How to Replace Grass With Ground Cover


Replacing grass with ground covers can be a smart choice for steep hills and large areas that receive little to no foot traffic. Ground covers are nearly maintenance-free, requiring no mowing, and their strong, spreading roots help to prevent soil erosion on hills. Mowing grass on steep hills is dangerous, so replacing this grass with ground covers can eliminate safety issues in maintaining your landscape. Replacing grass with ground covers takes some initial physical work, but it should reduce the amount of ongoing work needed to care for that area of your yard.

Prepare the Area

Step 1

Remove all the grass sod from the area where you want to plant the ground cover. You can use a grub hoe for smaller or steep areas, or rent a sod cutter for larger areas.

Step 2

Turn the soil to loosen at least the top 6-inch layer. Use a pitchfork or stiff-tined rake for small areas or a rototiller for larger areas.

Step 3

Spread a 1-inch layer of peat moss on top of the loosened soil and work the peat into the soil using your pitchfork, rake or rototiller. Spread a granular low-nitrogen fertilizer on the soil, following the dosage instructions on the package.

Step 4

Rake a 2-inch layer of bark mulch onto the soil surface.

Plant the Ground Cover

Step 1

Select the appropriate variety of ground cover, based on the plant's sunlight requirements, growth habit, color or flowering habit and water requirements. For shaded areas, you can plant ground covers like pachysandra, ivies or winter creeper thyme. For sunny areas, you can plant varieties of junipers or wild trailing roses.

Step 2

Dig planting holes using a spade or garden trowel in the prepared area that are the same depth as and 1 ½ times the width of the planter container. Space the planting holes according to the requirements for the specific ground cover plant.

Step 3

Plant the ground cover in rows, staggering the plants and covering the entire prepared area. Ground covers are notoriously vigorous growers and spread quickly, so don't worry about the gaps between the plants.

Step 4

Water the plants to moisten the soil down to the roots right after planting. Water the ground cover thereafter according to the plants' specific water requirements. In general, you should water your newly-planted ground cover once or twice each week during the first growing season to help them become established.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't plant ground cover to replace grass in foot-traffic areas. No ground cover variety is suitable for areas where you'll walk on it every day. Beware of replacing grass with certain ground covers that will cause problems and require possibly even more maintenance than a grass lawn, such as sandwort, chamomile and pearlwort. Sandwort requires regular mowing to clean up the seed stalks, chamomile is weak and grows in messy clumps, and pearlwort attracts a variety of harmful plant pests, such as sow bugs, grubs and beetles.

Things You'll Need

  • Grub hoe or sod cutter
  • Pitchfork or rototiller
  • Stiff-tined rake
  • Peat moss
  • Granular low-nitrogen fertilizer
  • Bark mulch
  • Ground cover plants
  • Spade or garden trowel
  • Garden hose


  • This Old House: How to Plant Ground Cover

Who Can Help

  • Grass and Other Ground Cover Selections for Your Lawn
  • Doug Green's The Myths of Ground Covers
Keywords: replace grass with ground cover, groundcover lawn, plant ground cover

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.