How to Use Ground Cover in Landscaping


Ground cover is one of the toughest customers in the garden and can doggedly hang onto steep slopes to add color and interest. It can also be used to decorate gardens as a border or around trees to protect the trunk. Ground cover offers many options for planting and is a soil erosion preventative.

Step 1

Choose areas of your landscape requiring tough plants that prevent erosion or areas needing a boost with interesting foliage. Consider using ground cover as borders, to protect tree bases and sloped yard areas where mowing proves difficult.

Step 2

Determine the planting conditions for the type of ground cover to be planted. Individual plants have different light and soil requirements. Pair each type of ground cover with the proper planting environment to ensure a long-lasting functional ground cover.

Step 3

Turn over the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches using a spade shovel or rototiller. This loosens the surrounding dirt to ease the spreading of roots after planting. If working the soil with a shovel, dig deeply, scoop out the dirt, and turn it over. Chop up dirt clods and proceed throughout the garden until the soil is completely turned.

Step 4

Smooth out the soil surface using a rake. Remove rocks, weeds and other plants that could be smothered by the spreading ground cover. Ground cover works extremely well at choking out weeds. Dispose of any weeds in the trash instead of the compost pile to prevent spreading these garden pests.

Step 5

Apply a 2-inch layer of peat moss or compost to the top of the tilled area. Work this medium into the existing planting bed using the shovel or tiller. Amending the soil before planting ground cover provides the best possible environment for the plants to thrive. If steep inclines or other plantings prevent working the larger garden area, prepare a hole for the ground cover at least two times the size of the root ball and work peat moss or compost into the soil. Add 1/3 volume of peat moss to the soil mixture.

Step 6

Place individual plants so the root ball lies 1 inch below the soil surface. Many ground cover plants have shallow root systems, so carefully follow instructions provided with each plant. Fill in around the plant and press down on the soil firmly.

Step 7

Apply a 3- to 4-inch mulch layer to promote water retention at the site.

Step 8

Water the ground cover plants thoroughly, avoiding wetting the leaves until the plant becomes established in a few weeks. Gradually reduce the amount of water until the plant receives about 1 inch per week.

Things You'll Need

  • Ground cover plants
  • Spade
  • Rototiller (optional)
  • Rake
  • Peat moss
  • Compost
  • Garden hose and water
  • Mulch


  • Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • University of Illinois
Keywords: ground cover, groundcover landscaping, planting ground cover

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.