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The Best Plant You’ve Never Heard Of


Ask many skilled gardeners to name their favorite plant, and what do they reply? “The one that’s in bloom right now.”

Not what the interviewer wanted to hear, probably, but true nonetheless.

That comment came to mind this morning as I was rummaging about in my garden, pulling out the inch-long blades of crabgrass that are starting to raise their annoying heads. And the plant that caught my attention and filled me with admiration? Mazus reptans, a quarter-inch high ground cover that’s one of the plants in the Steppables line. It makes a solid mat of little green leaves, blooms with tiny purple-blue flowers that suggest miniature orchids, and it looks really great next to a cluster of lime green lemon thyme at the front of my border. It would grow nicely between stepping stones as well.

Photo courtesy of Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

I bought my plant at Anton’s Greenhouse in Evanston last year and was impressed with how it took off after it went in the ground. Not invasive but sturdy growth. It overwintered just fine and now it’s in its second season. The Missouri Botanic Garden, which reports no serious insect or disease problems, says it can grow 2 inches high, but I have yet to see that.

This is a terrific little plant and well worth seeking out. Looking for something new to grow? This is it.

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questions

I have two 20-year-old pine trees whose needles are turning brown on the west side of the plants. On the east side I have a compost pile.

I live in the St. Charles region and my soil is mostly clay. What is causing the browning? Should I get rid of the compost? How do I correct the damage?

I received a beautiful flowering azalea plant during the holidays. I would like to continue growing it over winter. Will I be able to bring it into bloom next year?

I have a dampish area with poor grass and moss that I would like to change to ground cover, but if I have only one plant, won’t it be boring? Can I get rid of the grass in winter or early spring?

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