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groundcover plants

What Are Ground Cover Plants?


May 21, 2020 by Liz Brumer

Ground cover plants are becoming increasingly popular as many homeowners look for low- maintenance landscaping options. Whether you're trying to tidy up a few garden beds out front, looking to improve your curb appeal, or contemplating converting your entire lawn, there is an easy-to-care-for ground cover plant to choose from.

What is a ground cover plant?

A ground cover plant is a low-lying herbaceous plant that sprawls, crawls, or otherwise covers the surface of the ground. Usually only growing to a couple of inches tall, ground cover plants typically form a dense cover that helps protect the soil underneath. Moss, sedge, and ivy are a few examples of ground cover plants, although there is a wide variety of ground cover plants to choose from, depending on your growing zone.

Some ground cover plants require ample shade in order to thrive, while others can be in direct sunlight without taking a beating. Ground cover plants are a great addition in xeriscapes (landscapes designed to need little watering) or boggy, low-lying areas of your yard.

Why use a ground cover plant?

Ground cover plants can be a low-maintenance yet visually appealing way to keep your landscaping looking good, even if you lack a green thumb. These utilitarian plants:

  1. Shade the soil, which helps reduce or eliminate watering needs.
  2. Form dense mats that outcompete weeds.
  3. Help prevent erosion on steep slopes or areas where grass struggles to grow.
  4. Reduce the compaction of the soil from rain, snow, or foot traffic.
  5. Provide habitat for beneficial insects and other wildlife.

Choosing a ground cover plant

Trouble-free ground cover plants can be incredibly hardy if a small amount of consideration is put into planning before planting. As with all plants, picking the right plant for the right place is critical. Putting a shade-loving plant in the sun or a water-needy plant in a dry, sandy patch isn't going to get you very far.

Make sure to research the sun, soil, and water needs of each plant you're considering, and place them in your landscape accordingly. If it's an area with a lot of foot traffic, your options will be more limited, although there are several that can tolerate those conditions. Visit a local nursery in your area for expert advice on which varieties grow best in your area as well which ground cover plants are best suited to your growing conditions.

Once you have a few varieties narrowed down, you can start to play with aesthetics a bit, putting various artistic patterns into your design by mixing colors, textures, and heights.

If you're looking for a carefree and beautiful alternative lawn or landscaping approach, then ground cover plants are a great option to make your landscaping stand out with minimal input -- a true win-win.

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