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Ground Cover Basics for Erosion Control, Beautification, and Elegant Focal Points

A lot of attention is paid to beds, borders, foundations, and focal points when it comes to home and commercial gardening, but just about any landscape might benefit from well-placed ground cover plants.  A wide variety of ground cover plants are available, but a few choices deliver vivid greens, alluring colors, and hard-to-match benefits to gardens with special needs.  Among the ground covers that benefit just about every garden are:


The most easily recognized benefit of ground covers is their quick delivery for healthy growth in areas that often are inhospitable to other plant varieties.  Attractive, resilient, and hardy, ground covers put out runners for growth above and below the surface.  Crawling along the ground on vines, these persevering growers put out tiny root systems to ensure optimum health even in rough conditions.


Because of their root-to-runner grow style, ground cover plants make excellent heirloom pass along.  Most will make themselves at home in a pot of dirt with a little drink of water every day.  Just pinch a healthy offshoot, pot in healthy soil, water gently, and grow a gift for a friend.


Five Benefits Ground Cover Plants Offer


Other benefits of ground cover plants are not always so easily recognized, but gardeners in need are quick to point out that ground covers are excellent for:


  • erosion control
  • beautification of bare spots
  • shady spots beneath shrubs and other sun blockers
  • filling gaps between stepping stones
  • creating elegant focal points throughout rock gardens

Where run off inhibits other types of plantings or streams and creeks eat away at banks, ground covers are helpful resources for soil stabilization.  Despite its delicate appearance, ajuga holds banks and other steep slopes together quite well.  Available in a variety of colors, ajuga adds zing to gardens with showy leaves across a delightful spectrum and stalks of flowers in spring.  Additionally, purple wintercreeper is of great benefit along slopes and banks.  Tolerant of all conditions, except swamp to marsh, purple creeper will grow from 24-60 inches a year once established.  A vining ground cover, purple creeper is known to climb as well as it crawls, creating romantic views along garden walls, streams, and rock banks.


Many conditions contribute to bare spots in otherwise verdant yards.  Lack of sun, poor soil quality, and drought might lead to brown dust spots, but one condition that is quite likely to exist within certain yards is juglone toxicity.  Certain trees such as hackberry and black walnut secret the chemical juglone that is toxic to a broad spectrum of other plants.  Rather than cutting these trees that provide a wide variety of benefits as well, simply consider which plants grow best around them.  Among the ground covers that prove quite tolerant to juglone are:


Quite quick to spread, vincas and ajuga produce attractive foliage and flowers, while Virginia creeper presents star-like flowers along sturdy vines, creating habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.


Pachysandra terminalis is an exceptional and elegant choice for creating a sense of longevity even in newly cultivated gardens.  Growing to heights of 8-12 inches, pachysandra is ideal for filling in areas between hedges and other shrubs where other plantings may not thrive.  Preferring partial shade, pachysandra surprises where sun finds it, too.


Rock and Ground Cover Gardens Combine for Pollinator Safe Havens


Wherever rocks interrupt your garden, either by nature or by design, ground covers may be introduced to stunning effects.  Sedums, ajugas, and thymes are quite forgiving of the sometimes drier conditions of rock walls, and their surprising bursts of lively color are sure to delight visitors to your garden.  In fact, creating a stone/ rock garden where these ground covers thrive makes good sense for the health of your broader Eden as each attracts pollinators.  Ajuga is famed for its attraction success for hummingbirds and butterflies.  Thyme beckons bees. Sedum astounds as nearly a dozen types of butterflies hasten to it.  Your rock garden becomes a pollinator garden before your eyes.


There’s often more to ground cover than meets the eyes so wrap your garden in it with abandon.