What type of plant should be categorized as a ground cover? Basically any plant that will cover the ground. Perhaps this definition is a bit too broad. Lets redefine by saying that this ground covering plant should also be attractive, grow quickly and thickly and be a permanent resident in your garden.
Garden ground covers should not require mowing, fertilization, pesticides or extra watering. There claim to fame is being easy on the gardener and easy on the environment.
Ground covers come from many different plant groups. Shrubs, ferns, perennials, ornamental grasses, evergreens and herbs can all be used as ground covers.
Besides being attractive in their ability to cover bare soil flowering ground covers often add swaths of colorful flowers to your garden.
Ground covers also protect your top soil from erosion and act as a mulch keeping in moisture,suppressing weeds and adding to the organic content of your soil. There are even ground covers you can walk on or others which make perfect rock garden plants.
Since ground covers come from many different plant categories there will be a suitable one for any location. Choose ground cover plants in the same way you would other plants in your garden.
Consider your soil, climate, irrigation supply and exposure. By supplying your plants with their preferred needs your ground cover will be healthier and will cover that ugly bare patch all the sooner.
Ground covers propagate themselves sometimes by seed but more often by how they spread across your soil. Some produce rhizomes which grow under the ground horizontally. These rhizomes will then send up new shoots of the mother plant.
Others produce stolons which are very similar to rhizomes only they grow horizontally above the ground and then put down roots here and there as they grow.
Many will spread through long branches that trail along the ground eventually growing roots into the soil. Another method of ground covering are plants which grow long floppy stems that spread out in all directions.
Plant ground covers about 6 to 12 inches apart. If you choose 6 inches your ground cover will be thick and full all the sooner, however you will need more plants to begin and the added cost can be a factor. If using small shrubs or evergreens space 2 to 3 feet apart to allow ample room for their mature growth size.
If you are really in a hurry plant suitable fast growing ground covers. While your plants are establishing themselves spread flower bed mulch in between to help keep out the weeds. Do weed when necessary as you do not want a weed species to take hold and intermingle with your ground covering plants. Trying to rid your ground cover area of these entrenched weeds after the fact can be very problematic.
Some of these selections will be concidered invasive by some, however I am of the mind set that there are really no bad plants, just uninformed gardeners.
The basic rule of right plant in the right place holds particularly true for ground covers. Some plants we concider as nuisance plants are very effective in the right setting and conditions and we should not limit ourselves in their use.