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How to Grow Ground Cover

By Barbara Biehler ; Updated September 21, 2017
Primrose is commonly used ground cover plant.
primrose image by Dzmitry Lameika from Fotolia.com

Ground cover is the name given to a variety of short, fast-growing plants meant to cover empty areas of the landscape. Although grass is the most commonly used type of ground cover, other types of low-growing plants are often used in areas where grass is difficult to maintain or simply can’t grow. Many ground cover plants used as alternatives to grass are decorative, low-maintenance, easy to grow and can help link other natural ornamental elements in your yard.

Select an area for growing cover in your landscape in spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Till the planting area to break up compacted soil and eliminate weeds. Remove any rocks or remaining debris with a garden rake.

Mix organic compost into the soil with the garden tiller. Add 2 to 4 yards of organic compost to every 1,000 square feet of planting area.

Purchase ground cover plants from a local nursery or garden center suitable for growing in your planting area.

Water plants well and let excess drain for five minutes before planting.

Dig holes for ground cover plants twice as large as the rootballs. Space holes to accommodate the maturity size of plants. Remove plants from the containers, place in the holes and backfill with soil. Pat the soil gently around the main stems. Do not cover over the original planting depth of the plants.

Irrigate with water when necessary. Ground cover plants need at least 1 inch of water, through rain or irrigation, each week during the warm growing season.

Keep the planting area free of weeds. Since weeds compete with ground cover plants for water and nutrients, pull weeds as soon as they are seen.


Things You Will Need

  • Ground cover plants
  • Garden tiller
  • Garden rake
  • Organic compost
  • Handheld garden spade or shovel


  • Soil drainage, exposure to harsh winds and daylight sunlight are important factors to consider before purchasing ground cover plants. Since no single plant is appropriate for all planting areas, choose ground cover plants suitable to the conditions of your particular planting site.
  • If ground cover plants are used to prevent soil erosion, select a species that will spread quickly and has a strong root system.
  • Choose short ground cover plants for small planting areas and transitions to grassy spaces. Use taller plants for large areas and steep slopes in your landscape.
  • Moss is a low-maintenance ground cover plant ideal for use in heavily shaded areas where other types of plants will not grow.


  • Many species of ground cover are herbaceous plants that die back each winter leaving soil exposed. For year round soil coverage choose evergreen varieties.
  • Ground cover plants cannot tolerate heavy foot traffic. Install a walkway before planting ground cover if foot traffic in the area is expected.

About the Author


Barbara Biehler is a freelance writer who has written articles for various websites, as well as online specialty courses for MyComputerBuddies.com. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida and over 15 years experience in business development, sales and marketing. An avid gardener, cook and voracious reader, Biehler resides with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.