Do areas of your garden prove challenging? Maybe there’s a steep slope that makes mowing hazardous. Perhaps grass refuses to grow under your favorite tree. Or maybe torrential rain causes erosion along the side of your house. When faced with a tricky garden space, perennial groundcovers provide a pretty, practical solution!
What Is a Groundcover?
Essentially, perennial groundcovers are low-growing plants used to cover areas of a landscape. It’s typically less than a foot tall but spreads to cover wide areas in garden beds or landscapes. Choose your groundcovers wisely. Some plants spread aggressively, choking out desired plants and running rampant in the garden. However, a well-behaved groundcover not only complements existing plants, it also adds beauty to garden design.
Along with dressing up the garden, groundcovers serve environmental purposes as well. The spreading plants create a living mulch, keeping soil cool and moist, while also smothering weeds. Groundcover plants draw rainwater into soil, reducing runoff into sewers. Using groundcovers instead of conventional mulch converts sunlight into energy, helping to clean the air of toxins. The plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, making us breathe easier.
Additionally, groundcovers can reduce erosion, providing a rainwater buffer that absorbs moisture into the ground on slopes and slows the rush of rainwater that causes soil loss. With a thick groundcover in place, problematic garden areas where rain washed out soil and exposed roots soon look lush and inviting.
In some areas where lawn refuses to grow—or where it’s difficult to mow—choosing to plant a groundcover minimizes maintenance and adds interest to your landscape. Best of all, though, many flowering groundcovers attract pollinators to your garden. If you love wildlife in your garden, you’ll enjoy the addition of flowering groundcovers.
How to Plant Perennial Groundcovers
Before you begin adding groundcovers to your landscape or garden beds, first consider the space. Is the area sunny or shady? Does the bed contain loamy or sandy soil? Do you have easy access to a water source for thirsty plants? Is the site dry or wet?
To ensure the groundcover thrives in your landscape, select the correct plants for your garden’s conditions. A bit of research goes a long way in establishing a successful groundcover. Also, prep the garden space prior to planting. Remove unwanted vegetation, like grass or weeds, and amend soil if necessary.
Plant your perennial groundcover in fall or early spring to allow it time to settle in and begin growing before summer’s heat kicks in. Space the plants according to the plant tag’s recommendations to give them plenty of room to spread. Water well and continue to monitor the plants’ watering needs, particularly during the first year while establishing a strong root system. Mulch the plants to retain moisture and discourage weeds. As the plants grow and spread, they’ll become a living mulch, but when they’re young and newly planted, they’ll appreciate a bit of pampering. Give them a little extra TLC the first year, and they’ll reward you with a low maintenance, beautiful groundcover that adds beauty to your garden for years.
4 Great Perennial Groundcovers
From spring blooming groundcovers that tolerate partial shade to bright blue blooms that add wow to your landscape, you’ll adore these terrific options:
Do you love plants that offer multi-season interest? If you do, then add Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ to your garden design. Glossy green spring and summer foliage morphs into an outstanding ruby-bronze color in late autumn, adding seasonal interest. Bold spikes of deep rose-red flowers appear in spring, and the thick foliage offers a perfect living blanket to smother weeds. Plus, ‘Bressingham Ruby’ tolerates full sun or partial shade, making it a good choice for gardens with both light conditions.
Sweet, charming bellflowers add beauty to gardens, and they come in a wide variety of forms. However, for a perfect burst of blue in a groundcover, Campanula Blue Waterfall lives up to its name. A vigorous, low-growing, spreading plant, it’s the perfect choice for front of borders or rock gardens. (You’ll also love Blue Waterfall in hanging baskets or containers, as it cascades over the sides in a torrent of blooms.)
An ideal groundcover for dry areas, Blue Waterfall tolerates drought. However, during the first year, water it during dry periods so its roots become well established. With heavy blooms from June through August, it’s a show-stopping groundcover.
Centaurea (Bachelor’s Button)
If you love a beautiful groundcover rooted in Greek mythology, you’ll adore Centaurea. According to legend, the plant healed Chiron the Centaur, which led to its name—Centaurea. The common wildflower appears in early spring, lining the sides of roads and popping up in meadows, adding bright blue bursts of color to fields.
Today’s unique, interesting cultivars add stunning colors and textures to gardens. Centaurea ‘Amethyst in Snow’ produces masses of silvery-green foliage that spreads 28 inches, making a gorgeous, bright groundcover in the garden. Best of all, the unique flowers sport white outer petals with striking royal purple centers, attracting pollinators and providing a pretty show in the garden. ‘Amethyst in Snow’ looks lovely as a cut flower, too.
If you’re looking for a fabulous groundcover to cover garden eyesores or fill in beds, hardy geraniums provide a perfect solution. Just to be clear: these are not annual geraniums, which belong to the genus Pelargonium. (Common names can be confusing!)
Instead, perennial geraniums make a great addition to gardens as a groundcover. They’re also gorgeous in containers and hanging baskets with their “spilling” habit. Pollinators love them, too—but deer dislike them, which makes them a good, practical addition to landscapes.
If you want to add an award-winning celebrity to your garden or landscape, meet Geranium ‘Rozanne®’. You may already know her—she’s famous for her amazing garden performance. This best-selling, hardy geranium blooms from late spring until first frost, covered in stunning violet-blue, 2-1/2-inch flowers with white centers. While the masses of flowers add gorgeous color to gardens, the foliage provides multi-season interest, turning from deep green to reddish-brown in autumn. ‘Rozanne’ spreads 24-28 inches, creating a carpet of bright blue in the garden.
With low-maintenance groundcovers in place to tackle your garden challenges, you’ll spend less time weeding and watering and more time relaxing and enjoying your garden.
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