Ground cover plants can be a great addition to any garden, providing a lush carpet of foliage while suppressing weeds and adding color and texture.
However, their rapid growth habit can sometimes prove detrimental to other plants in the area. Choosing the right ground cover is crucial to avoid introducing invasive species that can choke out other plants.
Once established, removing invasive ground covers can be a challenge, as they are often resistant to chemical herbicides and can harm other desirable plants in your garden.
In this article, we’ll explore the dos and don’ts of choosing and maintaining ground cover plants, and answer the question: will ground cover kill other plants?
Will Ground Cover Kill Other Plants
The short answer is: it depends on the type of ground cover. Some ground covers are very aggressive and will spread rampantly, while others are more tame and less likely to harm other plants.
When selecting a ground cover for your garden, it’s important to choose a native plant species to avoid introducing invasive plants that can take over and harm other plants. Once established, invasive ground covers can be difficult to remove, as they are often resistant to chemical herbicides and can harm other desirable plants in your garden.
It’s also important to consider the growth habits of your chosen ground cover. While ground cover can suppress weeds and provide a visual link between other plants, it requires removal when it grows out of control or when a gardener wants to create a new look. Killing it with mulch can smother other plants, and digging it out risks damaging desired plants’ roots.
Systemic herbicides, which move through plants from their leaves to their roots, offer a solution for controlling aggressive ground covers. However, it’s important to protect desired plants when applying herbicides, as they can harm other vegetation they come into contact with.
Spraying ground cover in the fall, when plants are storing energy in their roots, provides the best control. During fall, plants begin storing energy for the next growing season, so this is the best way to prevent the ground cover from popping back up in the spring.
If you’re going to use a spray-on herbicide, you’ll want to protect your other plants by tying up any vegetation growing near a ground cover. You can use twine to tie any branches to the rest of the plant. Then, cover the plant with a plastic bag or trash bag, depending on its size. Secure the plastic bag by tying twine around the base of it. Finally, spray the herbicide onto the ground cover plants. Wait two hours for it to dry before removing the plastic from the other plants.
The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Ground Cover Plants
Ground cover plants can be a great addition to any garden, providing numerous benefits. One of the main advantages of ground cover plants is their ability to suppress weed growth. Once established, ground covers can form a dense matting of roots that chokes out other growth, reducing the need for weeding and herbicides.
In addition to weed suppression, ground covers can also reduce erosion on steep slopes or in areas with poor soil conditions. They can also help to conserve water by requiring less irrigation than traditional lawns, and they often require less fertilization as well.
Ground cover plants can also add visual interest to a garden, with many varieties offering colorful blooms and interesting foliage. They can be used to create a more natural and diverse landscape, and they are often a draw for pollinating insects like bees and butterflies.
However, there are also some drawbacks to using ground cover plants. Some varieties can be invasive and difficult to control once established. They may also compete with other plants for resources like water and nutrients, potentially harming other desirable plants in the garden.
Another consideration when using ground covers is maintenance. While they may require less mowing than traditional lawns, they still need occasional trimming or cutting back to prevent them from becoming too tall or encroaching on other plants.
Choosing The Right Ground Cover For Your Garden
When selecting a ground cover for your garden, it’s important to consider the specific conditions of your site. Different ground covers thrive in different lighting and moisture conditions, so you’ll want to choose one that will do well in your particular environment.
You’ll also want to think about the growth habit of the plant. Some ground covers are clumpers, meaning they grow in tight clusters and don’t spread aggressively. Others are carpeters, meaning they spread quickly and can be invasive if not managed properly. Consider how much space you have and whether you want a ground cover that will fill in quickly or stay contained.
It’s also important to choose a ground cover that is compatible with the other plants in your garden. Look for plants with similar growth rates and habits, so they won’t compete with each other or create a messy, chaotic look.
Finally, be sure to choose a native plant species to avoid introducing invasive plants into your garden. Invasive species can harm other plants and are difficult to remove once established.
By taking these factors into consideration, you can choose the right ground cover for your garden that will enhance the beauty of your landscape without harming other plants.
Invasive Ground Covers To Avoid
When choosing a ground cover for your garden, it’s important to avoid invasive species that can harm other plants. Some of the most problematic invasive ground covers include Bishop’s Weed, also known as goutweed or Snow on the Mountain, and Aegopodium podagraria.
