Ground Cover

Last updated: August 23, 2018

What Does Ground Cover Mean?

In horticulture, ground cover (sometimes one word: groundcover) refers to any type of plant that covers a vast amount of ground. Ground cover plants are usually short, rapid-growing perennials that don't require a lot of soil.

The term ground cover is broad. Once mainly used to refer to living plants, it has come to mean any material used in landscaping to cover and beautify an area, such as mulch, decorative stone, shade clothes, and more.

In an even broader sense, the term ground cover might also mean “the herbaceous layer” or the “regenerative layer." In some regions, ground cover is called “ground flora” or even "step over."


Maximum Yield Explains Ground Cover

Plants that make great ground cover include thyme, Bishop's weed, Lily of the Valley, bunchberry, Lady Mantle, ivy, ajuga, and vinca vines. There are also cover crops to choose from, which are intentionally planted green manures like oats, vetch, or clover.

Ground cover plants have the purpose of holding the soil in place, adding nutrients to it, and not allowing weeds to proliferate. These are often planted during the off season but can be planted in rows between garden crops as a weed control option. As a synthetic ground cover, shade clothe protects soil from drying out too fast in hot dry spells, or plastic sheeting is sometimes used to smother weeds and sterilize soil in preparation for the next season.

Outside of landscaping, in ecosystems, ground cover is an important aspect of many environments. For example, it is believed that the ground cover layer of a forest can contribute up to 90 per cent of the ecosystem’s plant diversity.


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