Ground covers serve many purposes

John Young, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.

Sustainable Landscape News Distributed 03/02/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists

Ground covers are low-growing plants other than turfgrasses. Typically, they are perennial, evergreen plants with sprawling or spreading habits. They generally are 1 foot or shorter, but taller plants are used occasionally. Ground covers are considered attractive, low-maintenance landscape options.

Ground covers serve many practical purposes. They act as barriers to foot traffic and can guide traffic movement through a site. They lower the ground temperature and reduce glare. Some are effective in erosion control. Because they don’t have to be mowed, ground covers require less maintenance. They are especially useful in problem areas such as steep slopes, under low-branching trees and shrubs, places where large tree roots protrude and confined areas where mowing is difficult. They also can be the best solution for areas too shady for grass to grow.

When choosing among ground covers, carefully consider the characteristics you would like the ground cover to have – height, texture, color and so forth. Also, think about the growing conditions where you’ll plant one – sunny or shady, dry or moist. In addition, look at the size of the area to be planted. Choose only the most reliable, fast-spreading and reasonably priced ground cover for a large area.

Monkey or mondo grass (regular or dwarf), creeping lily turf (also called liriope) and Japanese ardisia are good choices for shade to part-shade although many liriope also perform well in full sun.

When selecting liriope, you can choose green or variegated foliage. You also can choose among several sizes and growth habits. The giant varieties include Evergreen Giant and Supergreen. Smaller-growing varieties have clumping growth habits; the most common is Big Blue. A spreading-type liriope also is available.

Another good ground cover for Louisiana is Asian jasmine. It is excellent for sun to part-shade. You can see it planted under the live oaks trees on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.

Whatever type of ground cover you choose, prepare the planting area properly to ensure good establishment and fast growth. You can plant in fall, winter or spring.

Come to LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the new LSU baseball stadium. Go online to and for more information.


Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or
Allen D. Owings at (985) 543-4125 or
John Young at (225) 578-7913 or
Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or

3/3/2009 1:55:22 AM
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