groundcover for playground

Asked July 22, 2013, 5:03 PM EDT

We have a playground in our elementary school in CR district and we would like to grow something on it that will survive heavy traffic from children's play. What do you recommend?

Kent County Delaware groundcovers high traffic landscape

3 Responses

Great question. First, I’d suggest you evaluate the area you’d like to plant, in and around the playground. Is it sun, shade, or a combination of the two? What about the soil and drainage? Is it open or somewhat protected? Is there a water source nearby to establish the plants? And then, evaluate how the space is designed; will the children run over top the plants, or is there a way to clearly define planting beds and/or perimeters of the playground to discourage the children from stepping on the plants and running on top of the “garden.” There are very few plants that will withstand heavy traffic; turf is designed for this purpose and of course, there are several mulches available too.

So, first, take a look at the site and record your observations. Next, consider appropriate ground cover, perennial, and small shrub plant selections that can deal with tough conditions that you can plant in and around the playground to add interest and excitement.
Tough groundcovers to consider, depending on the site conditions, include lilyturf, and there are some interesting groundcover phloxes and asters that might work well too. Good perennial and shrub selections that are more upright in stature include a variety of hostas, ferns, native grasses, coneflowers, rudbeckias, daylilies, inkberry hollies, Virginia sweetspire and many, many more. The Extension offices throughout the state, and the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens on campus have demonstration spaces where you can visit and take away new ideas! Additionally, the Plants for a Livable Delaware series of publications is an excellent resource for new, primarily native, plant ideas. Information for both the demonstration and display gardens, and the Plants for a Livable Delaware publications can be found in the Lawn and Garden section of our website. http://extension.udel.edu/ Good luck!

I am looking for a suggestion on what to plant. The playground area has heavy foot traffic, is an open area, is well drained, and has water available for irragation. However I'm not sure about soil conditions we were rennovated thru the 2011-2012 school year this was disturbed area. I assume we have fertulity issue I would like to establish a ground cover that chokes out weeds and cuts down on maintenance (mowing). I didn't know whether some of the foraging type Vetches would accomplish my goal?

Thank you for your additional question, however for you to get the best answer we need you to submit a separate question to the form to re-open the opportunity for our experts to answer.

So if you would like to go to extension.udel.edu/ask and submit the second question I can make sure it gets to the appropriate expert.