Bishop’s Weed is an attractive plant with variegated leaves and white, umbel flowers that attract beneficial insects. However, it spreads quickly and forms a dense mat of roots that can smother out nearby plants. This invasive species was first listed as invasive in 1863 in Rhode Island, but it is still sold in some areas. If you’ve already planted Bishop’s Weed and regret it, the best way to eradicate it is to cut it down as short as possible in early spring and cover the area with plastic to deprive the plant of sunlight and water.
Aegopodium podagraria, also known as ground elder or bishop’s goutweed, is another invasive ground cover that can harm other plants. It has white flowers and triangular leaves that resemble those of celery. This plant is considered invasive in several states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. To control this invasive ground cover, you can use systemic herbicides or dig up the roots by hand.
In general, it’s important to do your research before selecting a ground cover for your garden. Choose native species that are well-suited to your climate and soil conditions to avoid introducing invasive plants that can harm other plants. And if you do find yourself dealing with an invasive ground cover, be patient and diligent in your efforts to eradicate it while protecting your desired plants.
How To Maintain Your Ground Cover To Avoid Killing Other Plants
To maintain your ground cover and avoid harming other plants, it’s important to keep an eye on its growth and prune it regularly. This will prevent it from spreading too quickly and taking over other plants in your garden.
Regular watering and fertilizing will also help your ground cover thrive without harming other plants. However, be careful not to overwater or over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive growth and spread of the ground cover.
Mulching around your ground cover can also help to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture, which will benefit both the ground cover and other plants in your garden. However, be sure to keep the mulch away from the stems of other plants, as this can cause them to rot or become diseased.
When planting ground cover, be sure to space them out properly to avoid overcrowding and competition with other plants. You should also choose a ground cover that is well-suited to the growing conditions in your garden, such as sun exposure, soil type, and moisture levels.
Finally, be vigilant about removing any invasive or unwanted ground cover before it has a chance to spread and harm other plants in your garden. Regular maintenance and monitoring will help you keep your ground cover under control and ensure that it remains a valuable asset in your garden.
Methods For Removing Invasive Ground Covers
Invasive ground covers can be difficult to remove, but there are several methods that can be effective. One option is to use a non-selective, systemic, post-emergent herbicide. This type of herbicide moves through the plant from its leaves to its roots, killing the entire plant. However, it’s important to apply the herbicide sparingly and carefully to avoid damaging neighboring plants or harming the soil.
Another method is to remove the ground cover by hand. This can be a tedious task, but it’s the most effective way to ensure that all of the roots and runners are removed. It’s important to follow each runner and keep pulling until all of the roots are removed. Once the ground cover is removed, be sure to throw away the debris in a garbage bin to prevent regrowth.
Using vinegar can also be an effective way to kill ground cover due to the acetic acid that it contains. However, it’s important to be cautious with how it’s applied and make sure to cover other plants as it can also kill them.
If using an herbicide or vinegar is not an option, cutting the ground cover close to the ground with a weed trimmer and then spraying the stumps with glyphosate herbicide can also be effective. It’s important to spray the stumps while they are freshly cut before they have a chance to heal.
No matter which method is used, it’s important to monitor the area for any regrowth and remove any new growth as soon as it appears. With persistence and tenacity, invasive ground covers can be successfully removed from your garden or landscape.
Alternative Options To Ground Cover Plants
If you’re concerned about the potential harm ground cover plants can cause to other plants in your garden, there are alternative options you can consider.
One option is to use mulch or gravel as a ground cover. These materials can suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil, while also providing a decorative look for your garden. Mulch can also break down over time and add nutrients to the soil.
Another option is to use ornamental grasses as a ground cover. Ornamental grasses are drought-resistant and low-maintenance, making them a great option for those who want a visually appealing ground cover without the potential harm to other plants.
You could also consider using low-growing perennials or shrubs as a ground cover. These plants can provide visual interest while also serving as a natural weed suppressant.
Ultimately, the best alternative option for ground cover will depend on your specific garden and its needs. Consider factors such as sun exposure, soil type, and desired aesthetic when selecting an alternative to ground cover plants.