The Q&A Archives: Groundcover

Question: We have a business property and need a ground cover that needs little maintenance and establishes quickly. We are trying to eliminate lawn areas.

Answer: Although groundcovers are by definition low maintenance, they do require careful soil preparation and watering at least the first growing season while they become established. They may also require weeding, and will require mulching (an organic mulch such as shredded bark helps maintain soil moisture, holds down weeds, and feeds the soil on an ongoing basis as it breaks down over time) until they are grown enough to cover the bare ground. So you will need to be somewhat realistic in your expectations.

Spacing the plants using the closer end of their recommended spacing will also enable them to fill in faster, for example if you used small groundcover starter sized ivy, set them a foot apart rather than 18 inches.

The best choice will depend on your soil type, the amount of soil moisture, and the amount of light the location receives. Your county extension and local nursery personnel should be able to make suggestions based on the specifics of your property and its microclimate, but here are some suggestions.

For a sunny location, low growing junipers are commonly used as groundcover as are some low growing roses. Additional choices could include creeping phlox and any number of sun-loving perennials such as daylilies, black eyed Susans, yarrow, and echinacea.

For shade, you could consider periwinkle (Vinca minor), English ivy, pachysandra, liriope, and hostas.

For partial shade, ajuga does well and is available in a variety of heights with foliage colors ranging from green to a sort of burgundy.

I hope this gives you some ideas.

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