How to Add Ground Cover to Your Garden-Practical and Beautiful

February 10, 2024

With Specific Choices

Ajuga reptans Ground cover
Ajuga reptans Ground Cover

Here is our best help for adding ground cover to your garden. Ground cover plants are practical and beautiful. They will spread and provide a dense covering in places where turf will not perform. Thick green or colored ground coverings will add interest and beauty in places that require improvement.

Ground Cover Will Add a Beautiful and Dramatic Combination

How can I add ground cover to my garden? The ground cover in the garden, photograph, above, is Liriope. It is a clumping, evergreen perennial with shiny dark green blades. It is hardy in zones 6-10. (Some gardeners have success with it in parts of zone 5) Here it is used to set off the flashy Starburst Clerodendrum. This shrub or tree is native to tropical climates and is hardy in zones 9b-11.

Its foliage appears burnished, dark green on top, like the liriope, and adds deep purple on the underside. And then there are the blossoms! These two are a striking combination. You might have a similar combination to make with Liriope in your growing zone.

Benefits of Ground Cover to Your Garden

Liriope 
ground cover
Liriope

Sturdy groundcovers will fill an empty space, particularly those where turf is not successful. Properly selected and planted they should considerably lower your maintenance efforts and costs.

Benefits

Ground-covering plants are often overlooked when the garden is designed and are added after a problem is discovered. Look at your design carefully. Are there places in which non-turf materials will be the best decision?

Ground cover Benefits in detail:

  • Ground Cover are perennial and long-lasting.
  • Ground Cover are versatile, there are some for every condition.
  • Ground Cover will create a habitat for small creatures
  • Ground Cover are environmentally friendly and economical.
  • Ground Cover will control erosion
  • Ground Cover will add beauty and interest to the garden.

Practical Solutions-a Well-Chosen Ground-Covering Plant will do All This for You

  • Protect the soil
  • Lower soil temperature in extreme heat
  • Prevent erosion
  • Keep you and the mower away from dangerous slopes
  • Reduce weeds
  • Cover the area under trees, too shady for turf
  • Create an attractive border or edge
  • Soften walkways and stepping stones
ground cover walkway
Walkway With Groundcover And Seating-Project About Three Months Old

How to Install a Ground Cover in Your Garden-Practical and Beautiful

Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley

Choose the Plants

How to do this? Start with plants you love and which look good in your area. Research them. Will they suit your location?

This is the principle of “Right Plant Right Place”

Think of this as the Goldilocks rule. Not too sunny-not too shady; just right. The point is that plants growing in a location that best suits their needs will perform their best with the least input from you.

They will be healthy plants with healthy root systems. Such plants will have the best chance to withstand the pests and diseases that will inevitably roll through your neighborhood. Putting a healthy new plant in its most suitable location is your very best opportunity to reduce the use of chemicals in the garden.

How to Evaluate Your Garden To Add Ground Cover

Vinca Periwinkle

The General Environment

Start with your general environment. Is the area you live in hot, cold, humid, wet, or windy? What are your average temperatures, summer, and winter? There are some environmental conditions you can’t change. You need to find plants that can live where you do.

Your Own Garden And It’s Microclimates

Next move on to your garden. What microclimates do you have? We all have them. A microclimate is a little spot, unlike the rest of the garden. Do you have a slope? Is the area on the top drier and that on the bottom wetter? That is your opportunity to enjoy two different kinds of plants.

In a Central Florida house; we successfully grew Azaleas and Camellias. We lived in a fringe location; a place that was a little too far south for them. The Azaleas were shaded and acidified by a grove of live oak trees. The Camellias were in our backyard’s highest point; slightly shaded and slightly protected from humidity. A few feet either way and these plants would not have worked, That’s a microclimate! Light Conditions-Measure your hours of sun. Full sun is 6+ hours of sun. Part sun is 4-6 hours of sun.

Prepare the Soil

Remove weeds and kill off any turfgrass. Dig and loosen the soil about 6″-12.” (This will depend on the root systems of the plantings. Add about 2′-4′ of organic matter and work it into the soil.

Plan your spacing. Use the best recommended spacing for your plants. Line them up in a zig-zag fashion to maximize filling in the space. ( Some people have success using a cardboard triangle, cut to the size of your plant spacing. Place one plant at each point. This will even out your spaces.) I like to plant with a pair of old folding rulers, but I might try the triangle next time.

Make the holes two times the width of the pot and for smaller groundcovers, place the plants the depth of the pot, for larger plants check the directions on the pot.

Use the fertilizer recommended for your plant and water it well.

Some Ground Cover Choices For Your Garden

These are ranked by size, the first (or only) number is the height. Low-growing ground covers at the start. Then taller plants to follow. Each includes its basic features such as zones and light requirements so that you can quickly eliminate those that do not suit your needs. In cases in which a plant has a dwarf form and a taller form, the taller form directly follows the dwarf. This means that a low-growing plant can have a taller variety. Be specific when purchasing plants!

