Dichondra Repens: How to Grow as A Ground Cover

Essentially, there are two types of Dichondra (botanical name Dichondra spp.) found in gardens across the United States.

There’s Repens, also referred to as Pony’s Foot or Kidney Weed, and then there’s the Falls variety, usually used as cascading-habit.

The cascading habit makes the foliage look great in pots or on garden edges. The botanical name is Dichondra argentea.

There is the Dichondra Emerald Falls and the Dichondra Silver Falls in the latter group.

The Silver Dichondra,or Dichondra argentea Silver, is from the Argentea family.

What is Dichondra Repens

This article will look at growing Dichondra Repens as a groundcover, not as an ornamental drape.

Just a word of caution: the Dichondra Repens is officially classified as an invasive plant, so handle the seeds with care.

The Dichondra Repens is a bright green perennial that loves full sun, partial shade, and moist soil – preferably with a pH of between 6.1 and 7.8, though it tolerates poor soil.

what-is-Dichondra-Repens

Dichondra plants are part of the morning glory family and have similar creeping stems.

Dichondra Repens grows about 2-inches tall, choosing to expend its energies growing wide – up to 36-inches for a single plant.

It has circular leaves and may flower anytime from late spring to early fall, but the flowers are rather inconspicuous – little white to greenish-white blossoms.

The Dichondra is a fast-growing, warm-season ground cover.

It is adapted to warmer climates but will retain its striking bright green color during winter temperatures as low as 20 – 25 degrees Fahrenheit – USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 11.

Planting Dichondra

Prepare the planting bed by digging it up and removing all weeds.

It can be challenging to remove weeds from established Dichondra plants, so the initial effort will be worth it.

Your planting bed should consist of clod-free and well-drained soil that can retain some moisture.

Adding compost and peat moss will help in increasing the ground’s water-retention abilities and break up clay soil.

If you leave tilled soil for a month or two before planting, latent weeds will emerge for the plucking.

Try to ensure that weeds don’t mature and seed during this time by removing them as they emerge.

Before planting, you may want to add a layer of germinating soil over the top of the bed – between 1- to 2-inches thick.

a-girl-Planting-Dichondra

Do not plant the Dichondra Repens lawn seeds deep.

Because the seeds are so tiny, consider mixing them with sand or lime to make spreading easier and more visible.

Use about half a pound of Dichondra seed per 500-square feet.

Once spread, lightly rake over and water thoroughly, but take care to avoid any runoff.

When raking, remember that tiny seeds will not germinate if planted too deep – they must be covered with a light layer of soil.

Throughout the first week, keep the seedbed soil moist but not soggy. Seed sprouts perish without water.

Closely monitor the soil’s humidity and water as needed, especially on warmer days.

You might need to water as much as four times a day.

Dichondra plants require warm soils to germinate, specifically in regions where the temperature reaches between 70-degrees Fahrenheit daytime temperatures and 50-degrees Fahrenheit nighttime.

Planting is, therefore, generally done from summer to early fall.

Dichondra seeds sprout somewhere between 7 – 14 days, depending on the soil temperature.

The first leaves will be narrow and long, nothing like Dichondra in the beginning.

After the seeds have all sprouted, you should let the ground dry out in-between waterings.

Water Dichondra ground cover plants once a week thoroughly and allow the soil to dry out in between soakings.

Constant wetness encourages shallow roots and makes the plant more susceptible to disease.

Each irrigation should add one inch of water to the soil. Use inch-deep fish cans on the lawns to measure your watering.

To fill 1-inch of the soil generally takes 30-minutes of irrigation.

how to Care for & Maintain Dichondra Lawn

Fertilizing

Apply a monthly feed of between 0.5- to 1-pound of nitrogen to your Dichondra lawn for a rich green color.

Apply the fertilizer to a dry lawn and water after the application, ensuring the nutrients get to the roots.

Mowing

Dichondra is often a low-maintenance option for lawns in full sun and partial shade.

If you want a manicured look, consider mowing Dichondra to its natural height during peak growing season.

This will create a lush lawn-like ground cover that is a delight to walk on bare feet. Natural growth height is between 1.5- and 2-inches.

In winter, you can reduce the cut to just under an inch but never cut more than a third off in a single cut; this applies to most plants, grass, ground cover, and tree pruning in most cases.

Mowing your Dichondra shorter in the winter encourages a dense, small-leaved turf and helps keep weed seed out.

Weed Control

A healthy lush Dichondra is more effective at controlling weed growth.

Once Dichondra is established, you may use pre-emergent herbicides to control weeds.

Pre-emergent herbicides keep any seed from germinating, so ensure that your Dichondra is well established.

Stop using herbicides approximately eight weeks before overseeding your Dichondra.

Use post-emergent herbicides for grassy weeds like crabgrass and quackgrass too. Using a 2-4D containing herbicides on our Dichondra will kill it.

Broadleaf weeds are best removed manually by pulling them up when the soil is damp.

Insects and Disease

Dichondra is a pest-resistant ground clover – except for cutworms, weevils, and flea beetles.

Eradicating these with pesticides is easy, but consider the impact on birds. Keeping Dichondra healthy is super simple:

  • Don’t mulch Dichondra clipping into the lawn
  • Avoid over-watering – water when the soil is dry and then only single watering of an inch.
  • Use spoon-fed fertilizing – smaller doses given more often. A monthly feed of half a point per 1,000-square feet is sufficient.

Other types of grass to consider

If you are looking for other varieties of grass to grow in your yard, check out our other related posts:

FAQ

Is Dichondra poisonous to dogs?

Dichondra is not poisonous to animals or people. In fact, Dichondra is high in anti-hepatitis-B compounds and has traditionally been used to treat jaundice, bacillary dysentery, urinary tract infection, edema, contusions, and strains and sprains. Contact with skin is said to cause dermatitis.

Is Dichondra a good ground cover?

Dichondra is a very effective ground cover that spreads rapidly through an underground rhizome structure in a garden. It requires some moisture, is tolerant of poor soil, grows in partial shade and full sun, and is relatively wear-hardy.

Will Dichondra grow in full sun?

Dichondra will grow in full sun and partial shade. It is commonly referred to as a wonder lawn for its ability to flourish across the garden spectrum of light and shade.

Is Dichondra hardy?

Dichondra is not drought hardy of hardy to heavy foot traffic, though it can recover from light foot traffic. If planted outside in USDA zone 10, it may be used as a low ground cover or as a trailing plant along the border of a raised bed or container. 

References

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  • The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns. (n.d.). Dichondra. Agriculture, and Natural Resources, University of California. URL: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/TOOLS/TURF/TURFSPECIES/dichondra.html
  • Jordon, J. (2022). Weed of the Month – Dichondra. Home & Garden Information Center, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, Clemson University. URL: https://hgic.clemson.edu/24682-2/
  • Yelverton, F. (2017). Dichondra. TurfFiles, North Carolina State Cooperative Extension. URL: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/dichondra
  • CABI. (2019). Dichondra repens. Centre of Agriculture and Biosciences International Datasheet. URL: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/110231
  • About/Mentions: Dichondra, Lawn, Gardening, Sod

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