Groundcovers To Solve Landscape Problems

Stabilizing Slopes

If part of your yard has a steep slope that is hard to mow or erodes whenever it rains, there is little point in trying to maintain turfgrass in this situation. Instead, plant shrubs or plants that have deep root systems or runners to hold the soil. Here is a sampling of good slope stabilizers, some of which prefer sun, some shade:

Holding Back The Hill
Arnold dwarf forsythiaEnglish IvySunflowers
Creeping juniperLilyturf (Liriope)Verbena
Rock spray cotoneasterMondo grass
Clumping BambooDaylily
Dwarf DeutziaPachysandra
Red twig dogwoodOrnamental grass
HypericumLamb’s ears
Landscape rosesBlack-eyed Susan
Spirea ‘Magic Carpet’

Protecting Trees and Shrubs

Putting in a groundcover planting to replace the turf or cover bare soil over the root zones of trees and shrubs, minimizes inadvertent damage to their lower trunk or stems from your mower, string trimmer, or other powered yard tools.

There is no grass or weeds to cut near the trunks. Injured trees are vulnerable to insect pests and fungal infections until the wound heals. The resulting stresses can slowly kill a tree. Studies suggest that bark injuries are the leading cause of tree death in home landscapes.
A wide circular zone of lush foliage or flowers--a living mulch--also protects tree and shrub roots from damage and reduces compaction of their soil. When soil is compacted, tree roots migrate to the surface in search of air and become vulnerable to injury. Covering them deeply with soil once they surface only compounds the harm.

However, a thin inch of topsoil gently planted with a groundcover planting obscures and protects surface roots while assuring their access to air. As the groundcover plants grow into the compacted soil around the tree roots they aerate it.

Filling in Walkways

A few low-growing groundcovers form dense masses of growth that are great for covering the compacted soil between stepping-stones. They discourage weeds and provide color. Many tolerate some foot traffic:

Filling In Walkways
Corsican mintSempervivums
Creeping phloxWoolly yarrow
Creeping thyme
Dianthus (Pinks)Annuals
Lamb’s earsForget-me-not
MazusJohnny jump-up
Mondo grassPortulaca

Screening Eyesores

Groundcover plants that sprawl, crawl or climb are especially useful for covering eyesores on your property. A bed of trailing annual plants will conceal a temporary problem such as dead stumps, rubble, compost piles or a bare spot awaiting construction. Dependable perennial plants will cover more permanent eyesores such as utility boxes, surface tree roots, septic zones, air conditioner compressors and drain vents.

Screening Plants
Cardinal climber
Bishop’s HatMorning glory
Boston ivyPetunia
purple wave
Chameleon plantSweet potato vine
Creeping figSweet pea
English IvyTrailing nasturtium
Hybrid honeysuckle
Strawberry begoniaBougainvillea
Trailing lantanaClimbing hydrangea
Trumpet creeperWintercreeper

Attracting Wildlife

It is easy to overlook the value of patches of groundcover plants to the general health of a residential landscape. By replacing a single plant type in an area--turfgrass--with a variety of plants, you increase plant diversity in your yard. That assures that a wide variety of birds, bugs and microscopic organisms which depend on them for food and shelter are present. Collectively these creatures create and maintain a natural, balanced system that protects against rampant disease or insect attack.

Berries For Birds
BearberryLow bush blueberry
Bearberry cotoneasterMock strawberry
BramblesVirginia Creeper
BunchberryWinterberry (deciduous holly)

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