Planting ground cover on your property requires careful consideration of the best type of plant for the location. Ground covers might be the perfect plant for tough locations but they do require maintenance. To perform the correct function of beautifying your landscape, these plants require fertilizing, mulching and weeding like any other plant in the landscape.
Enhancing the Soil
Plant care begins with soil preparation. The best case scenario features adding peat moss, compost or another type of soil conditioner to the garden bed before planting the ground cover. If not, don't panic. You can still carefully stir up the soil between juvenile plants to add organic matter to the soil. Use a rake, hoe or wheeled cultivator between plants. Strain out and remove any weeds during this process.
Cultivate as deeply into the soil as possible but don't travel too close to the ground cover roots. Most ground covers spread very shallow roots so plants easily pop out of the soil when agitated. Carefully spread peat moss, compost or humus in the cultivated areas and stir up the soil again. Lightly spread a layer of this amended soil around each plant and cover with a 2-inch layer of mulch. Tender loving care will keep ground covers performing well and producing healthy foliage for many years.
Transplant and Division
The most attractive ground covers provide perfect, dense coverage as the plants mature. This rarely happens because soil conditions differ and frankly, the quality of plants fluctuates from nurseries. Some clumps will excel while others struggle to catch hold in a new garden. Step in with a little assistance when you see evidence such as spindly plants, yellowing leaves or dead foliage.
Remove failing plants for disposal or planting in a better location. If you want to try to save these plants, consider a spot that drains betters than the previous location. Other considerations include more sun, less sun, or simply the realization that the particular ground cover plant won't make it. Remember that transplants are basically brand new plantings. These ground cover plants need regular water until the plant is established.
Fill in gaps in your ground cover carpet by digging up larger clumps using a spade shovel. Slip the blade under the edge of the plant and step down to a depth of at least 6 inches. Slide the shovel under the plant and lift gently. Determine the depth of the roots to dictate how deeply you'll need to dig for other transplants. Separate the clumps using a hand trowel or shovel for larger plants such as ornamental grasses. Each new clump should have six to eight healthy leaves and a good root mass for successful transplant.
Many ground covers such as vinca minor lay fine roots right beneath the soil surface along the length of the vine. Transplant is a snap with this kind of ground cover. Grasp the plant at the soil level and lift a section of the vine free from the soil. Look at the dangling roots spaced every 3 to 4 inches along the vine. Clip the length into sections with each group containing at least one root. Plant in shallow holes, cover with amended soil, and press firmly to secure the plant in place.
Weeds serve as one of the biggest competitors in any garden for nutrients and moisture. Tackle weeds regularly to remove these nuisance plants from the ground cover garden. Weeds will smother other plants unless ground covers provide dense healthy foliage. Weeds don't usually take hold in thickly planted ground cover beds. Remember that weeds need light and moisture to grow. Don't provide those necessities for anything other than the plants in the ground cover garden.
Add ground cover to the list of plants that benefit from the application of a high-quality, water-soluble fertilizer. Fertilize in the late spring and early fall to allow plenty of time for the plant to use the nourishment during the growing season.
Most plants require some form of pruning at one point of another. Ground covers can look rough, especially clumping grasses such as mondo or liriope. Shear these types of ground covers early in the growing season to allow plenty of time for the plant to rejuvenate. This pruning session should never involve a complete denuding of the plant unless absolutely necessary. Prune for shape and removal of dead or damaged foliage.