In the past groundcovers have been thought of as plants to cover soil areas where either poor soil conditions, heavy shade or steep slopes made it hard to maintain or grow grass. Now groundcovers are recognized for their own striking beauty to accent tree and shrub plantings. For example, a pool of showy blue Vinca or Viola blooms, surrounding two or three glistening clumps of white birch can achieve a dramatic effect in the midst of a deep green lawn.
Also because of the ease of care and low maintenance requirements of many groundcovers, they can be used as a living mulch to replace grass on low traffic lawn areas.
Almost any low growing plant can be used as a groundcover. It is important to pick plants that meet your needs and that will thrive in the location you have selected. Take time to consider the amount of light, soil conditions and traffic before choosing.
As with any other type of plantings, the proper soil preparation is essential for success. Poor soils can be improved with peat moss, compost and fertilization. Once the soil is prepared, a mulch of bark cover is ideal to prevent rain wash-out and weed development while the plants are getting established.
Groundcovers for Under Trees
There are many plants that will survive under the heavy shade of trees or in dark places between buildings. Some of the best include Vinca, often known as Periwinkle, noted for its dark evergreen leaves and showy violet blue flowers and Pachysandra, which will make an evergreen, mat about 8" to 10" tall. English Ivy often thought of, as an evergreen vine will also make an excellent groundcover on shady banks.
Another excellent groundcover vine is the fast-growing Hall's Honeysuckle that is covered each summer with delightfully fragrant blooms that will attract hummingbirds, great for medium shade to full sun. Other attractive vines include Virginia creeper, and Wintercreeper Euonymous with their bright fall colours.
Perennials such as the fragrant Lily of the valley, Ajuga and Viola are also excellent for quickly covering shady areas. (Use caution, as all Violas are invasive.)
Although somewhat taller growing 10" to 3' tall, Hosta will make a spectacular show in the shade with their striking foliage ranging from blue to green and numerous variations of variegated white and gold. For sunny spots perennials such as Day lilies, Daisies hardy Sweet pea (maybe invasive) or even meadow flowers will add a splash of colour and thrive in poorer soils.
Groundcovers for Steep Slopes
On steep slopes, a good groundcover is often preferable to maintaining grass. For this purpose, one of my favorites is the spreading Cotoneaster. They are relatively fast growing, have striking summer foliage and small white flowers and are followed by fall coloured leaves and bright red berries that persist into the winter.
In fact a whole range of low growing shrubs would be ideal for slopes or planting in beds under trees. These include the many colourful Spireas that range from lemon gold to purple red, Dwarf Deutzia with showy white blooms and gold flowered Potentillas. Also evergreens such as low spreading Junipers and Euonymus both green and variegated varieties and Dwarf Spreading Yews will thrive in a wide range of conditions.
These are only a few of the many plants that can be used. Don't restrict yourself to the groundcover section of your local garden center, use your imagination and create a living mulch that will provide a striking accent in your garden.
Groundcovers for Shade
- Asarum europaeum
- Asarum canadense
- Convallaria majalis
- Euonymus fortunei
- Lamium spp.
- Pachysandra terminalis
- Paxistima canbyi
Groundcovers for Hot Dry Locations
- Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
- Hemerocalis spp
- Aurina saxatile
- Cerastium tomentosa
- Juniper spp.
- Thymus spp.
Groundcovers for Dappled Shade
- Carex siderostica variegata
- Alchemilla mollis
- Lamium spp.
- Lonicera spp.
This is only a small sampling of the plants you can use just use your imagination!