A lot of gardeners may have heard of the term “groundcover” but may be unfamiliar with its purpose or how to actually establish and grow one. Groundcovers in their simplest form are plants that are usually grown to prevent soil erosion and inhibit weeds. However, they can also be effectively used to improve the appearance of a landscape and to solve problems such as dangers associated with mowing a lawn with a steep slope or growing plants in dry, shady areas such as under trees. The typical groundcover grows less than 1 foot tall but spreads out over a wide planting area creating a “carpet” effect.

To many gardeners their first thought when it comes to a groundcover is something such as Ivy or Pachysandra. Both of these are effective groundcovers as they do a good job of preventing erosion and choking out weeds and they have the added benefit of staying green all year round. However, groundcovers can provide so much more than these just these basic benefits. Periwinkle, for example, puts forth masses of purple flowers in the spring and Ice Plant which is a popular groundcover in California, flowers in colors such as purple, yellow and orange. Creeping thyme is a perfect choice to grow in spaces between stepping stones and Ajuga is a great choice for those shady and dry areas under trees. Groundcovers are valuable additions to any garden and not just low maintenance solutions to problem areas in your landscape.

Now that I’ve convinced you that you should use groundcovers in your garden I’m sure your next question is “how do I grow one in my yard?” The first thing you will want to do if you have an area that has any existing plantings such as a lawn is to remove that material from the space where the groundcover will be established. Once you do this you’ll want to add 1 to 2 inches of topsoil and turn that into the existing soil in the planting area. You then rake the soil so that it is a smooth; without rocks, tree roots, etc. and you can then plant your groundcover. It does take a little research to match the right groundcover to your unique situation and Blooming Secrets can help you find the groundcover that is just right for you.

If you are planting a groundcover on a slope you’ll want to take a few extra steps to prevent soil erosion and washouts while your groundcover is getting established. If you have a particularly steep slope that is difficult to keep your balance on when you try to walk on it sideways you may want to lay burlap down on the planting bed. You can plant the ground cover by poking holes in the burlap and securing the groundcover plants with small rocks or pegs that you can make yourself out of wire hangers. Simply cut off the ends of the hanger about six inches from where the hanger curves and you have your peg!  You don’t want to use a weed blocking material as most groundcovers grow by sending roots through the soil and a weed blocking material will prevent the ground cover from spreading. The burlap, on the other hand, will keep the soil in place and break down over time allowing the groundcover to establish itself. You should water the groundcover seedlings regularly until they start to spread. Now that you know all about groundcovers why not consider one for your garden!

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  • dkbhoward@yahoo.com Feb 28

    We have about half our back yard tree covered and shaded that we want to put groundcover in an attractive design with some stepping stones to traverse the groundcover.  We’ve chosen ajuga at this point. Any help you can give us would be appreciated.

    Ajuga, also known as bugleweed is a great choice for this project. I would lay the stepping stones out in the pattern that you want and you can then plant around and between the steppers. Ajuga thrives in sunny or shady conditions and works well in average soils that drain well. It is related to mint and like that plant it spreads quickly so you may need to establish a physical barrier between this area and other areas of the yard where you don’t want the plant to establish itself. If you have any other questions, let us know.

  • jerrycartwright@yahoo.com Mar 07

    I have a slope in my front yard that is made up mostly of hard packed red clay. About the only thing that will grow on it is weeds. Because of the weeds it washes badly. I want something that will grow here in South Central Alabama in full sun. Pleas help me before my wife kills me.

    I don’t want your wife to kill you so here are some ideas. There are actually some choices that I think might work here. Daylilies are a good choice. I would look for a variety that is specifically for naturalizing. These are the daylily you see growing near a highway so they are super hardy. Plant them closer together to get quicker coverage for the slope. Some other choices might be lilriope, ivy, vinca minor, ajuga, sedum, coreopsis zagreb if the soil is clay but really dry and ornamental grasses such as fountain grass, switch grass or miscanthus. Not sure if you saw our other article on groundcover, look it over when you have time. http://www.bloomingsecrets.com/featured/first-groundcover…try-periwinkle

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