Blue star creeper laurentia fluviatilis

Are you thinking about ditching your lawn and going with a more exciting ground cover plant? Blue star creeper is a tempting lawn alternative, but you might not know exactly how to grow and care for it.

Well, we’ve got the answers to your questions. First things first: blue star creeper is super easy to plant and maintain. Botanically known as Isotoma fluviatilis, it’s a popular ground cover to work into an ornamental landscape.

Being a low but fast-growing plant, it develops into a mass of deep green leaves with delicate creeping stems. They remain evergreen throughout the year.

To learn how to plant blue star creeper and care for it in your landscape, read our complete guide.

Overview

A gorgeous ground cover with blue flowers.Source: KHQ Flower Guide

Common Names: Blue star creeper, Swamp isotome
Scientific Name: Laurentia fluviatilis or Isotoma fluviatilis
Family: Campanulaceae
Origin: Asia, Australia, and New Zealand
Height: Short, 2-15″
Light: Partial to full sun
Water: Evenly moist soil, weekly watering
Bloom time: Early spring to early fall
Flower: Light blue
Leaf: Small, bright green, quadrilateral, evergreen
Foliage Color: Deep green
Growth Rate: Medium

Isotoma fluviatilis is a perennial herb that forms a low-growing mat. It was discovered by Robert Brown in 1810 and was classified as Isotoma by George Bentham in 1864. It’s a ground cover with blue flowers. It’s ideal for planting between paving stones, in the rock garden, or as an alternative for the lawn.

Types of Blue Star Creeper

There are three sub-species for this plant you might want to try. They mainly differ in their leaf shapes and sizes.

Isotoma fluviatilis subsp. Australis

This subspecies of blue star creeper has corolla of 7-15 mm long with 5-13 mm long leaves. The width of leaves varies between 2-7 mm. The corolla is mostly blue but you may even find some in pink color.

Isotoma fluviatilis subsp. Borealis

Borealis is more or less the same as Australis which often makes it difficult to distinguish between the two. The corolla for Borealis version of blue star creeper is 6-10 mm long. The leaves are usually 5-12 mm long and 2-5 mm wide. In the flowers, you’ll find approximately 5-40 mm long pedicels. Corolla and lobes are hairy inside and ovary is glabrous in Borealis.

Isotoma fluviatilis subsp. Fluviatilis

This is the most common form of blue star creeper. Its leaves are 5 to 15 mm long and the corolla is glabrous with 4 to 7 mm in length. The female flower of Fluviatilis has 4 to 6 mm long corolla and anthers are pale and small without pollen.

Blue Star Creeper Care

Quick tips on care for this gorgeous ground cover.

This plant is gorgeous no matter where you place it: filling the edges of a pond or forming a low, dense mat between stepping stones. It’s also easy to care for – here’s what you need to know.

Light

Plant in sunny or partially sunny areas. They need a sufficient amount of light to grow…full shade is not ideal If you live in a warmer zone, planting blue star creeper in a location where it has direct sunlight for most of the day will keep it growing well.

Water

For the best growth, it needs regular watering. In the first year of growth proper watering is crucial, so that it can firmly establish itself in the soil. After that, it becomes pretty drought-resistant. However, blue star creeper doesn’t like to sit in water. So you’ve got to be careful about where you plant it.

Avoid planting it in lower spots that may be susceptible to holding water after rain. Despite its drought-tolerance, you still have to water it well during hot and dry weather to avoid death.

Soil

It prefers moist, well-draining soil that doesn’t get too hot in the peak of the day. As a ground cover, it works quite well when interplanted between larger shrubs, bushes, or trees.

Fertilizer

It’s not a heavy feeder, so you don’t even need to fertilize provided you have quality soil. However, an application of a general-purpose garden fertilizer prior to the growing season can help to recondition your soil before planting.

Repotting

If growing in containers as an ornamental or houseplant, you can repot it at will. As soon as it starts to outgrow a pot, simply divide it up into smaller pots, or size your pot up by about 1″ or so.

Propagation

If you want to propagate Isotoma fluviatilis, there are two ways to do it: by dividing the root ball or seeds.

