Tips for Ground Covers and Vines

Ideas for Using Ground Covers in Your Garden

Ground coverings work well in pockets of soil between tree roots.

Ground covers are a wonderful option in the garden. They can beautify many spots in your garden that may have previously been unsightly or plain. Here are some creative ideas to help you get started with these wonderful plants.

  • Plant ground cover in pockets of soil between tree roots. Soil pockets are easiest to find near the trunk of the tree, where roots have become stout and no longer riddle the earth. Just add some organic matter, as necessary, to get ground cover off to a good start, and then water as needed during dry weather.
  • Pocket plantings are great places to try less common and especially beautiful ground covers like European or American gingers, epimedium, and golden star.
  • Use landscape fabric instead of plastic to reduce weeds in large plantings. Landscape fabric has pores that allow free air and water movement, a big advantage over impenetrable plastic. Lay it down before planting and then cut holes in the fabric. Plant your ground cover in the holes. When covered with mulch landscape fabric, like plastic, prevents light from reaching the soil, which will stop the sprouting of most weed seeds.
  • Hold barren soil in place with burlap when planting ground cover on a slope. This will prevent erosion while the ground cover is getting established. You should pin the burlap securely into the soil so that it won't slip off when rain makes the soil heavy and wet. Cut modest openings in the burlap and plant ground cover in each.
  • Once the ground cover establishes a strong root system and is able to secure nearby soil from erosion, you can gradually enlarge the openings and allow it to spread until it fills out the slope.
  • Set ground cover plugs in place using a wire grid stretched over the bed for fast, easy planting. The regularly spaced openings will help you to coordinate spacing without need for a measuring tape.
  • Help ground covers spread by layering stems as they grow. Layering, a propagation method, encourages stems to root while still connected to the parent plant.
  • Ground covers such as pachysandra and periwinkle are easily rooted simply by covering barren portions of the stem with soil and keeping them moist. For harder-to-root ground covers like wintercreeper, you can remove a small piece of bark from the bottom of the stem and treat the opening with rooting hormone before covering the stem with soil.
  • Spread netting or old sheets over ground covers during autumn leaf drop. It can be difficult to rake leaves out of thick ground covers, and allowing the leaves to sit and mat on the ground-cover bed creates unhealthy conditions. But planning ahead to catch leaves as they fall allows you to gather up all the leaves in one easy move and keeps the ground cover uncluttered.
  • Rejuvenate winter-burned ground-cover plantings by mowing. If a cold winter causes evergreens like ivy to grow brown and unsightly, don't give up hope. There is a good chance that the roots are still alive and will send up fresh green growth come springtime. Mowing off the old leaves gives the new leaves plenty of space and keeps the bed tidy.

Want more gardening tips? Try:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.