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Your Guide to Mass Planting Groundcovers


mass planting groundcover asiatic jasmine

The typical American yard is a bed of manicured lawn grass, requiring frequent mowing, edging, weeding and fertilizing, as well as chemical control for pests, diseases and weeds. It doesn’t have to be that way. In many situations, masses of low growing perennials covering the ground can be just as useful as traditional “golf course” grass. Well established groundcovers of flowering or foliage plants never needs mowing or spraying. It is more interesting, more attractive, and easier to maintain than a traditional lawn.

asiatic-jasmine-ls groundcoversHerbaceous perennials or shrubs that are short, vigorous and quick to spread laterally make fine groundcovers when they are spaced close together and allowed to form an unbroken mass of foliage. Groundcovers can be useful for stabilizing steep banks where lawn-mowing is impractical. Many groundcovers thrive in shade and can be used under ornamental shrubs and trees where grass would never survive. Use groundcovers where foot traffic is minimal such as the edges of beds and pathways, between flowering shrubs or along the outer perimeter of your landscape. A low growing groundcover makes an excellent canvas for flowering bulbs and does not need to be mowed as would lawn grass.

Select the right groundcovers for the site

The accompanying table lists several popular groundcover plants and some characteristics of each. Try a few different groundcovers to see which do best in your particular application. Try creating a patchwork of groundcovers with different textures, colors and heights.

Groundcovers
*native to N. America

Hardiness Zone

Height

Shade Tolerance

Spacing (plants per yd2)

Soil Type
(Well Drained)

Special Features

Wooly Yarrow
Achillea tomentosa

map-456789 groundcovers10-14″Full Sun9 per yd2Any neutral to alkaline
  • Evergreen grayish fernlike leaves
  • Large pretty flowers
  • Can be mowed

Bugleweed
Ajuga reptans

map-45678 groundcovers4-8″Partial Shade/
Full Shade
18 per yd2Any moist
  • Semi-evergreen creeper
  • Flower spikes rise above foliage

Bearberry
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi*

2-63-8″Full Sun/
Partial Shade
4 per yd2Fertile, moist, acidic

Evergreen shrub with small, leathery leaves

European Ginger
Asarum europaeum

map-45678 groundcovers3-6″Partial Shade/
Full Shade
15 per yd2Fertile, moist, neutral to acidic

Evergreen shiny leaves

Spreading Yew
Cephalotaxus harringtoniana

map-6789 groundcovers18-24″Partial Shade3 per yd2Fertile, moist

Evergreen shrub makes a tall ground cover

Crown Vetch
Coronilla varia

map-456789 groundcovers6-8″Full Sun2 per yd2Fertile
  • Dies back in winter
  • Best for erosion control, steep banks

Bearberry Cotoneaster
Cotoneaster dammeri

6-86-10″Full Sun2 per yd2Fertile

Evergreen shrub with crossing branches

Wintercreeper
Euonymus fortunei

map-56789 groundcovers6-20″Partial Shade2 per yd2Any
  • Evergreen creeper
  • Several cultivars available

English Ivy
Hedera helix

map-456789 groundcovers3-6″Full Sun/
Full Shade
5 per yd2Any
  • Evergreen vine
  • Very adaptable
  • Reliable
  • Fast growing

Day Lilies
Hemerocallis hybrids

map-456789 groundcovers12-18″Full Sun/
Partial Shade
9 per yd2Fertile, neutral to acidic
  • Some varieties die back in winter
  • Tall ground cover

Hostas
Hosta spp.

map-345678 groundcovers10-30″Partial Shade/
Full Shade
6 per yd2Fertile, moist
  • Many species and varieties
  • Dies back in winter
  • Tall ground covers

Creeping Juniper
Juniperus horizontalis*

map-3456789 groundcovers10-12″Full Sun2 per yd2Any
  • Evergreen conifer with crossing branches
  • Tolerates dry sites

Tall Lilyturf
Liriope muscari

map-678910 groundcovers10-15″Full Sun/
Partial Shade
12 per yd2Fertile, moist, acidic

Evergreen grasslike foliage

Creeping Lilyturf
Liriope spicata

map-678910 groundcovers8-10″Partial Sun/
Full Shade
6 per yd2Fertile, moist, acidic

