Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dymondia margaretae



I looked back through all my posts for the one on Dymondia margaretae, and like Captain Renault in "Casablanca" I was shocked, shocked:  I couldn't find one!  I can't believe I have not sung the virtues of this wonderful little ground cover plant.

Dainty, wonderful Dymondia margaretae, which never gets too tall, which gets as thick and dense as a pricey plush rug,  which can be walked on (within reason), which spreads fast enough, but doesn't become invasive.   I have nothing bad to say about Dymondia, though it does need summer water here in Sunset zone 23--not a lot, but one irrigation a week makes it beautiful, once a month and it hangs on, no water at all and it's dead.  Too much water and it's dead, too.   It has a helpful habit of rolling the edges of its leaves inward when it gets thirsty, so if you see it looking very white (the undersides of the foliage is white) then you know it's in serious need of water.  I've never given mine any fertilizer.  It doesn't seem  to need it. 

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Dymondia margaretae, superior as a low cover to the thymes, unless you want that wonderful thyme scent.  Its' origin is South Africa, and it prefers milder coastal conditions, so keep that in mind--in Sunset 24 it may need even less water than here, but Barstow may be too hot for it, and is hardy only to about 25-30 F. It tolerates some shade, but too much shade makes it grow sparse, and sparse means weeds. 



It does need careful weeding at first, but when it really thickens up, there won't be any more weeds, or very few, and the weeds stand up over the flat flat Dymondia, making them very easy to spot.  Grow it in smaller areas and around stepping stones.   A lawn--well, you'll have to be careful of weeds and too much traffic. 

Dymondia underplanting a Coleonema:
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One drawback of Dymondia is price--it is expensive when you buy it in flats--those big square 18"x18" (45 cm) plastic trays that are just a couple of inches (5 cm) thick.  I've started flats of Dymondia myself, and have discovered that this plant and its depth-loving, fat root system hates being in a flat.   In a flat it looks awful, and sulks, and because it looks awful, people see it and decide they don't want it.  But in the ground it's a beauty.  

I often recommend this plant.  People see it in my garden and want this plant for their own garden.  I help people remember the name by saying "Dymondia--like diamonds."  Apt, because the plant is a jewel. 

27 comments:

  1. Someone down the street put some of this in a couple years ago. At first it looked like it does in the flat--stringy and unhappy. But it's turned into a really dense mass. Fortunately it's planted on a raised bed near the sidewalk so that you can observe from closer to eye level to appreciate the silver touches to the green. I agree with you: It's a great little plant.

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  2. Do you know where this can be purchased in Los Angeles. It is not easy to find.

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    1. Did you ever find 'Dymondia Margaretae' (silver carpet)?

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  3. Sushi, It is a little hard to find because in a flat, it looks like crap and people mostly won't buy it. But get it into the ground and it looks wonderful.

    Best thing is to find a garden center with decent customer service and ask them to order some for you.

    Sometimes Armstrong's will have flats of it, not cheap, but you just buy one flat, plant it and get it growing and then start transplanting it around to fill in. Good luck!

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  4. I finally found some at the Home Depot near LAX. My whole lawn is now completely of Silver Carpet and I love it.

    Does anyone know of any possible diseases or molds it might get?

    Thanks.

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    1. The roots will rot if the plants are overwatered, especially in clay soil, and it doesn't like too much shade. Other than that a pretty easy care plant.

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  5. AA6DW, thank you for that information.

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  6. Anyone have generally pricing information for a flat? Is there any way to grow it from seeds?

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    1. It's about twenty dollars a flat. I imagine it does produce seeds, because there are small yellow flowers, but I believe it's grown for sale from rooted pieces of plant. If you plant in fall and take good care of it, it spreads fairly rapidly. Going into summer, its tough to get started because of the heat.

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  7. I to have dymondia. In some areas the plants are very very tiny and not spreading. I live in southern California. Do you have any idea what is going on?

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    1. Hi Sharlene, Is the soil compacted? I have noticed that in areas where mine has not spread, the soil is very hard. I loosened the area with a garden fork and watered deeply, and the bits have started to spread. If the soil is loose and fluffy at least 3 inches down, try watering deeply and then apply a weak balanced liquid fertilizer. Don't apply it full strength as it may be too strong. Try it at half strength, at the very most. Also, if you are inland quite a bit and it is still very hot during the day, hold off for a couple more weeks before trying a fertilizer. I sometimes give mine a little to get it going, but not on a regular basis.

      Another thing, the Dymondia doesn't grow much in hot weather. It is mostly dormant from the middle of June to about the middle of October here. It seems to take the summer off and starts growing again when autumn arrives.

      Hope that helps!

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  8. Any thoughts or ideas on removing clover growing from well established Dymondia? Hand pulling is not proving to be successful. We are considering cutting out the ~2' section of dymondia that has been overtaken by the clover and starting over, but if there is another solution we'd love to know!

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    1. Your options are most probably hand weeding (use a hori-hori tool to get roots) or replacing. You sure it is clover, or is it oxalis?

      The only other thing I can think is that you could dig out dymondia sections about 6" deep,, jostle the pieces enough to loosen the weeds so you can pull them out, roots and all, and replant the dymondia from where you took it. You should wait for a stretch of cool weather so as to minimize stress to the dymondia, and soak the replanted dymondia for a while so it doesn't die of disturbance during hot weather.

      I've found it's very important to root out any weeds right away, and keep constant vigilance, because they are hard to get out of the dense dymondia. That's true for lawns as well, actually.

