Are you tired of struggling to maintain your lawn on a slope or hill? Do you have bare spots in your landscape that need a pop of color?
Look no further than ground cover plants! These tough and low-maintenance perennials can transform challenging areas into a beautiful carpet of color.
Not only do they add visual interest, but they also serve a variety of functions, from covering slopes to choking out weeds.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of selecting, planting, and caring for ground cover plants, so you can enjoy a stunning and hassle-free landscape.
Let’s get started!
How To Use Ground Cover
Ground cover plants can be used in a variety of ways to enhance your landscape. Here are some common uses:
Choosing The Right Ground Cover For Your Landscape
Selecting the right ground cover for your landscape can be a challenge, but with some basic knowledge, you can make an informed decision. The first thing to consider is the amount of sunlight the area receives. If the area is shaded, then you’ll want to choose a ground cover that thrives in low light conditions. Some great options for shade include golden Japanese forest grass, pachysandra, and lilyturf. On the other hand, if the area is sunny, then you’ll want to choose a ground cover that requires full sun.
Another important factor to consider is your location and climate. Hardiness zones can vary greatly within a region, so it’s important to choose ground cover plants that are rated for one to two zones below your location. This will help ensure that your plants will survive unexpected dips in temperature or extreme heat. It’s also important to consider microclimates within your yard or garden, such as sunny south-facing areas versus exposed north-facing positions.
When selecting ground cover plants, it’s important to read the plant tag or label before buying. This will give you information on the plant’s light requirements and other important factors such as spacing and care instructions. Ground covers come in a variety of sizes, including 4-inch pots, 6-inch pots, full flats, and quart-sized pots. Smaller pots may be more affordable, but larger sizes will provide instant impact in your landscape.
Before planting ground covers, it’s important to prepare the soil by removing any weeds or turf grasses and adding organic matter such as compost or rotted manure. Rake the area smooth and set the plants into position while they are still in their pots. Avoid planting ground covers in straight lines and instead create a natural look by using a cardboard triangle as a template for proper spacing.
Once planted, mulch the ground covers with shredded bark to reduce weed competition and maintain consistent soil moisture. Keep the ground covers slightly moist for the first week or so and then water only when the soil feels dry. Most ground covers will do just fine without additional fertilizer, but you can sprinkle a little granular slow-release fertilizer over the bed to encourage new growth if desired.
Preparing Your Soil For Planting
Before planting ground covers, it is important to prepare the soil properly. This will ensure that your plants have the best possible chance of thriving and will help to minimize weed growth.
The first step is to remove any existing vegetation from the area. This can be done by pulling weeds or spraying with an herbicide. If using an herbicide, make sure to follow the instructions carefully and allow enough time for the weeds to die back completely before proceeding.
Once the area is clear, it is time to prepare the soil. This involves loosening the soil and adding organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mold. This will help to improve soil structure, increase nutrient availability, and promote healthy root growth.
To loosen the soil, you can use a spading fork or tiller. Dig down to a depth of 2-3 inches and turn over the soil, breaking up any clumps and removing any rocks or debris. Then, add a layer of organic matter on top of the soil and mix it in thoroughly using a rake or hoe.
If you need to modify soil pH, this is also a good time to add amendments like lime or sulfur. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully and test your soil pH beforehand to determine how much amendment is needed.
After preparing the soil, it is important to allow it to settle for a few days before planting your ground covers. This will give the organic matter time to integrate into the soil and will help to prevent any air pockets from forming around the roots of your plants.
By taking the time to properly prepare your soil, you can create an ideal growing environment for your ground covers and ensure that they thrive in your landscape for years to come.
Planting And Maintaining Your Ground Cover
Planting and maintaining your ground cover is essential to ensure that it thrives and provides the desired effect in your landscape. Here are some steps to follow:
Step 1: Select the Right Ground Cover Plants
Before purchasing ground cover plants, it is essential to read the plant tag carefully. The tag will provide you with information on how much sunlight a particular species requires. If the area you want to plant ground covers in receives less than six hours of sun a day, go with a shade-loving species. Ground covers are sold in various sizes, including 4-inch pots, 6-inch pots, full flats, and quart-sized pots. Smaller pots may save you money, but larger pots will provide instant impact.