Semi-evergreen grasslike foliage

Muhly Grass
Muhlenbergia capillaris

map-5678910 groundcovers24-36″Full Sun/
Partial Shade
3 per yd2Any

Tall ground cover for poor soils

Dwarf Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon japonicus

map-78910 groundcovers2-6″Partial Shade/
Full Shade
9 per yd2Fertile, moist, acidic

Evergreen grasslike foliage

Japanese Spurge
Pachysandra terminalis

map-45678 groundcovers6-8″Partial Shade/
Full Shade
2 per yd2Any
  • Evergreen creeper
  • Most popular ground cover in US

Creeping Phlox
Phlox stolonifera*

map-45678 groundcovers4-6″Partial Shade12 per yd2Fertile, moist

Dies back in winter

Frog Fruit
Phyla nodiflora

map-89 groundcovers2-4″Full Sun/
Partial Shade
9 per yd2Fertile, moist
  • Evergreen spreader
  • Tolerates trampling
  • Can be mowed

Three Toothed Cinquefoil
Potentilla tridentata*

2-86-9″Full Sun/
Partial Shade
9 per yd2Any, dry
  • Evergreen creeper
  • Tolerates dry sites

Strawberry Geranium
Saxifraga stolonifera

map-6789 groundcovers6-10″Partial Shade/
Full Shade
6 per yd2Fertile, moist
  • Evergreen
  • Fast growing
  • Pretty flowers above foliage

Golden Carpet
Sedum acre

map-456789 groundcovers2-3″Full Sun9 per yd2Fertile, dry, neutral to alkaline
  • Evergreen
  • Tiny succulent leaves
  • Tolerates dry sites

Wild Thyme
Thymus serpyllum

map-456789 groundcovers8-10″Full Sun9 per yd2Any, neutral to alkaline
  • Semi-deciduous
  • Returns in spring
  • Aromatic foliage

Asiatic Jasmine
Trachelospermum asiaticum

map-89 groundcovers4-6″Partial Sun/
Full Shade
6 per yd2Any, moist

Rampant vine that forms dense tangled mat

Creeping Myrtle
Vinca minor

map-456789 groundcovers4-8″Full Sun/
Partial Shade
9 per yd2Any
  • Evergreen sub-shrub
  • Pretty flowers

The best time to start your groundcover

Early spring is the best time so the plants will have the summer growing season to become well established. To get your groundcover off to a good start, you need to prepare the site. The ground should be as free of weeds, especially perennial weeds, as humanly possible. You can use hand weeding or herbicides before planting, or install a weed resistant landscape fabric after the soil has been prepared.

For a groundcover planting on a slope

Insure that loose soil will not get washed away. You can use landscape timbers, rocks, or concrete walls on steep slopes. Lesser slopes can be reinforced with terraces cut perpendicular to the slope with a rake or spade.

For sites that are relatively level

Or for leveled terraces on a slope, dig the soil at least six inches deep and work in 2-3” of organic material such as rotted manure, compost, leaf mold or peat. Install the weed resistant landscape fabric if desired.01-divide-plants groundcovers

Set out your plants on an overcast day, especially if the area is in full sun. Water the starter plants before removing them from their containers. If there is more than one starter plant per container, carefully separate the individual plants under running water and spread out any tangled roots before planting. Space the starter plants as suggested in the table, cutting slits in the fabric as necessary. Set them the same depth as they were in the containers. The closer you space them, the sooner they will fill up the area.

5-organic-garden-compost-options groundcoversSpread an organic mulch such as wood chips, pine needles or shredded leaves in the gaps between the starter plants. The mulch will help keep weeds in check, help retain moisture in the soil, and help to reduce drastic variations in soil temperature, and it looks better than the landscape fabric. As the mulch decomposes, it adds nutrients to the soil. Water thoroughly and water frequently during the first growing season. After that, you should water your groundcover as needed, depending on the rainfall. It can take 2-3 years for a groundcover to reach its full potential.

Once established, your groundcover will outcompete and smother most weeds, but you will need to pull (not dig) weeds until the groundcover has covered the ground. You will probably need to pull weeds for a year or two. Don’t try to remove autumn’s fallen leaves from the groundcover planting either. Allow these to decompose and add fertility to the soil. They also provide protection from extreme cold during the winter. You can broadcast a pelleted fertilizer as directed in early spring. Do this when the foliage is dry.

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