Ground cover plants are grown for their ornamental features in areas where regular care is not possible, as well as in areas with weeds or eroding soil. Ground cover includes many plants that grow in areas that will not host grasses. Clover is a type of ground cover that, according to the University of Minnesota, was once included in grass mixes.
Ground cover has a variety of different growing habits. According to Colorado State University Extension, ground covers will send offshoots or runner vines along the soil and will quickly fill an empty area. Clover grows between 6 and 8 inches high when not mowed. It is a perennial and tolerates dry soil. It uses a shallow root system to grow in poorly draining soils.
The University of Minnesota Extension recommends planting in the spring and summer if clover is desired as a ground cover. The soil bed requires a power raking to scar the soil surface. Clover is planted at a rate of 2 to 8 ounces of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. At an 8-ounce application, the clover becomes the dominant plant in the lawn due to its invasive quality.
Clover is not always desired and may require control if it takes over. Apply 2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy) propionic acid, or MCPP, to the lawn in the spring or fall when temperatures are cool and will remain so. MCPP loses effectiveness when applied during temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Clover will disappear in six to eight weeks. A lawn requires a three- to four-week rest before reseeding to allow the MCPP to dissolve.
Existing weeds in a lawn require hand pulling, hoeing or destruction using herbicide before planting clover or other ground covers. Glyphosate herbicides require application several weeks before planting a ground cover. Check the packaging for the recommended fallow period to reduce herbicide soil residue. Areas treated with glyphosate herbicide are usually safe to replant after 10 to 14 days.
The area requiring ground cover should be selected before deciding what ground cover variety to plant. Some ground cover requires more maintenance than others. Clover requires occasional mowing and a small application of low analysis fertilizer to keep it healthy. Other ground covers require pruning to keep them under control, and will only grow in certain conditions, such as in shade or full sun. Check the environmental requirements before planting.