Growing Groundcovers


Ground cover plantings function in many ways in the home landscape. These sturdy plants can be used to prevent erosion in sloped gardens. Groundcovers also serve as providers of dense foliage in barren areas of the landscape and function well in border areas. These plants tend to be hardy and tolerant of dry conditions. Growing ground covers involves proper preparation of the planting site, including the removal of weeds and addition of organic material to the planting site. Giving these plants a great start will ensure the ground cover becomes quickly established to serve as a mainstay in your perennial garden.

Step 1

Prepare the garden soil by turning over the top 10 inches of dirt using the spade shovel. Break up dirt clumps using the sharp shovel blade and remove rocks. Pull and dispose of weeds in yard waste bags to prevent spreading of these nuisance plants. Remove as much of the weed root as possible to prevent later occurrences in the garden.

Step 2

Smooth the garden to a level grade using a rake.

Step 3

Pour a two to three inch layer of compost or peat on top of the garden soil. Work this organic matter deeply into the soil by turning over the garden again using the spade. Scoop and flip each shovel full of dirt, break up the clumps and move on. Working compost or peat into the soil of a new garden adds nutrients deep into the soil and encourages good drainage. Loosening the top 10 inches of soil makes root spreading easier for new plants.

Step 4

Read the label supplied with each groundcover plant. This label identifies the correct lighting, planting depth and watering needs for the plant. Make sure your choices match the conditions provided in the garden area to increase the chances of success.

Step 5

Hold the plastic transplant container in your hands or place it on the ground in front of you for larger containers. Tip the container sideways and press hard onto the outside of the flexible plastic pot. Work your way around the entire pot, pressing firmly to loosen the soil and dirt. Remove the plant carefully by grasping the stem where it joins the root ball or by tipping the container upside down into your hand. Do not dump the plant onto the ground upside down since this can damage branches and stems.

Step 6

Dig a hole 1 1/3 times the size of the plant root ball. Groundcover may run along the surface of the soil but it needs the proper planting depth and space to thrive. Make sure to throw some amended soil into the bottom of the planting hole and fill in around the plant with loose dirt. Press firmly to compress the soil and add more soil to bring the level up to the garden surface.

Step 7

Water the ground cover near the base of the stem to encourage absorption deep into the roots. Add a protective layer of two to four inches of mulch in the flower bed after planting all ground cover to retain water for healthy root development.

Step 8

Monitor these low-maintenance plants on a regular basis. Some ground covers grow slowly while other simply thrive and expand greatly, quickly encroaching on the available garden space. Remove plants to provide more room if needed.

Step 9

Prune back wildly growing ground covers if you prefer a more tailored appearance. Pruning involves clipping back various plant branches to the point where a branch meets the other stem. All pruning stimulates growth at the cutting point so don't simply give the groundcover a haircut by clipping the ends of branches.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade shovel
  • Peat moss or compost
  • Rake
  • Ground cover plants
  • Mulch
  • Pruning Clippers
  • Water-soluble fertilizer


  • Colorado State University Extension
  • North Carolina State University Coopeative Extension
Keywords: growing groundcovers, ground cover, growing perennial groundcover

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.