When the word groundcover comes to mind, most people will think of plants such as Sweet Woodruff, English Ivy or Periwinkle. Actually the most widely used groundcover is turfgrass. There are times that something with a little more punch for color and texture than grass is desired to provide solutions to landscape challenges. Groundcover plants can be used as a traffic barrier, a visual guide, or to define a space. They also provide a dense soil cover which will retard weed growth and prevent soil erosion.
Spring or fall is the best time to place groundcover plants in the soil. It can be done in the summer but more attention has to be paid to keeping them watered sufficiently. Fall planted groundcovers will need to be mulched to prevent frost heaving and when planting on a slope, mulch the area after planting to hold the soil in place. A one- to two-inch cover of mulch will also help to keep the soil cool.
When it comes to weed control, the most critical step comes before placing the plants in the ground. Remove as much of the existing weeds as possible during the bed preparation process. While the plants are getting established, practice shallow cultivation or hand pulling of any weeds that poke through. Keep the plants thoroughly watered so the roots will become well established.
Consider these ideas when adding groundcovers to your landscape. Use low growing groundcovers as a transition between the lawn and taller growing plants in a landscape bed. When selecting a groundcover, give some thought to their ability to give year-round interest to the landscape. Herbaceous plants will die off in the winter whereas an evergreen groundcover will add interest during the cold months. Keep in mind the growing conditions in the area you will be planting – sun or shade, what type of soil, dry or moist. Groundcovers should be fairly easy to maintain after they are established. Don’t plant something that you will have to constantly work at to keep alive. Not Fun! Read the label, beware of plants that state “rapid coverage in any type of soil, sun, shade, wet or dry.” It may be very aggressive and become a nightmare in your landscape.
As always, Happy Gardening!
The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange County.