Fallen Leaves and Groundcovers

Vinca minorQuestion: At my new home there’s a large population of vinca underneath some deciduous trees. Do I have to gather the tree leaves off of it this fall, or can I leave them to decompose?
Answer: It is best to remove fallen leaves from atop groundcover plants. If the leaves are left there, they can keep things damp, which is just the sort of condition in which diseases like to grow and overwinter.

To remove the leaves without ripping up the plants, gently use a rake or a leaf blower. You can then shred the leaves with the mulching attachment of the leaf blower or by running over the pile with a lawn mower. Blow them or spread them back over the groundcover. They’ll slip down between the plants and decompose to feed the soil—much more quickly and with less risk of disease than whole leaves would.

To read about diseases of groundcovers, see this page at the Morton Arboretum’s website.

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3 thoughts on “Fallen Leaves and Groundcovers

  1. Here in northern Indiana Vinca minor survives a bit too handily in the woods east of the Clymers Cemetery with no attention, so I’d say the Vinca can take the fallen leaves. The best course is to run a trial: Rake some and not the rest, then rake some of the unraked part in the spring to look for damage. Then decide whether the difference matters to you. I’d be more concerned to keep pulling out tree and vine seedlings that tend to take advantage of the fact that you are not mowing.

  2. Vinca may be a seemingly ideal groundcover but it’s looks hide it’s thuggish nature. It is truly an invasive plant here in California, spreading rampantly and crowding out our more desireable plants, natives especially. Think twice before subjecting your garden and the environment to this ill-mannered plant.

    • In the Colorado mountains, vinca does not seem to be aggressive. It is very dry here and I think the cold winters also keep it in check. It doesn’t thrive, however, and grow as in the original writer’s situation where it was covering a large area.

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