Selecting Groundcover Plants

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This article will teach you how to select and plant the right ground cover plants.
by Brett · All Zones · Planting · 0 Comments · July 02, 2010 · 65,775 views

Groundcover Aside Path Thinking about an alternative to mulch? Need to control erosion on a slope or fill the spaces or gaps between stones or pavers? Groundcover plants are your answer!

Typically, groundcover plants are low-growing plants with a spreading, trailing or mat-forming growth habit which serves well to cover the ground with foliage. They are most useful to fill spaces between large plants in landscape and garden beds, as an alternative to lawn grass under large trees and in other areas where grass will not grow, on slopes or steep embankments for erosion control, between spaced stepping stones and pavers, and sometimes even as a lawn substitute. Landscape designers use them in plans as a way to tie all other plantings together...improving the overall look of the landscape or garden and as an economical replacement for mulch that will also suppress weed growth. You can think of them as living mulch!

Since many groundcover plants are trailing or sprawling they are also useful to spill over the edges of walls or over boulders. A few, such as creeping fig and some varieties of euonymus and ivy will climb walls and other upright structures using aerial roots to attach to porous surfaces.

So, now you can see why groundcovers are hugely important and very useful in the gardens and landscapes!

Selecting Groundcover Plants

The type or variety of groundcover plant you choose for a certain application is important. Before selecting a groundcover do a little research on the various types of plants to make sure and match the right plant to the specific environment. For instance, in smaller spaces, such as a narrow space between a walkway and a wall, you don't want to plant a fast-spreading, vining groundcover plant such as Vinca major, commonly known as Evergreen Periwinkle. Otherwise, you'll end up having to edge the plant weekly to keep it from growing all over the walkway. Instead, you might select an upright growing groundcover plant, such as Liriope (monkey grass), which spreads by underground roots to form a patch or clump that will not spread over lawns, walkways, patios, driveways or other surface areas. Sun, shade, soil moisture requirements, and size are other considerations.

Certain groundcovers, such as the low-growing junipers, are perfect for use on steep, sunny slopes or embankments. Groundcover plants such as ivy, vinca, Asian jasmine, and euonymus are perfect for use under large trees. Low growing creepers such as creeping jenny, blue star creeper and dwarf mondo grass are perfect for underplanting shrubs or small trees or to fill the spaces or gaps between stepping stones and pavers.

A great way to research various types of groundcover plants is by using the Plant Search here in Gardenality. When using the Plant Search, start by selecting your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Then, under the Plant Type tab select "Groundcover." Then under the Sun Exposure tab select the time of day the planting area will receive sun or shade. You might also want to make selections under the Landscape Uses tab. Continue making selections under other tabs in the Plant Search to narrow down the selections.

How Many Plants?

Measure the area
First, in order to know how many groundcover plants it will take to fill the planting area, you'll need to take some measurements to determine total square footage. Basically, for a square or rectangular area, you multiply the length of the area by the width to get total square feet.

Click here to find instructions for determining the total square feet in a square, rectangular or circular area

Recommended spacing
Make sure to know the recommended spacing for the groundcover plant you intend to plant. Visit the Plant File in Gardenality to find the approximate width a specific plant will grow and use this as a guideline for spacing. Some groundcover plants have a recommended spacing of just a foot or so while others can be spaced up to 6 feet or more. I usually plant groundcover plants a little closer together than their mature width. To achieve a quicker fill of a planting area some groundcover plants, such as Liriope and Mondo Grass can be planted as closely together as you want. Other groundcover plants, especially trailing ones, should be spaced at a distance equal to their mature width or slightly closer together to avoid overcrowding and competition for soil space among the roots of each plant.

NOTE: When spacing plants in a planting area you want to space from the center of one plant to the center of the next plant in the row.

Click here to find plant spacing charts and calculations that will quickly tell you how many plants are needed to fill a planting area

Go to next page for spacing and planting instructions...

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