thyme

Denny Schrock

gearing up for groundcovers

Spider plants are one of my favorite groundcovers. The variegated form looks great as an underplanting around roses or lining the edge of a perennial bed. Although you can purchase spider plants at garden centers or nurseries that stock indoor plants, you can also propagate all that you need by rooting the “babies” at this time of year and carrying them through the winter as houseplants.

With an average first freeze date of October 12 here in Des Moines, it’s time to snip the spiders and start some new plants for next year. I simply stick 3 or 4 of the plantlets into a 4-inch pot filled with potting soil, moisten, and keep watered well until roots form. In just a few weeks I’ll have 40 or 50 rooted plants. For more on how to start plants from cuttings follow this link.

Spider plants and Elfin thyme rooting in flats in my greenhouse.

Other tender plants that I root at this time of year include coleus and Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha). Like spider plants, rooted coleus overwinter well as houseplants. The Mexican sage needs brighter light, so it stays in the greenhouse over winter.

This year I’m also starting several flats of Elfin thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Minus’), a wonderful low creeper that tolerates some foot traffic. I’ll plant it as an edging around some new beds that I started this year. I guess that you could say that October 1st marks the beginning of the winter gardening season, moving from an outdoor emphasis to indoors, or if you’re lucky, into the greenhouse.