Past Articles Library | 3 Common Ground Covers and How to Grow Them
Many landscape designs include some type of ground cover. The time tested approach is to use mulch as a finishing touch. While this is a great way of controlling weeds, conserving soil moisture and preventing soil erosion, there are some other choices that perform the same function but add a living element and in some cases a seasonal change to any landscape design.
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
This evergreen ground cover is typically grown solely for its 8 inch height foliage, which can crawl along the ground as well as growing upward to a height of 50 plus feet. In the spring, very small, green flowers appear.
This plant finds home where other plants can be challenged, such as under trees but their climbing nature can cause a problem. Depending on how deep the shade is around a tree will determine how vigorous the ivy searches for sunlight. If this happens, do not pull the ivy off. Using this approach, will cause the bark to be pulled off but what can one do? Well, the answer is simple and time consuming. You will need to cut off the ivy off at ground level. Doing this will prevent the plant from taking up any moisture and will eventually die.
Another issue with this plant growing up a tree is the sure weight of the plant material, which can be heavy enough to cause damage to branches and the crown of the tree. Also, in many areas of the country especially in the Pacific Northwest, this plant is considered invasive and is prohibited.
While this plant does have its negatives, it is still a usual plant that can be used for weed control and soil erosion. If you would like to grow your own, the process is very simple. To begin the process, find an English Ivy plant and take a few 4 to 6 inch cuttings off the end of the vines. This growth is young enough to root easily verses the woody growth farther down the vine.
Once you have your cuttings, remove the lower leaves leaving at least three leaves on the top. After the cuttings have been made, fill a pot with moistened soil and poke holes in the soil with a pencil. Make a fresh cut on each cutting, dip cut end in water and dip into a root hormone. If you do not have a commercial rooting hormone, do not fret. In this case, dip your cutting into honey. Once the “rooting hormone” has been applied to the cut end place in the premade hole and seal up the hole by gently pushing down on the soil.
Place pot in a clear, plastic bag, seal up, and place on a windowsill that receives indirect sunlight.
In about 4 to 6 weeks, open up the bag, gently pull on each cutting, and remove those that provide resistance. Plant your rooted starts in the desired location. If you are concerned about the invasive nature of the plant, consider planting in a container.
Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Periwinkle is a beautiful perennial plant that loves partially sunny locations along with shady areas. It thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 9. This plant can spread indefinitely but typically grows 4 to 18 inches in height depending on the variety. The color spectrum of this plant includes vegetation that can range from dark to light green and even variegated. Flowers appear in mid spring to fall and can appear white, purple, blue and even lavender.
Another attribute of this plant is the fact that it tolerates wet soils and is even deer resistant. While deer resist this plant, other forms of wildlife, such as birds, love this plant.
To grow your own begins with preparing the garden soil in spring. Remove stones and weeds from the area and incorporate a good portion of compost into the area. Doing this step will add nutrients to the soil and help the existing soil to hold moisture.
When planning to plant, make sure to place the plants in the ground on a cloudy day. Once that day has arrived, dig a hole that is the same depth as the container that the plant is in. The width of the hole needs to be larger than the width of the container. Once the hole has been dug, cut the container away from the plant, tease roots and place in the hole. Backfill with the removed soil, gently push down on the soil and water in if this is the only plant going to be planted. If, on the other hand, there are other periwinkles going to be planted, measure off from the existing plant 4 to 5 feet and repeat the process.
After all plant material has been planted, add a 1 to 2 inch of mulch and water in.
If you are lucky enough to have someone who would like to share their periwinkle, simply divide the plant and repeat the process described above.
Lilies of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
This wonderful ground cover adds seasonal change along with a wonderful aroma that fills the air. Lilies of the Valley appear breaking ground in the spring. The appearance of these little leaves are quickly followed up by petite white bell-shaped blooms hanging down from curved stems.
Lilies of the Valley like a well-drained soil that receives sunlight to partial shade. When one decides to utilize this plant as a ground cover, one should begin by preparing the garden soil in the spring. This preparation consists of cleaning up the ground and adding in a good amount of compost to the existing soil. Once that is done, the next step is to prepare the starts of Lily of the Valley. These starts are referred to as “pips,” which are bulbous roots. These roots will need to be presoaked in lukewarm water before planting. This simple process will allow the “pips” to take up water, which will give them a wakeup call to germinate.
After they have soaked for a couple of hours, the next step is to snip off the last inch of root and place “pips” so that their heads barely stick out above the ground. Space your ‘pips” out so that they are planted 1 ½ inches apart. Once all the planting has been done, water in and wait. In a short amount of time, you will begin to see little dots of green poking through the ground and before you know it the little green dots with be accented with aromatic white bells.