Green carpet ground cover

Botanical Name: Herniaria glabra

Herniaria glabra or Rupturewort is an evergreen perennial in most of Australia, but is treated as a bi-annual or annual in very cold regions of the world. It reaches only a few centimetres high and may spread outwards from 30 to 50cm, forming a small, ground cover. The leaves are soft and deep green, releasing a musky fragrance when squashed. It flowers in summer, but the flowers are barely noticeable. In cold regions of the world, the leaves may turn a bronze rust colour as the weather cools.

The Herniaria genus consists mostly of annual flowering plants and belongs to the family Caryophyllaceae. H. glabra is related to carnations and dianthus. This genus is native to Asia, Eurasia, Africa and some parts of Europe, but has been introduced to North America. Usually plants in this genus form a mat like ground cover for a short period but this may be dependent upon local weather conditions. This plant is still quite uncommon but is growing in popularity.

Rupturwort is also called Green Carpet due to the plant’s spreading nature and soft texture underfoot. It may go by many common names including, Smooth Rupturewort in North America and Europe, Bruckkraut, Flax Weed, Herniaire Hirsute, or even plain Herniary. The traditional and scientific names are derived from an early belief that the plant was useful for curing hernias. However, the hernias in question were hernias or ruptures of the skin, such as cuts and abrasions, rather than internal hernias.

Growing Conditions

Rupturewort needs full sun or partial shade. It will not do well in a lot of shade or for long shady periods. It has average water requirements and needs water during the dry, warm seasons. There is some tolerance for dry periods in climates similar to the northern hemisphere, but Australian summer conditions are different. Poor or dry sandy soils replicate its natural habitat and are very suitable. Average soil types should meet all nutrient requirements. This plant tolerates dry winds, but not the salinity found in coastal regions. It is a good container plant and trails nicely over the edges.

Rupturewort is said to be very hardy and nearly indestructible. This tough character means that it is a useful lawn substitute and a good rockery plant as it is able to take some foot traffic. If pets or children wander through the garden Rupturewort may be useful. It will even allow spring bulbs to grow through while it acts as a groundcover. It has a slow growth rate, so it is easily controlled and may be propagated by division in spring. As a self-fertile plant it has both male and female parts and is insect pollinated under natural circumstances.

Culinary Uses

Rupturewort is edible, but has no culinary uses.

Medicinal Uses

Rupturewort contains herniarin and chemicals that may help stop spasms and help with eliminating excess water from the body. It has an anti-spasmodic effect on the bladder and is traditionally used to treat urinary tract infections (UTI), cystitis and kidney stones.

A poultice may be made from the whole plant and used externally for healing ulcers. The whole plant is astringent, diuretic and expectorant and should be gathered when in flower. It has also been used for lung disorders, nerve pain, gout, arthritis, fluid retention, muscle and joint pain and for ‘purifying the blood.’ An aqueous extract is made from the plant and used as a hand cleanser.

This plant should be used with professional guidance. Rupturewort interacts with Lithium and may act as a diuretic, preventing lithium from being excreted properly. This would increase the amount of lithium in the body and doses may need to be adjusted. Please consult with your doctor if you are on this medication. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not consume or apply rupturewort.

Green Carpet, Rupturewort (Herniaria glabra)

Planting Instructions

Perennials can be planted anytime from spring through fall.
Prepare the garden by breaking up the existing soil (use a hoe, spade, or power tiller) to a depth of 12-16” (30-40cm). Add organic matter such as manure, peat moss or garden compost until the soil is loose and easy to work. Organic ingredients improve drainage, add nutrients, and encourage earthworms and other organisms that help keep soil healthy. Give plants an extra boost by adding a granulated starter fertilizer or all-purpose feed that encourages blooming (for example fertilizers labeled 5-10-5).
Check the plant label for suggested spacing and the mature height of the plant. Position plants so that taller plants are in the center or background of the landscape design and shorter plants in the foreground. To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot.
Dig the hole up to two times larger than the root ball and deep enough that the plant will be at the same level in the ground as the soil level in the container. Grasping the plant at the top of the root ball, use your finger to lightly rake the roots apart. This is especially important if the roots are dense and have filled up the container. Set the plant in the hole.
Push the soil gently around the roots filling in empty space around the root ball. Firm the soil down around the plant by hand, tamping with the flat side of a small trowel, or even by pressing down on the soil by foot. The soil covering the planting hole should be even with the surrounding soil, or up to one inch higher than the top of the root ball. New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks to get them well established.
Plan ahead, for plants that get tall and require staking or support cages. It’s best to install cages early in the spring, or at planting time, before the foliage gets bushy. Vining plants require vertical space to grow, so provide a trellis, fence, wall or other structure that allows the plant to grow freely and spread.
Finish up with a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch such as shredded bark or compost to make the garden look tidy, reduce weeds, and retain soil moisture.

