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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

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

Is there an overall rule about when to pinch back my leggy plants?

What is the best way to dig up, clean and store gladiolus and dahlias? What are the little white sacs on glad bulbs?

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