Low Growing Groundcovers

Creeping Thyme

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil?MoistureReference
White, pink lavender flower. Leaves blue/gray1″-3″4-9 (some show 5-8) Check your local garden centerSun -Light ShadeWhite, pink lavender flower. Leaves blue/grayWell Drained
Thymus praecox

Mondo Grass

A Dwarf Mondo Grass
Name SizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColor Soil/MoistureReference
Dwarf Mondo Grass “Nana’3″6-10Part Sun/ShadeDark GreenLoose/Loamy
Slight Acidic
https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/shrubs/OPHJAPA.PDF
Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’Shade in 9-10

Creeping Juniper

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Creeping Juniper4″-6″2-9Full Sungreen WSomell Drained
Juniperus horizontalisSome varieties to 2′Medium Moisture

Periwinkle

Periwinkle
Name SizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Periwinkle
Vinca Minor
4″-6″4-9Full/Sun-P/Sun-ShadeBllue and Var othersMoist-Well drainedhttps://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/periwinkle/
Vinca Majorto 2′

Creeping Phlox

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Creeping Phlox3-8″3-9Full sunPink, purple, blue. whiteWell Drained, some clay acceptable
Phlox subulata

Sedum

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Angelina Sedum,4″-6″5-8Full Sun, P/SChartreuse/yellowWell Drained
Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina”

Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Basket of Gold6-12″4-7Full SunGold/yellowWell Drained, can accept poor soil
Aurinia saxatilis

Bear Berry

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Bear Berry6-12″2-6Full Sunwhite or pink flower/ red berryTakes poor soil including sandy soil, semi shrub, very densesalt tolerant
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Wall Germander

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Wall Germander12″5-9Full SunRose/Lavender flower. aromatic leaf dark green.Well drained,
water weekly in summer
Reference
Teucrium chamaedrys

Lily of the Valley

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Lily of The Valley6″-10″2-7/8Part/Sun-ShadeDark GreenpH 5.2-7.5
White Flower

Mondo Grass

Name SizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Mondo Grass6″-10″6-10Part Sun/ShadeDark Green Loose?Loamy
Slight Acidic

Bromiliads-Neoregelia

These Bromiliad Plants Are Used As A Warm Climate Groundcover
NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
BromiliadsVar10/11Sun to ShadeVarWell-drainedhttps://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep337
https://tropiflora.com/
Neoregelia6″+Part SunVarWD/ Moist

Ivy

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Algerian Ivy6″-12″8b-10ShadeGreen/white
red stem
Well-drained
Hedera canariensis
English Ivy6″-8″4-8ShadeMany shades of green and other colorsWell-drained
Hedera helix

Bugleweed

Ajuga reptans
NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Bugleweed6″-12:8-9Sun-Part Sun-ShadePurple/ blue FoliageWell Drained
Ajuga reptans(other colors also)

Liriope

One of the varieties of Liriope
Name SizeHardiness ZoneLight Requirements ColorSoil/MoistureReference
Liriope muscari ‘Silver Midget”6″-10″5/6-10F/Sun-P/Sun-F/ShadeDark green/White Mod. Acid/Neutralhttps://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/liriope/
Lavender FlowerMoist in year 1/then drought tolerant
Liriope muscari 6″-10″5/6-10Part/ SunMedium Green Foliage
“Big Blue”Blue flower
Liriope
muscari
12″-16″5/6-10Part/Sun-ShadeEmerald green foliage
“Royal Purple”Amethyst bloom
Liriope muscari“12-16”5/6-10green foliage
“Monroe White” White ‘pearl-like” flower

Amethyst in Snow

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Amethyst in Snow14″3-7Full Sun, P/SFlower, violet with interesting white petals, foliage silver-greenWell drained, can accept low fertilityForms dense clump
Centaurea montana

Nepeta-Catmint

NameSizeHardiness ZoneLight RequirementsColorSoil/MoistureReference
Nepeta-or Catmint17-20″3-8Full SunlavenderWell Drained to Dry
Nepetax faassenii

Using These Groundcovers In Your Garden

The ground cover you plant will add benefits over time. Not only beautiful to look at, green or flowering, but it acts for your garden like a living mulch. Once established, it will insulate the soil, and keep out weeds, and its roots will slow the loss of water in the garden.

You may have places in your garden where you know you can use them. For some additional ideas here are some summer-blooming bulbs you can use within the lower groundcover.

Agapanthus

Resources To Use

How to Find a Low Maintenance Ground Cover We Will Love and the Rabbits Will Not

Solve 10 Problems With Groundcovers

November in the South Florida Garden

A Beautiful Green Ground Cover-Asiatic Jasmine

Liriope Vs Mondo Grass

Culinary Herbs-Some of these make beautiful and aromatic groundcovers.