Ground Covers in the Landscape

R. Keith Collins  |  10/11/2011 10:51:51 PM

Living ground covers are defined as plants used to cover areas of the landscape. They generally have a creeping or prostrate growth habit and grow no taller than two feet. A good ground cover should be evergreen and provide a permanent covering and will provide many practical uses that includes controlling traffic without affecting landscape views, reduce lawn maintenance, control erosion on sloping areas, growth in heavily shaded areas, reduce weed problems, provide and living mulch, reduce glare and lower soil temperatures during extreme heat and fill odd, irregularly shaped areas.

Ground covers do not have to be mowed thus are a good fit under low branched trees and shrubs where large tree roots and present and in confined areas where mowing is difficult. They are a great solution to areas under trees that are too shady for grass to grow. Even the most shade tolerant grasses will not grow in total shade.

Late fall is the best time to plant ground covers followed by winter/early spring. This gives them a full growing season to properly establish. Avoid summer plantings if possible but if this is the case, supplemental irrigation will most likely be needed. Container- grown plants are preferred when planting ground covers.

For proper establishment and rapid cover of an area, ground covers need regular fertilization for the first season after planting. For fall/winter plantings, start a fertilization program in early spring. Apply 1-2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet in early spring and again in early summer. This is equivalent to 13-26 pounds of 8-8-8 or 8-16 pounds of 13-13-13 per 1000 square feet. After establishment, apply a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet annually.

Ground covers should be pruned to keep them confined to areas intended for use. Some species grow vigorously and need more frequent pruning. The intended purpose is to establish a clear and sharp contrast between areas. Selective pruning may be required to remove weak, diseased or unsightly growth and to keep plants more vigorous.

Contact your local Extension office at 318-728-3216 or drop by at 702 Madeline Street in Rayville, La. Visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/richland.

News article in The Richland Beacon and Delhi Dispatch, October, 2011.

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