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What a festive little groundhugger! Creeping Wintergreen brings cheer to shady spaces with lustrous green leaves that hold all year long and big red berries that supply vibrant color throughout the bleak winter months. The fruits are edible and have a minty, fresh aroma. In truth, the berries aren’t terribly delicious, but they’re very pretty in the landscape. Growing slow and steady, Creeping Wintergreen will fill in small spaces, while never getting out of control like some groundcovers. It also makes a lovely addition to a welcoming winter container planting by your entryway.
- Hardiness Zone: 3-8
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Creeping Wintergreen is also known as Teaberry, Mountain Tea, and a host of other names. Such is the case with some of our most beloved native plants—each region where it grows has its own name for it. It ranges from Manitoba to Newfoundland and south to the cool mountain forests of Alabama and Georgia. Before artificial flavorings become the norm, this plant gave a minty zing to chewing gum, toothpaste, medicine, and even ice cream. Native Americans used Creeping Wintergreen as a painkiller; it does indeed contain a compound that is similar to aspirin.
Creeping Wintergreen’s dainty bell-shaped white flowers resemble those of Blueberries. This is no accident—they are in the same family (the Heath family). Use Creeping Wintergreen to underplant Blueberries, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Heaths. All belong to the Heath family and share a love for acid soil.
How to Grow
Give Creeping Wintergreen a pampered site. This means protection from the sun and good, rich, woodsy soil that holds some moisture but drains freely. Water regularly. Low-pH soil is a must; this acid-loving groundcover will not be happy in regions where plants like Blueberries and Rhododendrons don’t grow readily. Areas with cool summers are also more to its liking. Frigid winters are no problem—it naturally grows where temperatures dip down to -40ºF. Given the right site and attention to irrigation, Creeping Wintergreen will be a charming, low-maintenance addition to your landscape.
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