Monday, January 11, 2010

Stopping Short For Moneywort

I'm not ashamed to pick up pennies wherever I find them.  As a gardener, plantsman and writer, I can use the extra income.  Anything that even looks like money gets my attention: bottle caps, small metal plugs and such.  So when I first spied Moneywort, I stopped short and said, "Oooo, oooo!  What's that?"

Its botanical name is Lysimachia nummularia (pronounced "ly-si-MAK-ee-uh noo-mew-LAH-ree-ah").  The genus is named for Lysimachus (360-281BC), the successor to Alexander The Great, king of Macedonia and Thrace, who is said to have fed the plant to his oxen to calm them.   "Nummularia" means "coin-shaped."  It also goes by other common names including "Creeping Jenny", "Herb Twopence" and "Two-penny grass".

Moneywort is native to Europe, but is used in North America as an ornamental ground cover.  So successful is it that some consider it invasive.  But, dear friends, you can't blame a ground cover for doing what ground covers do best; they cover ground.

Plant height ranges from 1" to 3".  Foliage is evergreen.  My favorite is L. nummularia 'Aurea', which sports bright chartreuse or yellow leaves.  'Aurea' is a little less aggressive than the species.  Yellow flowers are produced throughout the growing season.  Moneywort spreads by sending out runners, adding richness and color to the garden.

Moneywort thrives in full sun to partial shade in USDA climate zones 3 through 10 in moist soil.  Because it needs consistent moisture, partial shade is recommended in the hottest climates, though heat itself is not the issue.  Recommended soil pH ranges from 5.6 to 7.5.

This ground cover is most effective between taller perennials and shrubs, in container and bog gardens, and cascading over stone walls.  It's fine around stepping-stones, tolerating some foot traffic.

If soil is compacted, prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 10" deep, removing all traces of weeds.  If the soil is high in organic matter and friable, it may not require cultivation.  Compost may be incorporated into the soil, if necessary.  Incorporate 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of no more 2 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 4" to 6" of soil. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.

Plant Moneywort with other plants having similar cultural requirements.  Space the plants 24" to 36" apart, depending upon plant size. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the root balls. Do not cover entirely the root balls with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed. Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 1" deep.  Fertilize sparingly and irrigate when necessary.

Moneywort grows so well throughout so many climate zones, it could lend richness and color to your garden, too.  Your garden visitors will stop in their tracks, and say, "Oooo, oooo!  What is that?"

See how nicely Moneywort cascades over the rims of pots in this water garden?

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