Groundcover Solutions For Landscaping Problems

Groundcovers are used to cover bare earth, prevent erosion, and beautify landscapes that are difficult to maintain. This article discusses varieties, growth habits, and planting zones.

Groundcovers can not only beautify your garden and the areas around your home, but can also solve some of the most difficult landscaping problems. Groundcovers carpet bare earth, prevent erosion, crowd out weeds, and eliminate the need to maintain turf on steep slopes that are impossible to mow. Additionally, they can provide shade for the roots or crowns of plants, like lilies and clematis, that need sun to bloom but prefer their roots in the shade.

While the rampant growth habits of some groundcovers can cause them to grow out of control, they are generally not problem plants. Aggressive growers can be planted beside foundations, concrete walkways, driveways, or other barriers to limit their growth. Concerns that groundcovers are havens for snakes can be addressed by spreading powdered sulfur to repel reptiles. Some groundcovers tend to collect and hold underlayers of leaves in dry weather and can possibly become a fire hazard, therefore, you should water tall groundcovers regularly during dry periods.

The best general purpose groundcovers are ajuga, vinca, ivy, creeping juniper, and pachysandra. No matter what zone you live in, at least one of these varieties will grow in your area. Southern zones can also choose from star jasmine, wandering Jew, and dwarf lily-turf. Bear-berry, moss-pink, and purple-leaf winter creeper grow well in northern zones.

Ajuga or bugle is a semi-evergreen that prefers partial shade. It grows well in zones 5 through 10.

Vinca, also called myrtle or periwinkle, will grow in sun or partial shade. Vinca minor is found in zones 5 through 10. Vinca major (zones 7 through 10) may grow up to two feet high.

Ivy is perhaps one of the most widely grown groundcovers. Grown in sun or shade in wet or dry soils, ivy does well in zones 6 through 9.

Creeping juniper excels in zones 3 through 9. It likes full sun, tolerates poor soil, and can withstand drought conditions. Each creeping juniper can spread to six feet or more.

Pachysandra is one of the most popular groundcovers. It is an easy-to-grow, shade loving evergreen suited for zones 5 through 8.

Star jasmine is an evergreen that thrives in zones 8 through 10 and prefers partial shade and moist soil. It should be cut back each year to encourage branching.

Wandering Jew is for deep south (zones 9 and 10) gardens only. There are several varieties of this attractive groundcover. It requires shade and moist soil.

Dwarf Lily-turf is a grasslike evergreen for zones 7 through 10. More delicate than many groundcovers, lily-turf is for shady areas.

Bear-berry is one of the hardiest of all groundcovers. It will grow from zones 2B to 9A inclusive. It can be placed in sunny or shady locations, in coastal areas or inland, and in rocky or sandy soil. Bear-berry is slow growing, but once established, provides soil retention.

Moss-pink is a lovely ground hugging evergreen that blooms profusely in the spring.

Purple-leaf winter creeper thrives as for north as zone 4B. The leaves are dark green in summer and purplish-red in autumn and winter. This attractive plant is excellent for preventing erosion.

In colder zones, spring is the best season for starting groundcovers. Where winters are moderate, planting can be done in fall or spring. In zones 8,9 and 10, plant in fall or winter.

Whether used as accents or to hide problem areas, groundcovers are handsome, hard-working plants that have a place in almost every landscape.

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