Ground cover plants are designed to do what they say in the title. They can cover the ground by design, happy accident or conscious neglect.
Benefits of Ground Cover
- Treasure the ground cover plants that clothe the soil and rocks with leaves or stems preventing wasteful moisture loss.
- Ground cover reduces weed seed germination as the seed can’t reach the soil. Any weeds that do grow will likely be smothered or hidden from view.
- Most ground cover will flower and even foliage only plants are more aesthetically pleasing than bare or patchy ground.
- Ground cover is useful on hard to access land such as scree or steep slopes.
- Ground cover may creep or mound but most will grow lower than one feet high and be ornamental.
- They are easy to maintain with an occasional clipping after flowering or an edging trim to keep them in control.
- Ground cover can support wild life and help create a special habitat.
Hart’s tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium
Selected Ground Cover Plant Species
- Ajuga reptans like plenty of water to produce purple-green leaves and spring flowers of blue spikes.
- Erigeron karvinskianus has small white flowers like lawn daisies. A copious self seeder.
- Lysimachia nummularia also called creeping jenny for reasons you will discover as it moves around your garden. In summer it has numerous smal,l yellow flowers.
- Sedum acre or Stone crop is a popular low growing succulent for ground cover.
- Stachys byzantina has grey wooly leaves on 6″ high stems. They look like Lamb’s ears hence the common name.
- Often excluded from ground cover plant list is lawn grass. I guess meadow achieves a similar purpose.
Many times a garden will develop its own style with a series of what I call ‘happy accidents’. Looking at ground cover I would include the semi-evergreen strawberry with its habit of forming runners in my list of accidents. Other ground hugging evergreen plants include a range of recumbent or prostrate dwarf conifers such as Juniper horizontalis or Juniper squamata blue carpet.
Whilstnot planted as ground cover I notice saxifrage, Euonymus, Bergenia and even clumpy Dianthus are all fulfilling the cover role. The special evergreens have the edge over plants that loose there leaves in winter but I have some great covering clumps of cyclamen at the moment. Ivy, I would not consider a happy accident more a gardening disaster.
Pink Flowered Strawberry Lipstick
Conditions for Good Ground Cover
- There are plants for most circumstances and conditions. Problem areas of poor soil and poor access are often the drivers of the decision to plant ground cover.
- Heaths and heathers are good for soils with acidic ph and will cope with a comparatively low top soil on top of stone or rubble. Some ferns may be suitable in these conditions.
- Flowering ground cover generally appreciate full or partial sun with a soil that retains some moisture.
- Damp conditions offer there own challenges and plants from the primula, iris, polygonum or marsh marigold families may suit.
- Once the ground is virtually covered you may not want lush growth and for that a reason I do not apply extra fertiliser as it is not required.
- Delineate the boundary of the ground cover to give a smart appearance.
- If you are happy with an informal aspect allow several varieties to inter-mingle.