What are ground cover plants?Most ground cover plants have a spreading growth habit. They also tend to multiply easily via small underground shoots. Bell flower (campanula), thyme and soapwort are good examples of ground covers forming a dense, compact carpet of flowers, often fragrant. Then there are some taller plants that will cover the ground with their foliate like the hosta and viburnum.
How and where to plant ground coverGround cover bedding like blue gentian and the popular edelweiss prefer full sun, so they are perfect plants for the rockery and dry soils. For the very shady places where nothing grows, the sedum and iberis will give you colour and flowers under trees and shrubs. You need to control the weeds during the first year, then by the second year the plants will have covered the soil and the weeds will not have a chance. An anti-weed ground sheet placed on the ground prior to planting would also be very useful. Simply punch holes in the sheet and plant the small plants, they will quickly cover the entire surface. Your plants will be maintenance free: no weeding, moisture retained.
Ground cover plant careThe leaves of evergreen perennials often look rather tired and less attractive after winter. This applies for example to hypericum and cotoneaster. You can rejuvenate ground covering plants in March-April – just before the new shoots appear, pruning the old leaves with pruning shears. Rake up the clippings and scatter some organic fertiliser pellets around the base of your plants. If necessary heel the plants well in adding some potting compost where necessary to level the soil. As soon as it gets warmer, the new young leaves will appear and within a month you will be enjoying fresh green plants.
Ground cover as edgingMany ground covering plants are also used as an edging plant. They help to structure the garden by specifying the boundaries between the different areas of your garden. Hardy perennials or small shrubs can create a low hedge that for example emerges on either sides of the path. Because your ground covering plants provide a good connection, no bare earth can be seen along the edge of the planting. You can use lovely flowering plants or pretty foliage plants. Because you want a border to look decorative throughout the year, foliage is just as important as the flowers. Try a combination of crane’s bill with astilbe, or bergenia around a bed filled with variegated ivy or perhaps forget-me-nots with ground covering rose bushes.
For more tips on planting and maintaining ground cover plants, check out our online gardening tips.
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