Step 2: Prepare the Soil
First, remove any weeds or turf grasses from the area where you want to plant your ground cover. If the area was previously in lawn, use a sharp spade to remove the grass and roots. Then improve the soil by adding organic matter such as compost, rotted manure, or shredded leaves. Spade or till the material into the top several inches of soil. Rake the area smooth and read the label to find out the correct spacing for your plants.
Step 3: Plant Your Ground Cover
Set your ground cover plants into position while they are still in their pots. This way, you can move them around before planting them to ensure that you have enough to cover the area. Avoid planting ground covers in straight lines; instead, create a more natural look by using a cardboard triangle as a template that will also ensure proper spacing. Set the triangle on the soil and plant a ground cover at each corner. Move the triangle to the next space and repeat until you have planted the entire area. Planting ground covers is easy: pop them out of their pots and plant them at the same depth they were growing previously.
Step 4: Maintain Your Ground Cover
Mulch your ground cover right after planting them. This will reduce weed competition and maintain consistent soil moisture. Most ground covers spread by underground runners or by rooting along their stems, so use a loose mulch such as shredded bark that allows the plants to penetrate the soil. Keep your ground covers slightly moist for the first week or so and then water only when the soil feels dry. To encourage new growth, sprinkle a little granular, slow-release fertilizer over the bed.
Troubleshooting Common Ground Cover Issues
While ground covers can be a low-maintenance option for your landscape, there are some common issues that can arise. Here are some troubleshooting tips:
1. Weeds: One of the main reasons to use ground covers is to suppress weeds, but sometimes they can still find their way through. If this happens, hand-pull the weeds or use a hoe to remove them. You can also apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent future weed growth.
2. Soil Preparation: Improper soil preparation can lead to ground cover failure. Make sure to work the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches and incorporate organic matter to improve drainage or water-holding capacity. Conduct a soil test to determine if any additional amendments are needed.
3. Watering: It’s important to keep the soil consistently moist until the ground cover becomes established. Check soil moisture conditions weekly and water plants whenever the soil begins to dry out. Once established, most ground covers are drought-tolerant and require little watering.
4. Spacing: Proper spacing is important for ground cover success. Most ground covers are spaced from six inches to two feet apart, depending on growth rate and immediate effect. Make sure to stagger plants for a natural look.
5. Erosion Control: Ground covers can be used for erosion control on slopes, but it’s important to use netting or mulch until the plants become established. This will prevent soil erosion and ensure the ground cover takes root.
By following these troubleshooting tips, you can ensure your ground cover plants thrive in your landscape and provide low-maintenance beauty for years to come.
Creative Ways To Use Ground Cover In Your Landscape Design
Ground cover plants can be a versatile and creative addition to your landscape design. Here are some unique ways to use ground cover:
1. As a living mulch: Ground covers can act as a living mulch, helping to retain moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth. Consider using low-growing plants like creeping thyme or creeping phlox in garden beds or around trees.
2. In between stepping stones: Planting ground cover between stepping stones can create a beautiful and functional pathway. Look for low-growing plants like Irish moss or dwarf mondo grass that can tolerate foot traffic.
3. On a green roof: Ground cover plants can be used on green roofs to provide insulation, reduce stormwater runoff, and create a beautiful rooftop garden. Consider using sedums or other drought-tolerant plants that can thrive in the harsh conditions of a rooftop.
4. In a rock garden: Ground covers can add texture and color to a rock garden. Look for plants like creeping sedum or woolly thyme that can spread over rocks and gravel.
5. To create a living wall: Ground cover plants can be trained to grow up a wall to create a living wall or green facade. Consider using ivy or creeping fig for a dramatic effect.
6. In containers: Ground covers can be used in containers to add interest and texture to your patio or balcony garden. Look for low-growing plants like sweet woodruff or creeping jenny that can spill over the edges of the container.
By incorporating ground cover plants into your landscape design, you can add beauty, functionality, and sustainability to your outdoor space.