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Arenaria verna
Arenaria verna

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Zone
Zones 2-9, 14-24, 31, 32, 34-43
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Arenaria verna

Scotch and Irish Moss
Caryophyllaceae
Ground covers, Perennials

ARENARIA

Low evergreen plants carpet the ground creating a dense mat of mosslike foliage; small white flowers in late spring and summer. They are often used as lawn substitutes, between steppingstones, or for velvety green patches in rock gardens. Can be invasive; hard to eradicate in well-watered gardens. Providing good drainage is recommended.

Arenaria verna

Of two different ground-hugging plants of similar appearance, Sagina subulata is the more common. The other is Arenaria verna, usually called A. v. caespitosa. Both of these European natives make dense, compact, mosslike masses of slender leaves on slender stems. But A. verna has tiny white flowers in few-flowered clusters, while S. subulata bears flowers singly and differs in other technical details. In common usage, however, green forms of the two species are called Irish moss, and golden green forms (A. v. ‘Aurea’ and S. s. ‘Aurea’) are called Scotch moss.

Both Sagina and Arenaria are grown primarily as groundcovers for limited areas. They’re useful for filling gaps between paving blocks. In cool-summer gardens, they can seed themselves and become pests.

These plants won‘t grow well under conditions that suit true mosses. They need good soil, good drainage, and occasional feeding with controlled-release fertilizer. They take some foot traffic and tend to hump up in time; control humping by occasionally cutting out narrow strips, then pressing or rolling lightly. Control snails, slugs, cutworms. Cut squares from flats and set 6 in. apart for fast cover. To avoid lumpiness, plant so that soil line of squares is at or slightly below planted soil surface.

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