Ground covers great for fall planting

LSU AgCenter News
September 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

As we head toward fall, you may want to consider ground covers for those problem areas in your landscape. You may have shady areas that can no longer support lush turfgrass. Maybe you have a sloping area where mowing is difficult. Planting a ground cover may be an option.

The term ground cover is applied to low-growing plants, other than turfgrass, used to cover areas of the landscape. Perennial, evergreen plants having a sprawling, or spreading, habit are most often used. The plants used for ground covers generally are 1 foot or less in height, but taller plants can be appropriate in certain situations.

In addition to the beauty they provide, ground covers have many practical uses. They provide barriers to foot traffic and can guide movement through a site. Some ground covers are effective in erosion control. Because they don’t have to be mowed, ground covers reduce landscape maintenance and are especially useful in problem areas such as on steep slopes, under low-branched trees and shrubs, where large tree roots protrude and in confined areas where mowing is difficult. They also are the best solution to areas under trees that have become too shady for grass to grow.

You must carefully consider the characteristics you would like the ground cover to have – height, texture, color and so forth – when making your selection. You also need to think about the growing conditions where it will be planted – such as sunny or shady, dry or moist. Then look at the size of the area to be planted. Only the most reliable, fast–spreading and reasonably priced ground covers should be considered for large areas.

Monkey grass or mondo grass, creeping lily turf (liriope) and Japanese ardisia are good choices for shade-to-part-shade areas, although many liriope perform well in full sun also. Asian jasmine is excellent for sun to part shade. Whatever type of ground cover you choose, proper preparation of the planting area will help ensure good establishment and faster growth.

Ground covers provide several functions in the home landscape, including:

•Erosion control on slopes.

•Vegetative growth where grass is difficult to grow.

•Reduced temperature and glare.

•Less lawn maintenance.

•Filling in of narrow or oddly shaped areas in the landscape where mowing is difficult.

Give careful consideration when selecting ground covers. Selection will depend on the location where it will be used. Consider the amount of sunlight present, irrigation availability, height, growth habit and growth rate.

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