Ground cover

Ground covers help link together ornamental plants.
  • Plants that are low-growing (generally less than 24 inches) and spread easily are suitable ground cover plants.
  • Ideally, a ground cover should be dense enough to inhibit weeds.
  • Build walkways through areas intended for foot traffic before planting a ground cover.
  • Incorporate compost or another good quality organic material into soils before planting.
  • Use ground covers to prevent soil erosion, as a design element, or where grass is not practical.
A ground cover should spread by itself. Species that produce rhizomes or stolons, or that spread by offsets or tip layering are good choices for ground covers. Ideally, they will develop rapidly into a dense cover. Some, however, grow so fast they can become invasive.
A ground cover should be sufficiently dense to inhibit competition from weeds. If the ground cover will be used to prevent soil erosion on a steep slope, it should have a vigorous growth habit and extensive root system.
Control existing weeds before planting ground covers. Weeds may reduce the attractiveness of the ground cover or compete with it for resources such as water and nutrients. No one species of ground cover plant works for every landscape situation. Consider the following factors before selecting a ground cover for a specific situation:
  • To maintain design balance, select lower-growing ground covers for smaller areas and taller ones for larger areas or steep slopes.
  • The amount of sun versus shade and the exposure to winter sun and winds are important considerations in selecting a ground cover.
  • Most ground covers will not tolerate excessive foot traffic. If foot traffic is anticipated, install a walkway through the area before planting the ground cover.
  • Improve soils with good quality organic matter before planting. Incorporate 2 to 4 cubic yards of compost or other organic materials into each 1,000 square foot area.
Evergreen ground covers, such as creeping juniper, require little care. Ground covers that develop flowers and fruit often require more maintenance to keep them attractive. Weeds may become a significant maintenance problem in a ground cover planting if not managed properly.

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