Ground covers are low-growing plants that have the ability to create a dense mat and spread rapidly. Ground covers improve the landscape by providing an alternative to grass on steep slopes, rocky soil, excessively wet areas and shady locations. They can quickly cover and hide an unsightly area. Planting hardy ground-cover plants helps prevent soil erosion and protect shallow tree roots from possible damage due to over-cultivation.
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Evergreen Ground Cover
An evergreen ground cover offers adequate coverage year-round. The creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) grows 1 to 2 feet in height and attains a width of up 8 feet, depending on the cultivar. The foliage appears green or bluish during the summer months, but over the winter, it usually takes on a purplish hue. It grows well on slopes or steep embankments. The blue Pacific juniper (Juniperus conferta) offers a deep blue colour. It stands up to 1 foot in height and spreads up to 6 feet. The plant withstands drought well.
Ground Cover for Dry Locations
Steep embankments and cliffs often make watering difficult; ground cover in such locations must often subsists solely on annual rainfall. Xeriscape landscaping also utilises ground cover plants instead of water-hungry grass varieties. Blue gamma grass creates a vigorous ground cover in drought-prone locations, in full sunlight. Start the plant by sowing seeds in the spring. It stands approximately 12 to 18 inches in height and forms a clump and spreads rapidly through seed production. The mock strawberry plant (Duchesnia indica) produces inedible fruit but appears similar to a typical strawberry plant. It creeps along the ground, stands 6 inches in height and offers aggressive growth habits.
Flowering Ground Cover
Flowering ground-cover choices can provide colour and visual interest to the landscape. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) grows well in full sunlight. The plant requires well-draining soil. It sports tiny, evergreen leaves and during the springs months produces profuse white flowers. Consider trimming the ground cover back after flowering to maintain its 12-inch, compact growth habit. Stonecrop (Sedum) tolerates drought well with its fleshy, succulent leaves. It stands approximately 9 inches tall and produces an abundance of bright yellow flowers during midsummer. It grows well in partial shade or full sunlight. It does not stand a wet root system.
Wet Area Ground Cover
Ground covers planted near streams, ponds or in other wet locations offer soil erosion protection. They have the capability of withstanding overly moist soil conditions where few other plants thrive. Consider planting Mazus reptans in a wet location. The ground cover grows to a height of 1 foot. From June to July it produces small, lavender or purplish blossoms. It grows best in full sunlight or partial shade. The moneywort prefers well-draining soil for the greatest growth but can also tolerate wet areas. It grows to a height of 3 inches and forms a dense mat. Plant in full sunlight or shade.
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- Virginia Cooperative Extension; Selecting Landscape Plants: Ground Covers; Diane Relf; May 2009
- Washington State University; Blue Rug Creeping Juniper
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific'
- Colorado State University; Xeriscaping: Ground Cover Plants; J.E. Klett; Jan 2009
- University of Missouri Extension; Selected Ground Covers for Missouri; Christopher J. Starbuck, et al; August 2007
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Mazus reptans