Watering Instructions

New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks. After that, depending on the weather and soil type, watering may be adjusted to every two or three days. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, so expect to water more frequently in sandy settings.
Different plants have different water needs. Some plants prefer staying on the dry side, others, like to be consistently moist. Refer to the plant label to check a plant’s specific requirements.
Ideally water should only be applied to the root zone – an area roughly 6-12” (15-30cm) from the base of the plant, not the entire plant. A soaker hose is a great investment for keeping plants healthy and reducing water lost through evaporation. Hand watering using a watering wand with a sprinkler head attached is also a good way to control watering. If the garden area is large, and a sprinkler is necessary, try to water in the morning so that plant foliage has time to dry through the day. Moist foliage encourages disease and mold that can weaken or damage plants.
Thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.
To check for soil moisture, use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.

Fertilizing Instructions

Incorporate fertilizer into the soil when preparing beds for new plants. Established plants should be fed in early spring, then again halfway through the growing season. Avoid applying fertilizer late in the growing season. This stimulates new growth that can be easily damaged by early frosts.
Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed to encourage blooming (such as 5-10-5).
Reduce the need to fertilize in general by applying a 1-2” (3-5cm) layer of mulch or compost annually. As mulch breaks down it supplies nutrients to the plants and improves the overall soil condition at the same time.

Pruning Instructions

Depending on the flowering habit, snip off faded blooms individually, or wait until the blooming period is over and remove entire flower stalk down to the base of the plant. Removing old flower stems keeps the plant’s energy focused on vigorous growth instead of seed production. Foliage can be pruned freely through the season to remove damaged or discolored leaves, or to maintain plant size.
Do not prune plants after September 1st. Pruning stimulates tender new growth that will damage easily when the first frosts arrive. Perennial plants need time to prepare for winter, or “harden off”. Once plants have died to the ground they are easy to clean up by simply cutting back to about 4” (10cm) above the ground.
The flowering plumes and foliage of ornamental grasses create a beautiful feature in the winter landscape. Leave the entire plant for the winter and cut it back to the ground in early spring, just before new growth starts.
Perennials should be dug up and divided every 3-4 years. This stimulates healthy new growth, encourages future blooming, and provides new plants to expand the garden or share with gardening friends.

Herniaria glabra is a relatively unknown perennial that deserves to be used more often in our gardens. In Plant nurseries is is known as ‘Green Carpet’.. This lovely bright green creeper spreads effortlessly in all directions filling up to two feet per plant. The tiny tight green leaves form an extremely dense evergreen ground-cover.
Known to be nearly indestructible, Herniaria glabra is an excellent choice for growing between flagstones or as a lawn substitute. It is soft to walk on and can take quite a bit of foot traffic, as long as it is not continual. Never growing taller than 4cm (1½in), this fairly flat plant spreads 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in). The deep green foliage creates a dense evergreen carpet, becoming bronze in winter and bears minuscule, insignificant white flowers in early summer. The growth rate is fairly slow and easy to control and plants can be easily divided in spring.
Herniaria glabra prefers well drained soil in full sun or light shade. This easy-care perennial is well-rooted with one long tap root (as opposed to many surface roots like Creeping Thyme), making it drought tolerant and helping with water conservation.
It is not fussy about soil and will happily grow in poor soil and gravel. It is also extremely hardy to around minus 30°C (-20°F). The plants is gently coumarin-scented, the sweet odour readily recognised as the scent of newly-mown hay
The trailing habit of Herniaria glabra is also useful for rock gardens walls and bedding schemes. They are useful for tumbling over the edges of container plantings, the vibrant green perks up silver-grey leaved plants and offsets bright blooms and darker green foliage.

