Dichondra Lawn Pros and Cons

Ground covers are excellent substitutes for grass when you want to make the most out of your lawn. Some substitutes, such as clovers, are evergreen and perform better than other types of turf when grown. 

Dichondra is a popular ground cover substitute for grass that performs well under suitable conditions that support its development and is well manicured. It lends the perfect color to a small, intimate lawn with controlled or minimal foot traffic. 

We’ll explore the pros and cons of the Dichondra lawn to help you determine if it is the perfect fit for your yard.

What is dichondra lawn?

Dichondra is a herbaceous, summer annual alternative ground cover to grass that grows fast when planted. It shares the same family (Convolvulaceae) with the morning glory plant.

Dichondra has a creeping growth habit, mat-like appearance, giving your lawn a breathtaking green carpet look. You’ll identify it by its low-lying growth above the soil to a maximum of 2 inches tall thus used for decorative landscaping and ornamental areas.

Dichondra thrives well-drained fertile soils, is hardy in the cool coastal zones 7 to 11, and prefers full sun although it withstands partial shade.

The leaves are broad, circular, with a stalk emerging near the edge, forming a kidney-like appearance. It has lime green leaf blades with a smooth margin. ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra is unique, with silver-gray foliage. The leaves are smooth and feel soft under your feet, but easily damaged when exposed to high foot traffic. The lawn recovers partially from wear but is not the best option for high foot traffic areas.

Dichondra establishes in plugs and seeds. It tolerates high summer temperatures but cannot withstand prolonged droughts. 

Dichondra makes a perfect alternative for small lawns or lawn areas that prove difficult to mow. It also can be added to bare spots on existing turf or in areas where turf performs poorly.

Pros and cons of dichondra lawn

If you substitute your grass with dichondra, you will get some benefits and experience some challenges.

The table below summarizes the pros and cons of Dichondra lawns.

ProsCons
Low maintenanceIntolerant to high traffic
It doesn’t choke the grassSusceptible to pests and diseases
Provides beautiful landscaping appearanceSome people consider it a weed
Controls soil erosionDoesn’t tolerate extreme drought
Tolerates low temperatures in winter 

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of having Dichondra on your lawn.

Pros of dichondra lawn

Here are the advantages of having a dichondra lawn;

1. It requires low maintenance

Dichondra needs minimal care to keep it in good shape. Unlike turfgrasses that require weekly mowing, you don’t have to mow Dichondra weekly. The ground cover grows fast but creeps above the ground to reach 2 inches tall. It remains attractive even if left unmowed. If you want to mow, do it once in two weeks.

Furthermore, Dichondra needs infrequent deep watering. Quick successive watering sessions are only done when the leaf blades dry up. Infrequent watering and less or no mowing make this ground cover a perfect choice for people who want to spend less time, money, and effort to care for their lawns.

2. It doesn’t choke the grass

Dichondra thrives well, even when planted on sections of the lawn that are difficult to mow or with bare spots without competing with the existing turf. Although it can grow faster than the turf, it doesn’t choke or overtake the lawn.

3. Provides excellent landscaping

Dichondra has light green, smooth broad leaves that resemble a kidney. The plant grows low above the ground to 2 inches tall maximum. It forms a mat appearance and produces whitish to beautiful greenish flowers, making it more attractive and upping your lawn’s aesthetic appeal. 

The color combination of its leaves and flowers makes Dichondra perfect for ornamental areas, orchards, and between rocks on sidewalks to add more color and ambiance.

4. Controls soil erosion

Loose soils are usually carried away by winds or running water. Dichondra makes an excellent ground cover to stop erosion. It prefers well-drained soils, and when planted in such places, it will grow low above the ground to fill the bare spots vulnerable to soil erosion.

5. Tolerates low winter temperatures

Warm-season grasses and ground covers go dormant and turn brown in the cool winter months. However, this is not the case with Dichondra. It has a high tolerance to temperatures as low as 20oF. Surprisingly, it remains green in such low temperatures and turns slightly brown when it worsens.

Dichondra also does exceptionally well in the scorching summer heat if it’s not prolonged.

Despite all the pros of Dichondra on your lawn, it has some downsides, too. 

Cons of dichondra lawn

Here are the disadvantages of having a dichondra lawn;

1. Intolerant to high traffic

Dichondra doesn’t make the best ground cover alternative to grass on lawns where kids and pets play. Such lawns get high foot traffic. Dichondra wears quickly, and its recovery is only partial. 

2. Susceptible to pests and diseases

Leaf spot, botrytis, rust, and southern blight are the most common diseases in Dichondra lawns. Fungicides are used to treat these diseases. Leaf spot is cured by limiting watering frequency to avoid overwatering.

Pests such as Dichondra flea beetle and cutworms cause dead spots in Dichondra lawns. Use insecticides to treat severe pest infestation.

3. It can be a weed to some people

While some people love and use Dichondra as an alternative to grass on their lawns, others consider it a weed and a nuisance. Yet, it doesn’t overrun or choke grass when it invades their lawns. 

The most common invasive Dichondra is the non-native species that grow and spread aggressively on the lawn.

4. Low drought tolerance

Dichondra has shallow roots that cannot extend deep into the soil water table to draw more water for the plant. Therefore, it struggles during a lengthy drought.

Do I need to mow dichondra lawn?

Dichondra requires low mowing frequency and is sometimes left unmowed. When the grass is actively growing in summer, cut it to 1 ½ inch. However, reduce the mowing height to ¾” in winter. It also needs approximately 4 lbs of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square feet annually to keep it healthy and dense. Monthly applications are between 0.5 and 1 lb of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.

Does dichondra need a lot of water?

Dichondra needs infrequent deep watering to maintain healthy roots. The most effective watering schedule for Dichondra is when the soil moisture drains out. However, avoid letting it dry out completely. It will thrive with infrequent watering since waterlogged soils increase leaf spots and rot vulnerability. 

Varieties of dichondra

Dichondra has numerous varieties but the most common ones grown are 

  • Asian kidney weed (Dichondra micrantha
  • Western Dichondra (Dichondra occidentalis)
  • Oakwood ponysfoot(Dichondra recurvata)
  • Silver ponysfoot(Dichondra argentea) 
  • Carolina ponysfoot(Dichondra carolinensis)

Is dichondra poisonous?

Dichondra is not poisonous when people or pets eat it despite its bitter taste. However, it causes skin irritation and dermatitis if it touches the skin. Also, it might cause slight oral irritation to humans and animals if ingested. 

Surprisingly, Dichondra has traditional medicinal benefits such as treating urinary tract infections, jaundice, and edema.

Is dichondra drought tolerant?

Although Dichondra can tolerate some heat, it is not drought tolerant. It doesn’t tolerate long droughts because its shallow roots cannot dig deep into the water table to draw water for survival during such harsh periods.

References

  1. University of California Agricultural & Natural Resources: Dichondra-Dichondra spp.
  2. University of Winscon: ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra argentea.

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