Discover The Usefulness And Beauty Of Groundcover Plants

Groundcover plants are amazing! The can control erosion on steep slopes, survive being planted under trees and reduce maintenance efforts by helping to prevent weeds and reduce mulching needs. They are the under sung super heroes of the garden and, they can be quite beautiful.

Groundcovers are any low growing plant that fills the afore mentioned tasks. They can be evergreen, deciduous, shrubby or perennial. Many provide year-round interest and many produce lovely blooms. All can be considered low maintenance.

How Groundcover Plants Sold

How groundcover plants are sold depends on what type of plant is being purchased. For example, plants such as Phlox, Pachysandra and Periwinkle may be sold on flats of soil media, peat pots or 4” pots. More shrubby groundcovers such as Junipers and Liriopes may be sold in plastic pots ranging in size from 1 gallon to 3 gallons.

How To Plant Groundcover Plants

The one thing groundcover plants absolutely require is a good soil base to grow roots. Without an extensive root system, plants will not have much of a chance to survive and thrive.

This is best accomplished by adding topsoil, leafmold, peat, or a combination of these materials, over the planting area and then tilling them into the existing soil. For plants grown in flats, mixing these materials into the upper 3”-4” of existing soil is usually adequate. For larger plants, actually digging planting holes and mixing the backfill materials is the way to go.

One tip; if installing plants grown in flats, it is often easier to lay down the mulch layer over the soil mix prior to planting. By doing this, it is possible to dig the holes with a digging bar or small trowel and then install the plants through the mulch into the soil mix. Time is saved in not having to mulch around the tiny plants.

Establishing a good rooting zone becomes especially difficult under trees where existing root systems exist. These areas cannot be tilled as this will damage the tree’s roots. In these areas, install the soil mix and mulch over the root system but do not till the mix into the existing soil.

How To Calculate How Many Groundcover Plants Are Needed

Making sure to plant enough groundcover plants in a given area is important because if not enough are planted, the are will not fill in quickly. This is particularly important if groundcovers are being used to stabilize a slope or control erosion.

Generally, groundcover plants grown in flats are spaced every 6” to 12” in a staggered pattern. This will require 12 to 46 plants per 10 square feet.

If container plants are used, the spacing may range from 12” to as far apart as 3’. This spacing will require 1-10 plants per 10 square feet.

Some Of Our Favorite Groundcover Plants


Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’ – Japanese Garden Juniper

Talk about a tough plant. This beautiful  juniper has a slightly mounding habit, long wide-spreading stiff branches that hug the ground. The tiny needle like foliage is a blue-green color in summer changing to green-purplish in winter. Use in full sun.



Pachysandra terminalis – Japanese Spurge

Jade evergreen foliage actually looks like a flower as it whirls around the stem giving a constant bloom effect. Maintenance-free, grows in just about any soil. A member of the Boxwood family. Use in part-sun to shade. Tends to be invasive.



Vinca minor – Common Periwinkle

One of the most popular groundcover plants because of its blue phlox-like flowers in early spring. Easy to grow. Use in part-sun to shade. Tends to be invasive.




Ajuga reptans ‘Valfredda’- Valfredda Bugleweed

This Bugleweed is perhaps best utilized as a small area ground cover. It typically forms a foliage mat to only 2” tall, tiny, shiny, oval leaves (1/2” across) which are chocolate colored with burgundy highlights. Striking blue spring flower. Use in part shade to full shade.



Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis – Sweetbox

This plant is special. Glossy, deep green leaves and grows around 18: tall. Sweetbox spreads slowly by suckering. Give a wonderful textured look to any garden. Use in part shade to full shade.



Cotoneaster microphyllus – Small Leaved Cotoneaster

A lovely shrubby groundcover that is an excellent source of food for wildlife. White spring flowers are followed by red berries in the fall. Use in full sun.




Microbiota decussata ‘Fuzzball’ – Fuzzball Russian Arborvitae

One of the few conifer evergreens that can grow in shade! It has a nice green shade through the growing season then turns to a purplish tint. Great for slopes.



Thymus serpyllum – Garden Thyme

One of the best-known and most widely used herbs. It is a striking plant with purple flowers, attracting bees and other insects. Thyme grows into a spreading carpet that is perfect for rock gardens and in between steppers. Gives off a lovely scent when it is stepped upon.



Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’ – Spreading Japanese Plum Yew

Another conifer evergreen for the shade. Wonderful dark green needles create a great texture. Use in mass or alone. Deer do not eat it!





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