Turf grass is the ground cover of choice for many property owners, mainly for its rich, carpet-like appearance. But grass is thirsty, demands frequent maintenance and provides little wildlife appeal.
That’s where other ground covers come into play.
How do you choose which cover-up is right for your yard?
First, determine the role it must play. Most ground-cover perennials – evergreen or deciduous, woody or herbaceous – provide dense soil cover, discourage weed growth, prevent soil erosion and provide visual interest.
“How does the area that you want to cover impact visually with the rest of your surroundings?” asks Rebecca Finneran, a horticulture educator with Michigan State University Extension.
For instance, you might not want to fill in a bed next to your home with a grass that gets 6 feet tall. But grass-like ground covers such as liriope (creeping lilyturf) need clipping just once a year, she says.
Make sure you select ground-cover plants that will adapt readily to the site conditions, including the amount of sun and drainage.
Many ground covers thrive in areas where turf grass won’t grow, such as dense shade, or in soggy or acidic soils.
Other ground-cover considerations:
While ground covers may not enjoy the esteem of well-manicured lawns, they are a practical step up in problem areas.
“The use of ground covers is limited only by your imagination,” Finneran says. “By using a combination of plants, gardeners can weave an interesting tapestry that is both functional and natural looking.”