The root ball can be easily divided. Gently scrape the soil from the roots by either using sharp pruning shears or your hand. Split the root ball and plant it in your desired pot or in the ground.

The second way is rather complicated to carry out. What you need to do is to let the seed pods dry on the plant, then crush them in an air-tight container to collect the seeds. Once you have the seeds, sprinkle them on a moistened seed starting mix.

Once the seeds are evenly distributed on the seed mix, place a newspaper on the container. Make sure to leave a small gap between the container’s top surface and the soil. This will give your blue star creeper seeds a place to sprout.

Keep the container moist and in partial sunlight for 7 to 15 days. When the seedlings reach the six-leaf stage, plant them in the ground or your desired location.

Pruning

Considering the fact that it isn’t native to the United States, it can spread rather quickly, making it invasive in nature.

This fast growth happens when you over-water the plant or apply more fertilizer than necessary. Try using a deep landscape edging material to stop unwanted spreading, or you can hand pull any extra growth easily.

Problems

This easy to care for ground cover shouldn’t cause you too many headaches in the garden.Source: Michael Jefferies

So long as you’re keeping it well-watered and protected, you shouldn’t have too many growing issues. It rarely gets into trouble with pests or diseases, but it may face some problems if you ignore its growing requirements.

Growing Problems

If you water them too much, the plants will rapidly grow and spread out over the ground. While it might sound good to have a garden full of
blue flowers, at some point it will start to take over other areas of the yard or garden that you’d rather dedicate to different plants.

That said, overwatering can also be an issue if you have heavy clay soil that holds on to too much water. You can easily kill the plant by over watering.

Blue star creeper is not an invasive plant by classification, but it can grow in a pattern that resembles an invasive species if you make its growing environment favorable to explosive growth.

Pests

You don’t have to be too concerned about pests when it comes to blue star creeper lawn care. The low-spreading plant is not bothered by insects. Also, you won’t have to worry about rabbits making a home in your lawn as it’s resistant to them as well!

Diseases

This groundcover with blue flowers is prone to fungal diseases that halt the roots’ ability to grow and develop. So, it’s important that you plant it in locations that are moist but well-drained to prevent nasty fungal issues like damping off, leaf spot, etc.

FAQs

Q. What fertilizer should I use?

A. Any general-purpose plant fertilizer will be fine. Also, keeping the soil nourished with organic compost can help with growth.

Q. Can I plant blue star creeper in a container?

A. Yes, container growing is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of this plant without having it spread all over the place.

Q. How can I control the spread of blue star creeper?

A. If you are planting it as a lawn replacement and want it to stay limited to a specific space, water a bit less often and don’t over-fertilize.

Q. I have dead spots in my ground cover…what’s up?

A. Dead spots can emerge in your swamp isotome ground cover if the soil is too moist. This can hinder the growth of the root. The second reason could be your soil running out of nutrients. So don’t overwater your lawn and focus on nourishing the soil instead.

If you want a ground cover plant that gives you gorgeous blue and white flowers without a whole lot of effort, give this plant a try. See you next time with another amazing plant. Happy gardening!

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Kevin Espiritu
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Blue Star Creeper Plant Care – Using Blue Star Creeper As A Lawn

Lush, green lawns are traditional, but many people are opting for lawn alternatives, which are often more sustainable, require less water, and are less time-consuming than regular turf. If you’re thinking about making the change, consider blue star creeper as grass alternative. Read on to learn more.

Using Blue Star Creeper as a Lawn

Blue star creeper ground cover (Isotoma fluviatilis) is a no-fuss plant that works well as a lawn substitute. It is also more than happy to fill in gaps between stepping stones, under shrubbery or over your spring-blooming bulbs.

At a height of only 3 inches, blue star creeper lawns require no mowing. The plant withstands heavy foot traffic and tolerates full sun, partial shade or full shade. If conditions are just right, blue star creeper will produce tiny blue blooms throughout spring and summer.

Considerations for Blue Star Creeper Lawns

Blue star creeper sounds like a perfect plant and it definitely has much to offer. The plant stands up well in extreme weather, although it can look a little ragged and worse for wear during cold winters and hot summers. Blue star creeper is fuller and healthier if it gets a few hours of sunlight every day.

