Zhi Mu for Southern California Ground Cover?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: No Name Given
Posted on: February 16, 2004

I asked this question of Inge and never got an answer. I live in Southern California and would like to put in a prettier, less thirsty ground cover than fescue grass, which is what I have. I was looking at zhi mu, but am uncertain it would do well in our heat. This is zone 9-10. Do you know? And if it wouldn’t do well here, can you suggest a ground cover that would? I love roman chamomille, but know it thrives in England so think it’s a bad choice for So. Cal., too.

Our horticulturist, Inge Poot, is normally conscientious and tries to answer every question in a timely manner; so I am not sure what happened with your previous question.

I don’t know how well zhu mu (Anemarrhena asphodeloides) would do in Southern California. The plant’s natural range is in a region of northern China that approximates our USDA zones 2-7. We suspect that it does not do well in warmer zones, but we have no reports to suggest either way whether or not the plant can tolerate warmer zones.

When we conducted our trials we tested it in pot culture in our greenhouses. The plant proved to be easy to grow from seeds. Typically, when we are assessing new herbs to add to our catalogue we look at how well the plant grows, in this case from seeds, and we look at the potential uses of the plant.

Roman chamomile is rated hardy in zones 5-9, but it does not tolerate hot, dry locations well. But if you irrigate or if you are close enough to be under the moderating influence of the sea, then roman chamomile may well work well for you. If your area more inland and temperatures are more extreme and precipitation is less, then you may want to try wild thyme. Although wild thyme is rated hardy only to zone 8, it can be pushed to zone 9 with timely irrigation.

In all cases, you will need to do a small trial to make sure that your chosen herb will do what you want. You may find, for example, that zhu mu is too tall a grass for you, or too slow growing to compete against weeds, etc.

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