Ground Cover Basics for a Great Garden Addition


An attractive and easy-to-maintain element for any garden is a sprawling, generally low level but yet colorful area of ground cover. There are a virtually unlimited number of choices among ground covers available for most climate zones, and they all provide a wide variety of benefits in addition to their low maintenance requirements, which include weed suppression, anti-erosion help, their attractiveness to
bees, butterflies, and even for some, birds, and in many cases, most important of all, drought -resistant low water needs.

What plants are or are not considered to be ground cover is up for debate. The term has been defined at times as any plant that, with its leaves and stems, covers ground providing a decorative appearance, smothers weeds, and spreads wider than it grows high. There is no actual requirement, but it is a typical bonus that most ground covers feature attractive and colorful flowers, and some provide fruits and berries, and there are many varieties that have leaves as colorful and decorative as some flowers.

Ground covers can be either evergreen or deciduous, and while the term is not strictly limited only to plants that grows only slightly above soil level, it can also include plants that grow taller but that do arch and spread, precluding grown of other plants, primarily weeks. In fact, ground covers
are often times categorized into the following groups:
  • Clump Formers: Those that form clumps from a central rootstock. These are far less invasive than other types of ground covers and include some types of grasses, such as Blue Festuca Grass, and bamboos. They are particularly well suited for borders rather than for more open and sprawling spaces.
  • Carpeters are those ground cover plants that grow prostrate only a few inches above the soil, forming what appears to be a carpet of runners, stems, and sometimes flowers, often rooting as they grow. A popular example is lush, emerald green Irish Moss, that features bright white flowers in the summer and that can flourish in either sun or shade.
  • Spreaders: These are plants that grow underground shoots horizontally that will pop through the soil and continually increase their size with fresh growth. Lily of the Valley is a spreader that does well in full sun or shade, that produces fragrant white flowers, and that spreads quickly.
  • Hummocks: These are shrubs that form into dense, round bush-like growths.
  • Sprawlers are loose-growing shrub-like plants, that climb and ramble, and generally feature floppy stems that will drop to the ground.
  • Creepers: These include both climbers and ramblers that produce long shoots which grow across the ground, frequently rooting as they spread. A popular and vibrant example is the Creeping Phlox, that keeps its foliage year round, and flourishes in shade or sun. Varieties are found in many bring colors, including red, blue, white and pink.
  • Twiners are plants that feature stems that grow in a spiral, forming tangled masses, and which root at intervals. Pink Honeysuckle is luscious and hardy example of a twiner. It flourishes even in poor soil, in sun or shade, grows very fast, and its yellowish flowers give off a delightful sweet fragrance. Coral Honeysuckle is a great alternative where other plants have failed.
As many areas of the US, and of the world, are in the early stages of long-term drought conditions, in some states such as California already the worst in recorded history and only worsening, many ground cover plants are drought-resistant or drought-tolerant, and generally need little care of any kind. One of the most outstanding examples of such plants is Sedum, a brightly colored, flowering ground cover that feature varieties that grow up to two to three feet tall, and others that reach only a few inches, for a mat-like appearance. There are also both evergreen and deciduous varieties, and all generally thrive in full sun. Other beneficial features of Sedum
include their excellent weed-suppressing characteristics, and that they are very attractive to bees and butterflies. Care should be taken, however, to plant them in soil with good drainage.

Another easy to grown and low maintenance ground cover is St. John's Wort. Besides requiring little water, it does well in a variety of less than optimal locations, be it shady areas or in poor soil. Considered a semi-evergreen, the St. John's Wort produces brilliant, bright yellow flowers and grow to three inch diameters. They are also excellent for erosion control and do well planted on slopes.

The Cotoneaster is another great ground cover that provides a beautiful look with little care needed and minimal water requirements. A deciduous shrub, varieties such as the Cranberry Cotoneaster provide color to your garden almost year round: In the spring, pink blooms abound, and cranberry-life berries appear in the late summer. The plant's green leave turn to shades of
bronze, purple and red in autumn. Branches can grow to three feet tall, but generally arch back towards the ground, often times taking root.

A beautiful addition to any garden can be a border, a pathway, or a larger open area populated by one or more decorative and helpful ground covers. They crowd out weeds, attract bees and butterflies, and will quickly help turn a barren section of your garden into a vibrant, decorative and popular area.

See our complete selections of Ground Cover.


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