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  9. I bought a few flats of dymondia and want to divide it into smaller "plugs ". Can you recommend how to do this? Can I just cut it apart? Do I need to let the cuts callous over before planting? Should I use rooting hormone? It's so hard to find, I don't want to kill it! Thanks for any advice!

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    1. Hi Kara, with flats, you should be able to gently pull out pieces. No other special treatment needed. It is a plant that WANTS to grow, given the appropriate climate (coastal Mediterranean). Loosen the soil as deeply as you can for fastest growth and do not compact with foot traffic.

      At this time of year, protect it from extreme heat if you can with umbrellas or some other temporary shade until it gets going, which won't take long.

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    2. Sioux Falls?!? You know it is no cold hardy, right?

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  10. Haha, yes. I am originally from Sioux Falls, but now live in Los Angeles. I guess I should change that. :)

    Thanks for the tips! I can't wait to start planting!

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    1. Kara, I live in the San Fernando Valley and have started planting pieces from flats. However, most of my clumps have seemed to almost shrivel up with little white stringy leaves. Have you had that experience? Is it because I'm planting in the middle of the San Fernando Valley in the summer? :) Does anyone else know if this means those plants have died, or are they just sort of waiting until the heat goes away?

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    2. Is it because I'm planting in the middle of the San Fernando Valley in the summer? :)

      Yep. :( Best to tuck the flats into shade and wait until October.

      Does anyone else know if this means those plants have died

      Likely. You can try to keep the soil moist and see if anything survives.

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    3. Alex,
      I think it would be best to wait for cooler weather, but if you are planting with a deadline because of the dwp rebates like me, you don't have much of a choice. :) Yes, the white means they are drying out. Of the 3 flats I have planted, I probably have 10 or so "plugs" that I am guessing aren't going to make it. However, I had several I thought were to the point of no return and they are coming back to life after a few good soakings!
      What I am doing is keeping them moist until fall rolls around and seeing what needs replacing then. I have been watering by hand pretty much every day, but am almost done with a drip system that I hope will help during this heat/establishment period.
      If you are still in the process of planting, I noticed that the larger hunks I planted are doing better than the ones with only a few tufts.
      Good luck!

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    4. Yes, any temporary shade you can rig up...

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  11. The secret is water it allot to get it established do not water at night because of fungas

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    1. It does help to keep it moist at first, and it establishes more easily in the cool winter months or during "May Gray/June Gloom" overcast.

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  12. Hi. I live near coast in so. Calif. Planted full parkway between street and side walk. Full sun. Lots of flag stone in area. Established well. Not much foot traffic. Water with 5 minutes of sprinklers once weekly or even less frequently in cooler months along with rest of my drought tolerant yard. I have fairly woody growth, that over grows edges and flagstone that I trim back by breaking it off. It all looks more grey now, than green, and I am wondering if I need to areate the whole area by breaking out some of the mounding woody stuff, more water or even fertilizer. It is very tightly matted and just doesn't look that great. Other consideration is to wait until fall and see how or if it "comes back" after summer dormancy. By the way, it is so tight that blown in weeds are generally very superficial. I keep on them, but it is great. Any guidance or experience? Dale from California

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    1. Hi Dale,

      Mine never looks as good in summer no matter what--the heat sets it back and it stops growing. You could try bumping up the water just a bit, perhaps 3 minutes 2 x or 3 x per week, instead of 5 min 1x per week, and see what response you get. Mine invariably starts looking greener come October, more water or not.

      My experience is that soil compression really sets it back--making sure the soil is very very loose 4" down makes for happier plants. While occasional foot traffic is tolerated, over time soil compression makes the plants decline. You might think about pulling out a few of worst areas, thoroughly loosening the soil, and replanting, but I'd wait until cooler weather in October to try that. I have a couple of out-of-the-way areas in the garden with deeply cultivated soil where I grow Dymondia that I can harvest to renew areas out front.

      Hope that helps.

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    2. Thank Boo
      It does help. I think that I will try the ole' areator trick with the spikes like I used to use on the lawn. Pulling out and spading the area seems daunting. When I planted, I used flats with small plugs about 2-3 inches apart and I lost very few of the shoots. Filled in in about 1-2 months. Perhaps I will try making my own starts. But my back still remembers planting the 20 flats (at $22 a flat, not cheap!) And besides there are some other areas in my yard that I would like to try with dymondia also. I am pretty good with taking cuttings of many plants and getting them to take.
      I discussed this issue with my daughter, who works at a nursery. Her dymondia is doing the same thing, so we have decided that there is definitely dormancy issues. More water may help.
      Our city has water conversation plan, so I am not sure that I am allowed to water 3 x weekly, but I will definitely try 2 x weekly, a bit shorter for the second one. Many of my other plants are also dormant now. Usually only in the mid-70's during day anyway. And, besides, I am trying to be a model for the rest of the neighborhood. Many people using dymondia, especially around edges and between paving stones and drive way margins.
      Tell me, do the "woody" portions come back or perhaps a good "shave" would be useful as well. Do you think fertilizer will help? Iron? I like granular fertilizer, but can use liquid. In fall, of course.
      Dale

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    3. The "woody" bits I usually pull--nearby new growth re-spreads.

      I've never ever fertilized mine, but a light hit of liquid with the first winter rain would give it a kick start, don't you think?

      20 flats!!! I would be unable to walk after an effort like that!

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