Ground cover serves to protect soil from extreme temperatures while adding decorative texture to the landscape. Ground cover plants limit soil erosion and often perform well in difficult locations on slopes and trees. These plants throw out low-lying roots while creeping across the landscape. Planting ground cover in the landscape is a wise choice for areas where grass won't grow or in locations that are difficult to mow. Adding ground cover to the landscape requires understanding general planting techniques for these hardy workhorse plants.
Prepare the planting area by cultivating the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Cultivation aerates the soil to allow ground cover roots to spread easily after transplant. Use a shovel, rototiller or wheel cultivator to mix up the soil. Remove weeds using a hoe or rake to limit future competition between fledgling ground cover plants and weeds. Do not use rototillers under trees because roots often lie in the top 12 inches of soil.
Add peat moss or compost to the planting area to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Cultivate this organic material deeply into the garden soil using a shovel or rototiller. Ground covers might be hardy plants but they won't thrive in a garden that doesn't have nutrients in the soil. Proper soil preparation increases the chance that all your plants will survive transplanting.
Place the ground cover plants in the pots throughout the planting area. Carefully read the accompanying growing label to determine the correct spacing of plants as well as the number of plants required to cover the area. Aim for a pattern that will promote uniform coverage when the plants reach maturity.
Dig individual holes to a depth equal to that of the transplant container. Place plants in holes so the top of the root ball lies about 1 inch below the garden level. Fill in with loose soil and press firmly around each plant to settle air pockets in the soil.
Water each ground cover plant individually using a trickle of water from a regular garden hose. Allow the water to seep slowly into the soil to promote deep water retention. Roots benefit from consistently moist soil.
Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch to protect tender roots and discourage the appearance of weeds. Continue monitoring the moisture needs of the ground cover plants during the first year. Add water to supplement rainfall during dry spells.