Sometimes there are areas in the landscape where tall, showy flowers aren’t appropriate. There may be a few spots where grass won’t grow. Perhaps we need a plant just to cover some bare ground and blend in. Maybe the light in the area is not appropriate for some of the plants you’d like to grow. Or, the soil is poor, washes away, or tree roots create a planting problem in the area. In these and other difficult landscaping situations, some ground cover plants are often the solutions.

Most ground cover plants are resilient and thrive in spots where most flowers would not grow properly or even die. Explore the possibility of planting them in the hard to grow parts of your garden and other areas of the landscape.

ground cover plants

What Are Ground Cover Plants?

The ground cover plant is a low-growing foliage or flowering plant that spreads to cover a hard to plant area. Most ground cover plants are short. They often have no more than eight to ten inches in height. Some grow to only an inch or two in height but rapidly grow outward. This outward growth turns them into the perfect option to cover those difficult areas.

Maybe there is a slope on your property where water rushes when it rains, taking the top layer of soil along. The roots of ground cover plants embed themselves into the soil. This way they are holding it in place and preventing the loss of layers of topsoil. Ground cover plants are often used with hard space features, such as terraces and walls to keep the soil where it belongs. If erosion control is your need, consider the use of a ground cover plant.

There are ground covers that grow well in sun, shade or some combination of both. Explore the options for a carpet of delicate blooms or robust greenery, using these attractive, low-growing plants.

Main Varieties of Ground Cover Plants

Ground Cover Plants for Sun

  • Woolly Thyme: This rapidly spreading herb is a favorite for planting between paves. No more than six inches tall, Woolly thyme provides an attractive dense mat when planted in dry soil.
  • Stonecrop Sedum: Red stonecrop varieties, and green ones as well, spread and creep to cover bare spots.
  • Creeping Phlox: The blooms of Creeping Phlox spill vigorously over a wall or delicately creep up a steep slope.

Ground Cover Plants for Shade

  • Lamium: The perfect plant for shady areas that quickly need coverage.
  • Sweet Woodruff: It is attractive and well-behaved in the landscape. Sweet Woodruff spreads to cover a deep or lightly shaded area.
  • Pachysandra: Commonly called Japanese spurge; this ground cover plant is for shady spots with poor or acidic soil.

How to Grow Ground Cover Plants in Your Garden

When choosing a returning ground cover plant for your landscape, only consider perennial plants, as annuals don’t return the next year. Consider if you want a herbaceous perennial (dies back in winter) ground cover plant or an evergreen specimen. Or both. Don’t limit yourself to just one ground cover, although most do. Ground cover plants often form a thick mat of roots where they grow. Weeds can’t grow through the mat, so you’ll find that unexpected benefit from growing these plants.

farm plants

Consider the light where you’ll be planting. Keep in mind nearby trees, as they shade more area as the leaves grow. Don’t expect a full sun plant to grow properly in shady conditions. Check the light at different times of the day. Most plants for shade take some sun without a problem, gentle morning sunshine or filtered afternoon rays works best. Full sun plants need six to eight hours of sun.

The health of the soil is of optimum importance. Some ground cover plants perform well in lean, rocky soils. Others need rich, fertile soil for the optimum growing experience. Amend the soil as necessary for the plant. Do not plant where the soil remains soggy unless you’re assured the plant is tolerant of such conditions.

Down to Planting

Research ground cover specimens before planting. How to Grow pages provide the necessary information for successfully planting and growing each ground cover plant.

Plant according to the instructions. Then, feed and water until the plant is established. You’ll soon find that a ground cover plant is a low-maintenance and welcome addition to your landscape.

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