How to Plant Ground Covers


Typically low-growing, perennial plants with attractive foliage or prolific blooms, ground covers will fill in and soften areas that might not accept any other kind of planting. Barren corners, isolated planting strips, path boarders and oddly shaped plots are perfect spaces for the polished surface facelift a ground cover provides. If properly planted, maintenance should be relatively carefree for the life of the ground cover.

Step 1

Choose a ground cover that will match the light available to your site of choice. Full sun ground covers include candytuft and pinks. Coral bells and stonecrop perform well in part sun to shade, while hosta and ivy are prolific, shade growing ground covers.

Step 2

Prepare the bedding site for long-term, perennial ground cover plants by tilling the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Add up to 2 inches of organic compost, such as well rotted manure, mixing well with the existing soil to improve drainage and supply nutrients that will release slowly over time.

Step 3

Plant ground cover starts during the fall in a uniform pattern across the bedding site to ensure maximum coverage at maturity. The University of Missouri Extension horticulture experts suggest that a spacing of 1 to 2 feet on all sides of plants placed in staggered rows will fill in the most efficiently over the shortest period of time.

Step 4

Apply a 2-inch layer of organic mulch, such as pine bark, around the ground cover plants. Mulch discourages weeds and retains moisture around the starts.

Step 5

Water the ground cover transplants at a depth of 12 inches for each watering. Be aware of the specific watering requirements of your particular plant. If plants show signs of wilt, water immediately and adjust watering frequency to prevent future problems.

Step 6

Fertilize new ground covers in three to four separate applications over the growing season. Apply the first round in early spring, the second and third in midsummer, and the fourth at the end of summer or in early fall.

Step 7

Cut back dead foliage and clean the litter away from around plants prior to winter. Cover the plants with a layer of clean mulch to protect them from frost damage. Remove the mulch when new shoots appear in spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Ground cover plants
  • Shovel
  • Trowel
  • Organic compost
  • Organic mulch
  • Balanced fertilizer


  • Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Groundcovers
  • University of Missouri Extension: Selected Ground Covers for Missouri
  • University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: Ground Covers
Keywords: planting ground covers, ground cover maintenance, ground cover tips

About this Author

Desirae Roy holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, with a focus on reading and special education. Also an interpreter for the deaf, she facilitates communication for students who learn in an inspiring way. Roy cultivates a life long love of learning and enjoys sharing her journey with others through writing.