Sowing: Sow in spring or in autumn.
Prepare pots or trays with good free draining seed compost (John Innes or similar), moisten by standing in water, then drain. Surface sow two seeds per pot or cell and press them gently down to firm them in. Cover the seed with a fine layer of vermiculite if you have it. Seal pots in a polythene bag or cover trays with clear plastic lids until after germination. It is important to keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Remove the polythene bag once the first seedlings appear. Germination usually takes 14 days at temperatures around 20 to 22°C (68 to 71°F).
When they are large enough to handle transplant the seedlings to 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) pots to grow on. Place the pots in a coldframe or unheated greenhouse to grow on.
Before transplanting the plants outdoors, hardened the plants off gradually by placing them outside in a sheltered position during the day; bring them in at night to avoid frosts. Space plants 20cm (8in) apart.

Cover substrate with vermiculite or mulch to retain water and keep your eye on small plants until they establish themselves. A relatively low maintenance perennial, simply remove damaged foliage in spring and fertilise with a complete balanced fertiliser, don’t fertilise after mid September.

Plant Uses:
Groundcover, Rock Gardens, walls and crevices, Edging, paths and garden steps. Containers and Hanging Baskets, Bedding Planting. Over planting bulbs. Slopes, Bark replacement.

Native to temperate areas of Europe and Russian Asia, extending into Scandinavia, but not to high latitudes. A native of Britain, especially southern and central England.
The genus Herniaria was formerly included in the family Illecebraceae, but is now segregated with the Caryophyllaceae, related to Carnations and Dianthus.
There are very few species of the genus. They are small annuals or undershrubs, with small green flowers crowding along the stems intermixed with leaves.

Pronounced her-nee-ah-ree-a gla-bra, it is named for its historical use as a medicinal plant, It was formerly used to treat cuts – herniated skin. In this capacity, it also received its common name of Rupturewort.
It is also referred to as Smooth Rupturewort, the species name glabra means ‘smooth’ or ‘hairless’
At eleven letters in length, Rupturewort is the longest word in the English dictionary that can be spelled by the top row of letters on a qwerty keyboard.

Of Interest:
Herniaria glabra is gently coumarin-scented. Coumarin is a fragrant chemical compound found in many plants, notably in high concentration in the tonka bean (Dipteryx odorata), vanilla grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), mullein (Verbascum spp.), sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata), cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) and sweet clover (Fabaceae spp.).
The name comes from a French word, coumarou, for the tonka bean. It has a sweet odour, readily recognised as the scent of newly-mown hay, and has been used in perfumes since 1882.
Sweet woodruff, sweet grass and sweet clover in particular are named for their sweet smell, which is due to their high content of this substance. It has been used as an aroma enhancer in pipe tobaccos and certain alcoholic drinks.

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Green Carpet Lawn Alternative: Learn About Herniaria Lawn Care

A lush, manicured lawn is a point of pride for many homeowners, but that bright green turf comes at a cost. A typical lawn uses thousands of gallons of water every season, in addition to many hours of hard labor spent mowing and controlling weeds. Fertilizer, needed to maintain that healthy, emerald green lawn, poses considerable harm to the environment as it leaches into the groundwater. As a result, many gardeners are giving up traditional, resource-robbing lawns for low-maintenance, eco-friendly alternatives such as herniaria, also known as green carpet.

What is Herniaria Green Carpet?

It’s hard to find fault with herniaria ground cover as lawn substitute. This carpet-forming plant consists of tiny, bright green leaves that turn bronze during the winter months. It is soft enough to walk on in bare feet and it tolerates a fair share of foot traffic.

This green carpet lawn alternative tops out at about an inch, which means no mowing is required – ever. Growth is relatively slow and one plant eventually spreads to 12 to 24 inches. Dividing the plant to cover a larger area is easy.

Herniaria glabra produces tiny, inconsequential white or lime-green blooms in early summer, but the flowers are so small, you may not notice them. The blooms reportedly don’t attract bees, so there is little chance of stepping on a stinger.

Herniaria Lawn Care

For those interested in growing green carpet lawns, start herniaria by planting seeds indoors in early spring, and then move the plants outdoors in late spring or early summer. You can also plant seeds directly in the garden. Alternatively, purchase small starter plants at your local greenhouse or nursery.

Herniaria thrives in nearly any well-drained soil, including very poor soil or gravel. It likes moist soil but won’t tolerate soggy conditions. Either full or partial sunlight is good, but avoid total shade.

A light application of a general-purpose fertilizer gets the plant off to a good start in spring. Otherwise, herniaria requires no supplemental fertilization.

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