Dichondra micrantha used as a turf alternative.

Dichondra micrantha is a low growing, groundcover plant that was once touted for use as a lawn in the mild west, but flea beetles quickly drove it out of favor as a grass substitute. Now a related species, D. argentea, is taking center stage nationwide as a unique, trailing accent plant for containers and hanging baskets. Dichondra has small, rounded leaves that resemble miniature water lily pads and spreads by rooting surface runners. Native to Texas and Mexico, D. argentea is a perennial hardy in zones 8 to 10, but is being used as an annual foliage plant in the horticultural trade.

‘Silver Falls dichondra has silvery fan-shaped leaves.

‘Silver Falls’ dichondra is a vigorous plant that forms a mass of soft pewter leaves on silver stems in full sun to part shade. The fan-shaped, shimmering silvery leaves are held on plants just 2 inches tall. The trailing stems branch well without pinching. It is heat and drought tolerant and will recover quickly if watered after wilting. In the Midwest, dichondra has no serious insect or disease problems.

Silver Falls dichondra used as a trailing plant over a wall in an annual bed.

‘Silver Falls’ dichondra is great alone or in mixed containers, providing a cool contrast to green foliage and brightly colored flowers. Try it in hanging baskets, tall containers, or window boxes as an alternative to licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare minus ‘Silver Mist’). It combines well with ‘Tidal Wave’ petunia, ‘Angel Mist’ angelonia, or ‘Dragon Wing Red’ begonia. Like other silver plants, it goes well with purple, pink or blue flowers and foliage. For a sophisticated look, plant it with white, pale pink and pale lavender flowers. Other suggested plant combinations include Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) and ‘Duckfoot’ coleus; petunias, ivy geranium and lobelia; or an all-foliage mix with chartreuse and black sweet potato vines. Planted near the edge of a raised bed or rock wall, it will cascade over the edge, growing 2 to 4 feet long. It can also be used as a ground cover on well-drained soils, where it will form dense mats that choke out weeds. Try pairing it with colorful foliage plants, such as ‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera or sun-tolerant coleus. ‘Silver Falls’ can even be used as a trailing filler for cutflower arrangements.

Silver Falls dichondra as a groundcover.

Dichondra can be purchased as bedding plants or started from seed. If you intend to grow your own, start the seed indoors 12 weeks before last frost. Cover the seed lightly and keep the soil evenly moist until the seedlings have completely emerged. Warm temperatures (75ºF) and high humidity is necessary for germination in 1 to 2 weeks. Dichondra prefers warm, dry growing conditions, so let the plants dry out well between waterings once they are larger. Transplant to larger containers at 7 to 8 weeks or when plants have several true leaves. Provide as much light as possible, to produce a more compact plant and better silver color.

Until recently, seed of ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra was only available to wholesale growers. It is now available to homeowners in the US from only a few retailers, including Park Seed (Greenwood, SC), Pinetree Garden Seeds (New Gloucester, ME) and Stokes Seed (Buffalo, NY). Some foreign sources include Veseys (York, Prince Edward Island, Canada), Nicky’s Nursery (Kent, UK) and Egmont Seed Company Ltd (Christchurch, New Zealand).

Another recently-introduced variety, ‘Emerald Falls’ (offered as D. repens, which is just a synonym of D. micrantha) also works well in hanging baskets and mixed containers, as well as as a ground cover. Its leaves are more rounded than ‘Silver Falls’ and it produces a wider but shorter plant. These heat tolerant plants branch heavily early, then the runners tangle to form a dense, tight mass with a less spreading habit.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Additional Information

  • Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’ — on the Missouri Botanic Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening website

Silver Falls Dichondra foliage

Silver Falls Dichondra foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Silver Falls Dichondra

Silver Falls Dichondra

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Silver Falls Dichondra

Silver Falls Dichondra

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 3 inches

Spread: 4 feet

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: (annual)

Ornamental Features

Silver Falls Dichondra’s attractive tiny tomentose fan-shaped leaves remain grayish green in color with hints of silver throughout the season. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Silver Falls Dichondra is an herbaceous annual with a trailing habit of growth, eventually spilling over the edges of hanging baskets and containers. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and can be pruned at anytime. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Silver Falls Dichondra is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Container Planting
  • Hanging Baskets

Planting & Growing

Silver Falls Dichondra will grow to be only 3 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 4 feet. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense right to the ground. Although it’s not a true annual, this fast-growing plant can be expected to behave as an annual in our climate if left outdoors over the winter, usually needing replacement the following year. As such, gardeners should take into consideration that it will perform differently than it would in its native habitat.

This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It is not particular as to soil type or pH, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selection of a native North American species. It can be propagated by cuttings; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Silver Falls Dichondra is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor containers and hanging baskets. Because of its trailing habit of growth, it is ideally suited for use as a ‘spiller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination; plant it near the edges where it can spill gracefully over the pot. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’

  • Attributes: Genus: Dichondra Species: argentea Family: Convolvulaceae Life Cycle: Annual Perennial Recommended Propagation Strategy: Seed Country Or Region Of Origin: USA and Mexico Distribution: TX, NM, AZ and Mexico Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): Very drought tolerant; heat; some light shade (dappled sunlight) Dimensions: Height: 0 ft. 2 in. – 0 ft. 4 in. Width: 3 ft. 0 in. – 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Annual Ground Cover Herbaceous Perennial Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Semi-evergreen Habit/Form: Creeping Spreading Maintenance: Low
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day) Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Soil Texture: Loam (Silt) Sand Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 12a, 12b
  • Fruit: Fruit Description: 2 capsuled fruit
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Gold/Yellow Green White Flower Inflorescence: Insignificant Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Description: Insignificant (very small) flowers bloom in late spring (May to June) in colors of white and yellow (more of a greenish-yellow).
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Semi-evergreen Leaf Color: Gray/Silver Leaf Feel: Soft Hairs Present: No Leaf Width: < 1 inch Leaf Description: This plant has silvery (nearly metallic looking) but soft foliage (about 1 inch). Its shape is somewhere between fan-shaped and round.
  • Stem: Stem Color: Gray/Silver Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Description: Stems are silver and branching.
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Container Hanging Baskets Rock Wall Landscape Theme: Rock Garden Design Feature: Accent Resistance To Challenges: Drought Heat

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