Additionally, gardeners should be aware that blue star creeper is non-native to the United States. It has a tendency to spread quickly, which can be a good thing. However, the plant can become invasive in some situations, especially if it is overwatered or over-fertilized. Fortunately, wayward plants are relatively easy to pull.

Blue Star Creeper Plant Care

Blue star creeper requires very little care. Although the plant is very drought tolerant, it benefits from a bit of extra moisture in full sunlight or during hot, dry weather.

An application of any general-purpose garden fertilizer before new growth emerges in spring will keep the plant well-nourished throughout the growing season.

Shearing the plant down to about an inch in autumn helps keep the plant tidy during the winter months.

Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis) is a low growing, evergreen groundcover and can be quite invasive.

Blue Star Laurentia (Isotoma axillaris) is a taller plant that bears similar flowers but does well as a bedding plant and is much easier to control

While Isotoma axillaris is only winter hardy in USDA hardiness zone 11, Isotoma fluviatilis is hardy to zone 6 and thrives as a perennial in many parts of the United States.

It also reseeds itself freely and will grow naturally and abundantly as an annual.

Size & Growth

Blue Star Creeper tops out at about 6″ inches high. Individual plants should be spaced 18″ to 24″ inches apart as they spread very rapidly.

Flowering & Fragrance

This attractive groundcover produces a wealth of white, light blue or dark blue small, star-shaped flowers. Flowers are unscented yet seem to be attractive to butterflies, wasps, and bees.

It blooms abundantly from mid-spring until early winter in warmer climates. Deadheading is unnecessary.

Foliage

This evergreen plant has smooth, green foliage. Under ideal circumstances, it can form a dense, green carpet, tough enough to handle substantial foot traffic.

The plant is extremely resilient and could tolerate mowing and other management typical of lawn care.

Light & Temperature

Blue Star Creeper does well in many different sun exposures. It is an excellent choice for every sun exposure ranging from light shade to full sun.

It is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures but performs best in a consistently warm climate.

Watering & Feeding

This plant needs average water regularly. Be careful not to overwater this drought tolerant plant.

Occasional deep watering is preferable to frequent shallow watering.

Fertilize very little or not at all to prevent invasive tendencies. A single application of all-purpose garden fertilizer early in the spring is more than adequate.

Soil & Transplanting

This plant does well in almost any soil. It tolerates pH levels ranging from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline (6.1 through 7.8). As with most plants, light, well-draining soil helps prevent problems with root rot.

Grooming & Maintenance

There is no need to deadhead to encourage flower production. Mow or shear to one inch in height late in the autumn to avoid a raggedy appearance through the winter months.

Propagating Blue Star Creeper

It’s hard not to propagate Blue Star Creeper. Plants also spread on their own via underground runners and reseed themselves with wild abandon.

This plant can be propagated by dividing the root ball.

It’s best to do this early in the spring and plant out the small individual plants in plenty of time for them to get a good foothold and begin to spread.

It is also possible to collect seeds by allowing seedpods to dry on the plant. Collect the pods and break them open to harvest the seeds.

Scatter seeds early in the spring after all danger of frost has passed, or you may start plants indoors six weeks before the last predicted frost. Remember to transition plants carefully to the outdoors.

Blue Star Creeper Pest or Disease

Blue Star Creeper tolerates a wide variety of adverse conditions.

But it will never look its best when growing:

  • In too little light
  • Too much water
  • Very poor quality soil
  • Other deficits

It can handle foot traffic, but this will take a toll on its appearance.

Overwatering can cause root rot and may attract slugs, snails and grubs which may feed on the plant stems and roots.

Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, pets?

Keep kids and pets away from Blue Star Creeper because all parts are toxic if ingested. Additionally, people with sensitive skin may experience an allergic reaction when handling the plant. Be sure to wear gloves.

Is the Plant Considered Invasive?

Blue Star Creeper is said to have naturalized in many temperate areas along the United States West Coast, and Florida and throughout the southeastern United States.

