How to Grow Ground Cover


Ground cover is the name given to a variety of short, fast-growing plants meant to cover empty areas of the landscape. Although grass is the most commonly used type of ground cover, other types of low-growing plants are often used in areas where grass is difficult to maintain or simply can't grow. Many ground cover plants used as alternatives to grass are decorative, low-maintenance, easy to grow and can help link other natural ornamental elements in your yard.

Step 1

Select an area for growing cover in your landscape in spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Step 2

Till the planting area to break up compacted soil and eliminate weeds. Remove any rocks or remaining debris with a garden rake.

Step 3

Mix organic compost into the soil with the garden tiller. Add 2 to 4 yards of organic compost to every 1,000 square feet of planting area.

Step 4

Purchase ground cover plants from a local nursery or garden center suitable for growing in your planting area.

Step 5

Water plants well and let excess drain for five minutes before planting.

Step 6

Dig holes for ground cover plants twice as large as the rootballs. Space holes to accommodate the maturity size of plants. Remove plants from the containers, place in the holes and backfill with soil. Pat the soil gently around the main stems. Do not cover over the original planting depth of the plants.

Step 7

Irrigate with water when necessary. Ground cover plants need at least 1 inch of water, through rain or irrigation, each week during the warm growing season.

Step 8

Keep the planting area free of weeds. Since weeds compete with ground cover plants for water and nutrients, pull weeds as soon as they are seen.

Tips and Warnings

  • Many species of ground cover are herbaceous plants that die back each winter leaving soil exposed. For year round soil coverage choose evergreen varieties. Ground cover plants cannot tolerate heavy foot traffic. Install a walkway before planting ground cover if foot traffic in the area is expected.

Things You'll Need

  • Ground cover plants
  • Garden tiller
  • Garden rake
  • Organic compost
  • Handheld garden spade or shovel


  • Colorado State University Extension: Ground Cover Plants
  • University of Illinois Extension: From the Ground Up--Ground Covers to Know and Use

Who Can Help

  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Selecting Landscape Plants--Ground Cover
Keywords: grow ground cover, ground cover plants, growing ground cover

About this Author

Barbara Biehler is a freelance writer who has written articles for and eHow, as well as online specialty courses for She has a B.A. in English from the University of Central Florida, and over 15 years experience in business development, sales, and marketing. An avid gardener, cook, and voracious reader, Barbara resides with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.