How to Plant Ground Cover Plants

My Garden Life
May 30, 2022
Table of Contents
Ground cover plants are a great alternative to grass if you choose low-growing perennials that come back every year. Read these tips for planting and caring for ground cover, plus check out our list of full sun and shade ground cover plants.

3 Benefits of Garden Ground Cover Plants

Benefits of Garden Ground Cover_vinca groundcover erosion control_Ground Cover Plants for Slopes
1. Ground cover prevents weeds from growing once it spreads and fills in.
2. When you plant on a slope, the ground cover provides erosion control. The roots hold the soil in place.
3. Using ground cover to replace grass will save you the time and labor of mowing.

4. Low-growing flowers on groundcovers are a source of pollen for bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Tips for Planting Ground Cover Plants

Tips for Planting Ground Cover_remove sod_Ground cover to replace grass

  • Remove grass and weeds before planting.
  • Arrange your plants in a staggered pattern, instead of rows and columns.
  • Most ground cover should be planted 6-12 inches apart so they will fill in the area faster. But it’s always a good idea to check the plant label in case the plant you choose needs to be spaced closer or further apart.
  • Dig a hole as deep as the plant’s root ball and plant the perennial.

Growing Ground Cover Plants

Growing Ground Cover Plants_Woman planting groundcover on slope

There are a few steps that are key to planting ground cover.

Water your groundcover plants until they are well-established.

This means you should water right after planting and continue to water whenever the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Water as needed the first three years after planting so they develop a strong root system that can withstand times without rain.

Adding a two-inch layer of mulch around the new ground cover plants will save you time.

The mulch will keep the moisture in the soil, so you won’t have to water the plants as often. The other time-saving reason to mulch is it prevents weeds from sprouting between the ground cover plants until they spread and fill the area. Once the ground cover fills the planted area, weeds are less likely to grow. Until then, you can prevent weeds from getting a foothold among the new plants by pulling them by hand or applying a preemergent herbicide.

Some low-growing flowers that spread need a trim once a year.

Following their peak bloom season, flowering groundcovers, like ajuga or thyme, look their best with a quick trim to remove the faded flowers. This gives the area a tidy, maintained appearance. Once the ground cover finishes blooming, you can use a mower on the highest setting, or if it’s a small area you can trim with grass shears and lightly rake off the trimmings.

Ground Cover Plants Full Sun

ground cover plants_Potentilla, Spring Cinquefoil_Potentilla neumannianaPotentilla, Spring Cinquefoil
A reliable ground cover for hot, dry locations.
ground cover for garden_Mazus, Cupflower_Mazus reptansMazus, Cupflower
This ground-hugging plant tolerates light foot traffic.
Irish Moss, Pearlwort_Sagina subulataIrish Moss, Pearlwort
A moss-like carpet that has tiny white flowers in summer.
ground cover instead of grass_Scotch Moss heart_Sagina subulata AureaScottish Moss
A splendid choice for adding soft texture to the landscape.
ground cover prevent weeds_Creeping Stonecrop_Sedum spurium John CreechCreeping Stonecrop, Sedum ‘John Creech’
Great for hot, dry locations and keeping weeds under control.
low growing perennials_Red Creeping Thyme_Thymus serpyllum coccineusRed Creeping Thyme
One of the best thymes for long-lasting interest and color. Attracts
butterflies to the garden.
Woolly Thyme_Thymus pseudolanuginosusWoolly Thyme
This creeping plant forms a fragrant mat of gray-green leaves and dainty pink flowers.
ground covers you can walk on_Creeping Speedwell_Veronica repensCreeping Speedwell
A durable, drought-tolerant ground cover plant that withstands moderate foot traffic.
Miniature Creeping Thyme_Thymus serpyllum ElfinMiniature Creeping Thyme
Put this charming plant in a spot where the fragrant leaves can be enjoyed. Attracts bees.

Ground Cover Plants Sun or Shade

flowers that spread_Carpet Bugleweed_Ajuga reptansAjuga, Carpet Bugleweed
A quick-spreading groundcover with green, purple or multi-color leaves.
Blue Star Creeper_Isotoma fluviatilis_Pratia pedunculataBlue Star Creeper, Pratia
Forms a lush mat of fine leaves that is topped by starry flowers. Tolerates drought.
landscaping ground cover_Periwinkle_Vinca minor BowlesPeriwinkle, Vinca minor
Attractive blue blooms contrast nicely with the glossy, dark green leaves.
For ground cover plants that don’t spread too quickly, check out our list of 5 Well-behaved Perennial Groundcovers.
Well-behaved Perennial Groundcover_Creeping Phlox Emerald Blue


  1. Connie

    Thank you for this.

    • My Garden Life

      You’re welcome, Connie. Glad you found the information helpful!


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