Though grouped together because of the way they are used and their ability to spread, groundcovers are an incredibly diverse collection of plants. The term groundcover can be applied to any plants that when grouped provide good soil coverage. groundcovers serve a variety of purposes including simply creating a specific look, covering large areas, substituting for grass in areas where grass is difficult to grow and helping stabilize an area where erosion is a problem.
What types of plants can be used as groundcovers? There are dozens of plants that work well in this job, so don’t limit yourself to just those few gathered under a heading or sign saying “groundcovers.” This garden niche can be filled by a wide variety of herbaceous plants, most of them perennial. There are also a variety of small and fairly large woody plants that work well as groundcovers.
How can a plant that grows several feet tall be considered a groundcover? As long as the plant is broad and dense enough to cover the soil, it can be used this way. Larger plants such as gro-low sumac, bush honeysuckle and many junipers work well as groundcovers in large areas. The key is to match the scale of the plant being used to the amount of space you need to cover. Even a tall daylily such as Hyperion makes a great groundcover when planted en masse in a large area.
Are groundcovers low-maintenance? Yes and no. Once established, many groundcovers are relatively -. But anyone considering using groundcovers needs to understand they are low-maintenance, not no-maintenance. And while the bed is settling in and the plants are spreading, groundcovers can actually be considered relatively high maintenance.
What do I need to take into consideration when selecting a groundcover? Once you have decided what you want the groundcover to accomplish, carefully evaluate the site. Begin with a soil test to determine soil type, pH, organic content and fertility and watch to determine how much sun the area receives. Think carefully about how much time and effort you are willing to devote to getting the groundcover established during its first year or two. And check to see if there are any regulations in your area that might restrict what you grow. A few urban communities have rules about plant height and appearance, especially in areas that are adjacent to the streets.
How do I know how many plants will be needed? Measure to find out how many square feet you need to cover. Then decide just how patient a gardener you are. groundcover plants are spaced a certain distance on center (abbreviated o.c.), such as 9″ o.c., 12″ o.c. or 18″ o.c. depending on the mature spread of the variety. On center means from the center of one plant to the center of the next. For instance, a plant such as Lamium ‘White Nancy’ matures at about 18″ wide. Since you want solid groundcover, it would need to be spaced closer than 18″ apart. With this plant we would suggest 12″ o.c. for patient gardeners and 9″ o.c. for gardeners in a hurry.
How should I care for a new groundcover planting? It will need to be kept consistently moist until the plants have developed strong root systems. If it is planted in spring or early summer, it can be fertilized lightly with either an organic product or 10-10-10. If it is planted mid-summer or later, wait until the following spring to fertilize. Once established, most groundcover plants do fine if they are fertilized once each year, early in the growing season.
Will I need to do anything for weed control once they are planted? It is very important to keep weeds out of groundcovers so they get a chance to spread. Good ground prep will minimize the problem while the plants are young. For the first few months, gently pull any weeds by hand. Once they have been in a while, you can opt to use a pre-emergent weed control to prevent weed germination. Concern Weed Preventer or Preen for groundcovers are two suitable products.
Larger Spreading Woody Plants
Specific Varieties of Junipers
Diervilla Bush Honeysuckle
Rhus aromatica Gro-Low Sumac
Sorbaria False Spirea
Herbaceous Plants Commonly Sold as Groundcovers
Aegopodium Variegated Bishop’s Weed or Snow on the Mountain
Ajuga reptans Ajuga or Bugleweed
Coronilla Crown Vetch
Galium odoratum Sweet Woodruff
Lamiastrum Yellow Archangel
Lamium Lamium or Dead Nettle
Lysimachia nummularia Moneywort
Pachysandra t. Pachysandra or Spurge
Vinca Vinca or Periwinkle
Herbaceous and Woody
Arctostaphylos Bearberry or Kinnikinick
Asarum canadense Canadian Wild Ginger
Comptonia peregrina Sweet Fern
Cornus canadensis Bunchberry
Fragraria virginiana Strawberry
Parthenocissus quinquefolia inserta Virginia Creeper
Potentilla tridentata Cinquifoil
Waldsteinia Barren Strawberry
Suggested Varieties of …
Daylily: ‘Hyperion’, ‘Happy Returns’, H. fulva (tawny)
Fern: Wood, Japanese Painted, Sensitive, Christmas
Hosta: ‘Ginko Craig’, lancifolia, ‘Honeybells’, ‘Francee’
Yarrow: Woolly, ‘Cerise Queen’, ‘Summer Pastels’
Astilbe: ‘Pumila’, ‘Superba’, ‘Deutschland’
Artemesia: ‘Silver Brocade’, ‘Silver Mound’, ‘Silver King’
Geranium: ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and any G. macrorrhizum
Dianthus: ‘Zing Rose’ and any D. gratianopolitanus
Ornamental Grass: Blue Fescue, Deschampsia
Phlox: Creeping, Moss, Carolina and Woodland
Sedum: ‘Kamtschaticum’, S. stoloniferum, S. acre
Heuchera: ‘Plum Pudding’ ‘Strawberry Swirl’, ‘Eco mag.’
Tiarella: ‘Running Tapestry’, ‘Pink Bouquet’
Note: Many other varieties of these plants work well as groundcovers when they are spaced properly.
Perennials Suitable as groundcover
Alchemilla Lady’s Mantle
Brunnera macrophylla False Forget-Me-Not
Convallaria Lily of the Valley
Gypsophila repens Creeping Baby’s Breath
Iris Cristata Crested Iris
Sempervivum Hens and Chicks
Stachys Lamb’s Ears
Thymus serphyllum Creeping Thyme
Veronica repens Speedwell
Andromeda Bog Rosemary
Mitchella repens Partridge Berry
Lotus corniculatus Bird’s Foot Trefoil
Vaccinium macrocarpon Cranberries
Duchesnea indica Mock Strawberry
Rubus Groundcover Raspberry
Large Spreading Perennials
Lysimachia clethroides Gooseneck Loosestrife
Oenothera fruiticosa Sundrops
Phlox paniculata Tall Garden Phlox
Physostegia Obedient Plant
Number of Plants Needed to Cover 100 Square Feet
400 plants spaced 6 inch on center
200 plants spaced 8 inch on center
175 plants spaced 9 inch on center
100 plants spaced 12 inch on center
45 plants spaced 18 inch on center
25 plants spaced 24 inch on center
30 plants spaced 30 inch on center
11 plants spaced 36 inch on center
4 plants spaced 48 inch on center
Groundcovers can help with many of your landscaping needs including a more practical need or simply a need that is more aesthetic. McShane’s Nursery has more than enough groundcovers for you to choose from despite the reason why you wish to include it in your landscape.