Planting ground cover on a hill can add beauty to your property and decrease soil erosion. Once established, ground cover plant roots will hold soil in place, while adding new textures, colors, and even blooms to your yard. Establishing these plants means working with slope conditions and plants themselves. While you may prefer a single slope of pachysandra or other low-growing plants, many other kinds of plants can function creatively as attractive ground covers.
Preparing the Planting Area
Analyze your slope before selecting ground cover. Look for constantly eroded areas and determine whether water or wind are removing the most soil. Dig in a variety of areas to determine how much soil you have to support plants.
Add terracing elements to interrupt sloping areas. A stream of steady water runoff can be diverted and spread with rocks. Areas where soil constantly leeches away from plant roots may benefit from adding 4-by-4 outdoor lumber strips across the slope to form terraces.
Create small, level areas on the slope with your spade to improve the potential success of new plantings. Dig plant "cups" large enough to support individual plants for a year's growth: this may mean a 6-inch level area for three or four new ivy shoots or a 1-foot level area for a new daylily. This is probably the most tiresome part of your project but will help new plants set valuable root systems.
Enrich the soil in your "cups" or small terraced areas with compost and additional soil to help new plants get established. New plants need good nutrition.
Planting Your Slope
Seek local advice for tenacious ground covers. Native plant and county extension websites may have creative suggestions. Not all ground covers are low, creeping plants. Tall bloomers like daylilies, ornamental grasses, and a variety of evergreens like junipers are both ornamental and reliable soil-holders. Landscapers often advise using a variety of plants rather than a single one ("monoculture") to improve ground cover success.
Remove weeds from planting areas to maximize growth potential. For larger plants, reinforce weed control with patches of landscape cloth or burlap. Smaller planting areas can be covered with several layers of newspaper; poke holes and insert ivy, ajuga or pachysandra plants.
Space small plants 6 inches to 1 foot apart, using your "cup" strategy. Larger plants may need spacing 1 to 2 feet apart. Several small specimens of a single plant spaced close together improve chances of growth over a single cluster.
Establish a regular watering schedule for the first full growth season. Young plants need a predictable source of water to form healthy roots. This scheduling will also give you the opportunity to monitor growth, shoring up eroded areas if necessary. The eventual goal of establishing ground cover is to lessen care, but expect to provide extra watering and weeding until your plants are strong enough to survive on their own.
Evaluate your success at the end of the season. Some plants may have done better than others, and your original vision may require adjustment and possibly some additional planting to complete the project.