Groundcovers and Foliage

Groundcovers are strong growing plants that will compete with and keep out weeds. Because they can be aggressive plants themselves, be forewarned when including them flower beds with less robust companions.

lily of the valley

lily of the valley flowers

Foliage plants are becoming better known and appreciated than in former days. Once the idea of a successful garden border was one filled to the brim with flowers, but now a plant may be grown primarily for its handsome foliage. Entire gardens are sometimes designed around foliage alone.

Why grow groundcovers?

Groundcovers will usually reduce maintenance demands of the garden. Many of them are evergreen even in cold climates. Groundcovers can protect tree roots from scalping from the mower, they can overplant a spring garden of bulbs, they are excellent for steep slopes and protect against erosion.

A number of reasons to plant a groundcover:

  • underneath trees where grass does not grow well
  • to reduce demands of a turf lawn (no mowing, little fertilizer and no weed-killers)
  • unify the look of larger plantings in the landscape
  • perennial, but with much less care than other such plants ( which often need regular division and don’t compete well with weeds)

Groundcover plants are plants first of all, and not things. Being organic in nature they grow, and that is why it is good to pay attention when first making a choice of which is right for your situation. Don’t just throw something into a space because it is the cheap or easy choice. Each plant has growing conditions in which it won’t grow, only tolerate, or thrive. Sometimes your conditions will be too much to their liking and you may have a problem controlling the plants. Aegopodium podagraria is blacklisted from my garden for that reason. My mother and my mother-in-law both grew it and loved it, but after trying to control a neighbor’s thug invading my city garden I have come to a lifelong refusal to ever consider this plant in any situation. So look at the growing conditions and warnings about each plant called a groundcover. They are your friends, but choose your friends wisely.

Recommended Books:
Covering Ground

Timber Press Pocket Guide to Ground Covers (Timber Press Pocket Guides)


The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.
Every Ohio Gardener should have a copy of this book, in my opinion.

Encyclopedia of Perennials (American Horticultural Society)

Groundcover information and plant profiles