The plant grows rapidly and spreads freely through underground runners. It tends to pop up many feet away from the parent plant and will overtake your grass or your garden if given half a chance.

If you’re going to plant the Blue Star Creeper plant, be sure you can contain it.

In fact, it’s a good idea to keep it as a container plant and carefully control it and prevent self-seeding.

Although deadheading is not necessary for bloom production, it is recommended to prevent voluntary reseeding.

Once the plant is established, getting rid of it is nearly impossible. Digging only encourages small roots in the ground to become whole plants.

Suggested Blue Star Creeper Uses

This plant does well in rock gardens, alpine settings and used as a groundcover perfect for garden pathways & rock walls.

Although Blue Star Creeper is very tough and grows naturally and enthusiastically in many areas of the US, it is not always reliable as a groundcover.

Under ideal circumstances, it forms a dense green mat with lovely white or blue flowers. Under less than perfect circumstances, it grows thinly and looks patchy.

Additionally, anecdotal evidence indicates that it doesn’t do a very good job of blocking weeds. Weeds are apparently able to grow right through it.

For the most part, gardeners who have given this rambunctious plant a try seem to regret it.

If you do decide to try Blue Star Creeper, it is wise to contain it, deadhead regularly to prevent seed development and dispose of any cuttings in a very thorough and responsible manner such as burning.

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By George Weigel/The Patriot-News

Q: Just read your article about groundcovers, and I would like to convert my back lawn to groundcover. My problem is dogs. I have three 85-pounders, and they use that area as their bathroom as well as play area. Do any groundcovers take such abuse? The area gets some sun – maybe 4 hours a day.

A: Big dogs and plants aren’t a great combination. Just the foot traffic and pee damage alone is trouble. But if the dogs are diggers, any plant is going to have a tough time, including grass.

One option is to replace the grass with a non-plant, such as mulch, gravel, river pebbles or even artificial turf. Another option would be to carve out dog and no-dog areas, then train the dogs to stay in the areas assigned to them. In the dog areas, that could be grass or one of the above. In the no-dog areas, you could plant garden beds or groundcover.

If dogs are going to have free reign, grass is probably the best bet. If you want to give groundcovers a try, I’d suggest starting with a small patch or two of a few types and see what happens.

Your best bet is going to be low-growers that fill in fast, recover quickly, take at least some foot traffic and are tolerant of a fair amount of shade. A few that come to my mind are sweet woodruff (a light green mat with white spring flowers); mazus (6-incher with purple spring flowers); leadwort (an 8-incher that blooms blue in late summer and gets glossy red fall foliage); creeping phlox (mounded mat with white, pink or lavender spring flowers); vinca (the common vining groundcover with purple/blue spring flowers), and blue star creeper (mat former with dainty blue spring flowers).

Most garden centers these days carry one of two main branded lines of groundcovers: Jeepers Creepers or Stepables. Look for the displays to see what some of these plants look like in person. Or check out some of the selections online at www.jeeperscreepers.info or www.stepables.com. Just be sure that types you consider are listed as being hardy to Zone 6 and lower.

Blue Star Creeper problem

Hi, thanks for your question about your blue star creeper dying. This is indeed a lovely plant, though many people find it too invasive!
There are a number of things that could be causing the problem. The dying area could be too wet, which could invite root rot. In fact, this is my first guess – and your extra watering could be making it worse.
However there are other possibilities. A dog could have peed on it. There could be underground grubs eating the roots (like crane fly larvae eat the roots of lawns). That area could be running out of nutrients – is it by any chance the oldest part of the planting? A ground cover will naturally move along into fresh territory, and sometimes will die out in its original location.
I know this list of possibilities is not much help. What i would suggest you do is dig up a section of the dead plant, with soil and roots, and inspect it thoroughly. Is it very wet? Are there any grubs? You might also check a piece of the healthy plant, and compare the roots – have the roots of the dead plant been eaten, or have they rotted?
Any information you can collect in this way will help to identify the problem. If the roots look rotted, and the soil is very wet, then cut back your watering and see if the progression of death stops. If it does, you can dig out the dead part, amend the soil, then patch it with pieces from the healthy sections. It should fill in very well.

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