typically in the early summer, but the tiny flowers are not significant. Dichondra is best planted in the late spring or early fall when temperatures are mild, and these plants have a fairly quick growth rate.
|Botanical Name||Dichondra spp.|
|Common Names||Dichondra, ponysfoot, lawn leaf|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||Less than 1 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. wide (varies by species)|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Flower Color||White, green, yellow|
|Hardiness Zones||7–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America, Central America, South America, Australia, Asia, Europe|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people, animals|
Dichondra is quite easy to maintain as long as its environmental needs are met. Sharp soil drainage and lots of sunlight are key for healthy growth, along with watering to prevent the soil from drying out.
In fact, due to the plant's vigorous nature, it can develop invasive qualities in the landscape. In mild climates, the plant is likely to spread outside of its bounds, sending out creeping stems that take root along the way. However, it is easy enough to trim off these stems as needed to keep your plant's spread in check. You also can trim the ends to give your plant an overall neater appearance, which many gardeners do when growing dichondra between pavers or in containers.
For a dichondra lawn, you can mow it at a height of about 2 inches to keep the plants from getting rangy. An added benefit to a dichondra lawn is the plant tends to smother competing weeds, so you will have to do very little weeding.
Dichondra is at its best when grown in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. It also can grow in partial shade. But without enough sunlight, dichondra stems won't develop as dense of foliage, and the leaves will be smaller.
Great drainage is important for dichondra's health. A sandy loam is the best soil type for this plant, whereas clay soil can remain wet for too long and result in the plant's demise. If you have clay soil, consider planting dichondra in a raised garden bed or a container.
Established dichondra plants have good drought tolerance. And overwatering can be more detrimental to the plants than underwatering, as the soggy soil can cause root rot and other diseases. If you stick your finger in the soil and the top inch is dry, then it's time to water your dichondra. Give young plants a little more water as their root systems are getting established, but still make sure they are not waterlogged.
Temperature and Humidity
Dichondra plants like warm weather and aren't frost tolerant, so don't plant them outdoors until the threat of frost has passed. Humidity typically isn't an issue for the plants as long as their moisture and drainage needs are met. The silver varieties tend to be more resilient to very low humidity levels than the green types.
One positive attribute about dichondra plants is their ability to thrive in garden soil that's low in nutrients. Typically no supplemental fertilizer is necessary. If your soil is particularly rocky and poor, you can improve it by amending it with compost.
There are several species and varieties of dichondra that are found around the world, including:
- Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls': This cultivar is grown for its ornamental trailing silver foliage.
- Dichondra repens: This is the common green-leafed species that makes a good lawn alternative or rock garden filler.
- Dichondra carolinensis: This is also a green-leafed species that’s native to the Southeastern United States and Bermuda.
The vigorous creeping habit of dichondra makes it a snap to propagate. Simply dig out some stem pieces with the roots attached, and replant them in moistened potting soil. Keep the soil moist (but not soggy) until the plant begins to show new growth. Then, you can transplant it wherever you wish.
Potting and Repotting Dichondra
Dichondra is an attractive addition to any container garden. In a mixed container, plant the dichondra at the container's edge, where it will take up little soil space as it spills over the rim. When choosing a container, make sure it has excellent drainage. Dichondra plants don't have a deep root system, so your container can be fairly shallow.
Plan to replant when the dichondra has spread throughout the container and appears crowded. You can either move it to a bigger container or divide the plant and replant just a section of it in the same container. Always replant at the same depth the plant was in its original container, and fill around it with fresh soil.
How to Grow Dichondra From Seed
Plant dichondra seeds when the daytime temperatures are in the 70s and nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. To grow dichondra from seed, first prepare your planting site or container by making sure the soil is loose and free of weeds. Press the seeds into the soil but don’t totally cover them, as they need light to germinate. Keep the soil lightly moist until germination occurs, which should take around two weeks.
Dichondra plants are typically very healthy and don't often have disease problems. However, flea beetles and cutworms tend to feed on the plants, damaging and weakening the foliage. You can treat plants with an insecticide, though healthy plants will usually overcome pest nibbling on their own.