University of Illinois Extension
About Groundcovers Care and Maintenance Tips Directory of Groundcovers Credits

Care and Maintenance

Site and Soil Preparation

Pay special attention to removing weeds, especially perennial weeds, from the bed prior to planting.

As with any permanent landscape planting, time spent preparing the site pays off. Pay special attention to removing weeds, especially perennial weeds, from the bed prior to planting. Grass and weeds may be killed by using a systemic non-selective herbicide or by covering the area with a sheet of black plastic for 1-3 months.

If using herbicide follow all label directions for timing of application, mixing, and applying. If this is not done, the weeds will grow back, compete with the new plantings and result in poor and slower establishment of the groundcover. Once the weeds have been killed, they may be tilled into the soil. (Remove any seed heads before tilling.) Till the area to a depth of 6-8 inches adding organic matter to help improve soil tilth.

Apply one to two pounds of 5-10-5 or similar fertilizer per 100 square feet. After the site is prepared, and if practical, leave the area unplanted for about 2-3 weeks. During this time, any perennial weeds not eliminated will regrow and can easily be removed. This helps to reduce any major invasion of weeds after the area has been planted.

Planting

Plant most groundcovers in the spring or fall. Summer planting requires more attention to watering. Fall planted groundcovers may require mulching to prevent frost heaving of the plants. Spacing of plants depends on the plant’s habit, rate of growth, cost and how fast the area needs to be covered. In general, space faster growing groundcovers further apart than slow growing types. (See spacing chart for guidelines on number of plants required for certain square footage and spacing suggestions.) Plant groundcovers in a staggered or diamond pattern for best results. When planting on slopes, mulch the area after planting or plant through fiber netting to help hold the soil in place. Allow at least one to two growing seasons for the area to become completely established.

Groundcovers require a minimum amount of maintenance once established.

Maintenance

Groundcovers require a minimum amount of maintenance once established. Irrigate newly planted groundcovers so roots become well established. Keep the area free of weeds by shallow cultivation. After the first season, water as needed only during dry periods in summer or fall.

Weed Control

The most critical step to weed control occurs during bed preparation before the plants are planted. Eliminate all perennial weeds in the bed at the time of soil preparation. During establishment, achieve weed control by frequent shallow cultivation and hand pulling. Adding one to two inches of mulch reduces weed growth and keeps the soil moist. Some ground covers may need occasional pruning to maintain them within the space provided. Pruning older stems will allow young, more vigorous and attractive foliage to grow back into the area.



About Groundcovers - From The Ground Up - University of Illinois Extension