If you have a spot on your property where you have difficulty growing plants, or just wish to create some sort of ground cover, there are many choices out there. While you could try to grow grass or just mulch the area, many homeowners choose to grow a plant that will cover the area and look nice. Some ground covers can be very invasive, so it is good to know exactly what you are planting to be sure the ground cover doesn’t take over an area where you don’t want it! In this article I will start by listing a few plants that spread rapidly and are low growing, then I will cover a few very rapidly growing ground covers that can be invasive.
One fun choice to cover a shady spot where you have problems growing other plants is to try planting Lily of the Valley. The Lily of the Valley has beautiful, delicate white flowers in the spring. The rest of the year the foliage of the Lily of the Valley are large leaf type plants coming out of the ground. Lily of the Valley will spread, however you can easily contain the plant by weeding out the areas where you do not want it to grow.
Hardy Geranium is another beautiful, low-lying perennial plant. The delicate 5 petal flowers appear in early summer and the plant can bloom for the rest of the season. You can find Hardy Geraniums in many colors, but the bright purple color is the most common. Pink, white and blue Hardy Geraniums may also be grown. The Hardy Geranium will form a bush type plant with a height of about 6 inches. The plant will spread each year, but you can prune it easily to control the growth.
Sedum is another great creeping ground cover choice. There are many types of Sedum, some growing very tall, and some very compact. For a ground cover you will naturally need to plant a low growing variety that will spread on its own each year. Sedum is also very easy to transplant and separate, so one plant can go along way after several years of growth and separation. Sedum plants generally have small but beautiful flowers in the spring or fall depending on the variety.
An evergreen ground cover option is the Creeping Juniper. Many people love to plant this along the top of rock walls, or along side taller plants. The Creeping Juniper will form a carpet like cover and can spread very rapidly. The Creeping Juniper is also a bonus as it will remain beautiful year round, and provide winter interest in your landscape.
Now on to the more invasive ground cover species. These plants are wonderful for crowding out other weeds that you do not desire, but if allowed to spread into your garden, they may crowd out plants that you do desire. For this reason alone, use these plants with extreme caution and be sure you have a method of properly containing their growth. Extensive weeding may be required to prevent these invasive ground covers from taking over your garden!
Vinca, or commonly called Periwinkle is a fabulous low lying plant. The Vinca has small blue-violet flowers along slender shoots of green-blue leaves. The Vinca has a very delicate look and is dense enough to provide a green-blue carpet wherever it grows. If you have a wooded garden area, Vinca will cover the ground beautifully, and adorn the area with small flowers throughout the summer months.
Crown Vetch is one of the most commonly commercially used ground cover plants. Crown Vetch is extremely invasive and can grow very rapidly. Many times Crown Vetch can completely choke out all other plants and completely take over an area. This is ideal along steep banks, ditches and areas of your yard you would not like to mow. The Crown Vetch can grow up to a foot tall, and has small, pink flowers that bloom throughout the season.
Overall, by adding a natural, low growing plant to your landscape, you can prevent dirt spots and extra weed growth. Organic ground covers do require more work as you will have to water the plants during a dry spell. These ground cover plants are all very hardy and grow easily in the home landscape. If you have a steep bank or weedy patch, try planting some of the above plants and see the beauty they will bring your yard!