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Plant Diseases/red apple ground cover

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QUESTION: What other ground covers (to replace my dying red apple) would suggest as replacements for a steep hillside & are less susceptible to a fungal disease?

ANSWER: Dear Thad, Unfortunately the red apple ground cover doesn't do well in very wet or chilly conditions, and a lot of gardeners have reported it dying off recently.  There are several different ways that you could go to cover the hillside, but it is very good to get something to plant on it for erosion prevention.  Since you were growing the red apple before, I assume the hill is mostly sunny, so you want plants that grow best in sun.  You might want to look around your area for ideas on what seems to work the best, but I can think of several ideas.  One solution would be to plant in perennial grasses.  The drawback to that would be that you need either a short growing grass or you may want to mow it down before it gets new growth in the spring.  Creeping junipers would be good, but might be slower to cover.  Creeping phlox or thrift is excellent and you have the added benefit of having the pretty flowers in the spring.  That would actually be my choice.  Of course, there are liriopes and Asian jasmine or you could plant wild flowers.  A great deal of this is simply a matter of preference.  If you have any remaining red apple, I would keep it around until you get to replacing that area.  It will probably try to come back agin this year with the warmer weather.  My best suggestion would be to contact the County Extension Service for the county that you life in.  It will be somewhere in the government page listings.  The website is <ucanr.edu> and they will have many suggestions for beautiful native plants that will quickly adapt in your area.  I hope this information helps you, but please write back if you have further questions.  Good luck, Melissa

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the added info.

I must correct your assumption that the hill "is mostly sunny." It's not; however, the red apple seemed to thrive and it's many blossoms attracted a host of bees.

At the bottom of the hill (which faces due south), we have a mature silver oak tree & my neighbors on both sides (east & west) have mature California pepper trees. All trees provide partial to full shade depending on the time of the year.
Would your prior plant suggestions be the same or change? Incidentally we live approx. 1/2 mile above downtown San Diego.

Best,
Thad

Answer
Dear Thad, Having a shadier location is even better.  It will help you get plants established quicker and it gives you more possibilities.  I would probably still go with the thrift, but you could also use mints, sedums, and of course there are many salvias that would be beautiful.  I found one website; it is actually a place to buy plants, (and it might be nice to try them out) but they have some really good pictures of ground covers that might be useful to you.  <www.laspilitas.com>.  They have great photos of many different options.  You may want to go with several different plants, depending on how well the new ground covers work.  I would not put the juniper ground covers in shady area.  That is the main difference between my earlier advice.  Write back if you have more questions.  Good luck, Melissa

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Melissa Johnston

Expertise

Plant diseases, landscaping, tropical plants, roses, herbs, plant care, grafting, horticulture, plant identification, anything about plants I can likely answer.

Experience

35 years experience in various plant businesses, 1984 Certified Texas Master Gardener.

Organizations
Master Gardener Association of Texas charter member

Publications
none as of yet, but I have a plant q&a book I am in process of submitting.

Education/Credentials
Magna cum laude graduate of Texas A&M, 1978

Awards and Honors
Plant growing awards, highest grade for Texas Master Gardener graduates.

Past/Present Clients
Past member of Allexperts.com and was very highly rated. Owned landscape company in the past, Almost Paradise, and was very successful despite little equipment, no help, and no advertising. Lived well for two years until 9/11.

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