Crown vetch ground cover is a perennial semi-vine-like plant and a member of the Papilionaceae family, which has more than 4,000 plants including sweet pea, licorice, common bean, green bean, Texas bluebonnet and scarlet wisteria. Different varieties include emerald, penngift and chemung.
Crown vetch ground cover can grow to a height of 18 to 24 inches. The flowers can be pink, lavender, white or near white, and tend to resemble clover. They bloom from late spring to mid-summer. It is a very dense plant and it can be walked on without doing any damage.
Crown vetch ground cover is hardy from zone 4, where the winter temperatures go as low as -30 degrees; to the warmest zone in the continental United States--zone 10--where the winter temperatures get no lower than 35 degrees. It also needs full sun. The plant has an extensive root system that can search for water, making it drought resistant. A hard frost will turn it brown, but it will rebound and turn green in the spring.
If you are planting seedlings, one plant can cover an area about 6 feet in diameter, so plant them 2 feet apart to get full coverage in a couple of years. Plant it in the fall if you are sowing the seeds directly outdoors. If you want to start the seeds indoors, do it in the winter so the seedlings will be ready to plant outside in the spring. For large areas it is better to seed directly to the site because you need about 20 pounds of seed per acre or one pound per 1,000 square feet. It needs well-drained soil; work the soil down to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
All parts of the crown vetch ground cover are poisonous to humans, but to deer and other animals it is a food source . It also spreads rapidly and is considered invasive in some areas, which means it will take over and crowd out other plants. It is also difficult to remove. Crown vetch ground cover is relatively pest and disease free with the exception of root rot, which is caused by soil that is too wet.
Crown vetch ground cover can be used on sloping areas, in poor soil areas or heavy traffic areas--all places where it is hard to grow grass. It can also control soil erosion on hillsides.