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All About Groundcovers  


Just as a spectacular area rug can add life and warmth to a room, the right groundcover can do the same to complement a landscape or garden, taking it from "nice yard" to a stunning landscape.

Need to soften hard edges or replace the need for so much mulch? Or looking to fill between those spaces between stepping stones or pavers? It's not too late to get a new cover on the ground: groundcovers.

Ranging in height from an inch to four feet, groundcover plants serve several purposes. They not only provide soil cover, but they also slow weed growth and prevent soil from erosion. For many gardeners, they're the best answer to problem areas where too much sun or barely a ray falls, or where too dry or too moist conditions are a turnoff for other greenery.

The slew of groundcover offerings - woody or herbaceous; climbing, clumping or running; evergreen or deciduous - in all kinds of colors, textures and fragrances, leaves the door wide open to finding a fit for your landscape or garden's needs.

The most widely planted groundcover in today’s landscape is turfgrass. Turfgrass covers the soil in lots of places. Most of the time it succeeds in providing a suitable cover. Yet, sometimes unsuitable growing conditions prevent its continued success. And you wouldn't want to plant grass between your shrubs in beds either. Groundcover plants may provide solutions to a landscaping challenge or just add a bit of much needed texture and color.

Also, groundcovers help to define space. A low groundcover can provide a transition between the lawn and taller plants used in beds. Attractive foliage color and texture along with colorful flowers add appeal to an otherwise "green" landscape.

Groundcovers create various moods. Small leaved, smooth textured groundcovers used in broad curved plantings can convey a feeling of spaciousness. Whereas large leaved coarse textured groundcovers create a feeling of closeness.

Site and Soil Preparation

As with any permanent landscape planting, time spent preparing the site pays off. Pay special attention to removing weeds, especially perennial weeds, from the bed prior to planting. Grass and weeds may be killed by using an herbicide such as Killzall.

NOTE: If using herbicide follow all label directions for mixing and application. If this is not done, the weeds may grow back, compete with the new plantings and result in poor and slower establishment of the groundcover. Once the weeds have been killed the area can be planted with groundcovers. You may till areas where you are planting groundcovers however, be very careful around the root systems of trees. Tilling can cause severe damage to trees if root sytems are disturbed.

Planting Groundcovers

Groundcovers purchased in containers can be planted year round. Bare root sprigs should be planted in the fall or spring seasons. Summer planting may require a little more attention to watering.

Spacing of plants depends on the plant’s habit, rate of growth, cost and how fast the area needs to be covered. In general, space faster growing groundcovers further apart than slow growing types. (See spacing chart for guidelines on number of plants required for certain square footage.) In the Groundcover Lisiting you will find suggestions for spacing. Plant groundcovers in a staggered or diamond patern for best results. You can visit Planting Groundcovers for ideas and instructions for planting them.

When planting on slopes, mulch the area after planting or plant through fiber netting to help hold the soil in place. If planting groundcovers from 4" pots you can spread mulch over the area first then rake back small areas to plant each groundcover.

TIP: Set all plants in bed before you begin to plant the first one.

Allow at least one to two growing seasons for the area to become completely established.


Groundcovers require a minimum amount of maintenance once established. Irrigate newly planted groundcovers until roots become well established. Keep the area free of weeds by shallow cultivation. After the first season, water as needed only during dry periods in summer or fall.

Weed Control - The most critical step to weed control occurs before the plants are planted. Eliminate all weeds and grasses in the bed at the time of soil preparation by spraying with an herbicide such as Killzall. After planting your groundcovers spread Treflan Pre-emergent Weed Control Granules throught the space planted. Treflan Granules will prohibit weed seed germination for up to one entire year. Adding one to two inches of mulch will help to reduce weed growth and keeps the soil moist.

TIP: If bermuda grass crawls into orpops up in your groundcover bed spray with Fertilome's Over-The-Top herbicide. You can safely spray this herbicide roght over the top of most common groundcovers. Check label on bottle to make sure that your groundcover is listed.

Pruning - Some ground covers may need occasional pruning to maintain them within the space provided. Pruning older stems will allow young, more vigorous and attractive foliage to grow back into the area.

TIP: Before planting, when setting out plants in bed, make sure to space them a good distance from the perimeter/ edge of the bed. This will allow for future growth. Example: If the suggested spacing between plants is 24" place plants no closer than 12" from the edge/perimeter of the bed.

In Summary

Try groundcovers where lawn grass either won’t grow or is too difficult to maintain such as in very small, confined landscapes, or on slopes or under large trees. Ivy, Purple Winter Creeper, and Big Blue liriope work great under the canopies of large trees while trailing junipers such as Blue Pacific and Bar Harbor work well on large slopes.

Select groundcovers based upon their ability to add year-round beauty to the landscape. Herbaceous groundcovers die back to the ground in the winter, exposing bare soil. If this is not the look you want, choose evergreen groundcovers.

Select groundcovers, according to your site’s conditions: Sun or shade? Moist or dry? Select groundcovers that will survive and thrive under your conditions and will not require heroic measures to keep them alive!

All of the groundcovers in stock at Wilson Bros. Nursery are hardy, durable and long-lived when planted properly and in the right place.

Consider the height of the groundcover. Will you choose a six-inch high juniper or a four-foot one?

Consider growth habit. For smaller contained areas confined by walkways you would want a non-trailing groundcover such as Liriope (Monkey Grass) rather than a trailer like Ivy that could get out of hand and require regular pruning. Dianthus and Ice Plant work great as a border aloing a path or walkway.

'Steppable' Groundcovers are great for filling spaces between stepping stones or pation pavers and stones. The steppables we have found to do best in our area (zone 8) are Blue Star Creeper, Creeping Jenny, Dwarf Mondo Grass, and Sedums.


Groundcover in Containers - Groundcovers such as Ivy and Creeping Jenny make great fillers for container gardens as well, drooping or cascading over the edge of pots.

Groundcover Listing

Plant Calculator (Use the plant calculator to determine the number of plants needed for the total square footage of area to be planted.)

Weed Control In Groundcovers


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