Groundcovers are not just turf grass

Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk

Groundcovers are not just turf grass

Minden, Ontario K0M 2A1, Canada

Created By: Haliburton County Master Gardeners


What can you do on your property for groundcovers?

While turf grass is used in many places along the riverbank as a ground cover, we can see the native Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) at this stop. This is an excellent groundcover for sunny spaces, with spring flowers that will be used by many pollinating insects and berries that are important food sources for birds and small mammals. You can even make tea from the leaves of Wild Strawberry, which are loaded with vitamin C.

If we have a diversity of plants on our properties we can support a healthy population of animals, birds, reptiles and insects. Turf grass has few benefits to nature so one of the things we can do to attract more wildlife is to replace some of our turf grass with native groundcovers. Ground covers can be 1/2" to 24" tall so we have to think about how we use our turfed spaces. Undeniably, turf grass can be a very practical option, but most of us have far too much of it.

You're not going to set up a tent or play ball on a groundcover of Canada Anemone, Bearberry or Bracken Fern yet all of these are native ground covers that can thrive in sun. Any low growing plants from the Winterberry family can take sun but do need moisture to thrive.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Plant a wildflower and grass meadow (native to the tallgrass prairie region of Southern Ontario) A good seed mix will include grasses, bee balm, goldenrod and asters.

2. Plant slow growing eco lawn seed formulated by Wildflower Farm in Cold Water ON and sold at Home Hardware

3. Plant the native Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), which is a 4" tall evergreen creeping plant with red berries in the fall. It can tolerate some drought and does best in dappled sun. Consider the native Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) as well. The native Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) is a great spreader and prolific in the sun with long flowering white blossoms. It can reach 12" high, but could be mowed periodically.

Are you looking to cover a woodland edge? What about Wild Ginger, Foam Flower, Wintergreen, Ferns, Plantain-Leaf Sedge and Canada Anenome? See the Haliburton Master Gardener native plant guide for detailed information on these and other plants, trees & shrubs for the woodland garden.

Never plant non-native invasive or aggressive ground covers, like Goutweed, Lily of the Valley or Periwinkle. They have no place in our natural landscapes and will smother native plants. The Ontario Invasive Plant Council has an excellent brochure called Grow Me Instead with other plant ideas for our northern gardens and a list of the plants you need to stay away from.

Other plants at this stop:

Silver Poplar (Populus alba)

While the Silver Poplar is a tree that is not native to North America, there are several native poplar trees commonly called “Aspens” that are native and are better suited for our region. These include the Trembling Aspen. Aspens are used for shelter and food by large and small mammals and birds. In eastern North America, over 350 species of butterflies & moths use Aspens as a caterpillar host plant.

Other trees at this tour stop include:

Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo)

Native to some parts of North America & found along river banks, this fast growing but short lived tree is considered an invasive plant in Ontario. Weedy and weak, it should never be planted on your property.

White ash (Fraxinus americana)

Producing wood that is valued for its strength, White Ash trees support deer and beaver. Seeds are eaten by ducks, turkey, grouse, finches & many other birds & mammals. The trunks will form cavities, which support owls and wood ducks.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk


Leave a Comment



Download the App

Download the PocketSights Tour Guide mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

iOS Tour Guide Android Tour Guide



Updates and Corrections

Please send change requests to