x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Plant Library: Goat's foot creeper

Though not a plant for a small garden, this little gem provides colourful, textured ground cover.

Goat’s foot creeper offers textured ground cover. istockphoto.com
Goat’s foot creeper offers textured ground cover. istockphoto.com

Ipomoea pes-caprae This sprawling, rampant plant seems to grow where nothing else will. It makes an excellent ground cover if properly maintained. It has lobed, leathery leaves that look rather like the imprint of a goat's hoof and have an almost glaucous finish. When seen with the light at their backs they appear translucent and display a rich tracery of veins.

Ipomoea pes-caprae can be a thug. It needs regular pruning if it isn't to run wild. Once established, it develops deep taproots that can reach a metre below the surface, which help to make it surprisingly drought tolerant for a plant that is so closely associated with the ocean. It is also highly resistant to heat, salt and wind and can tolerate the very worst soils, which makes it ideally suited to growing conditions in the UAE.

Though not a plant for a small garden, where there is space Ipomoea pes-caprae outperforms many of the more anonymous, carpet-like ground covers by virtue of its upright habit, delightful visual texture (it looks like a crop of fresh salad leaves good enough to eat) and the fact that it produces delicate, mauve, funnel-shaped flowers throughout much of the year.