Groundcovers are quite versatile in the landscape. They tolerate adverse conditions, and once established require little care. They are problem solvers that can often thrive in places where lawn will not grow. They perform well in shady areas and under trees, and are excellent erosion controllers on steep banks. The following information should help you maintain healthy ground covers.
Groundcovers are basically low maintenance, but they do require regular care
for the first few years. Once they are established, they require less maintenance
A ground cover’s water needs vary, just as with trees and shrubs, depending on
the plant, its age, the soil, season, temperature, sun, wind and pollution. Most of
the ground covers that Hinsdale Nurseries offers, such as vinca, pachysandra, ivy,
euonymus, and sedum, should receive an even and thorough soaking to a 6 to 8
inch depth after planting to ensure moisture penetration to all roots. To check
the soil moisture level, insert a stick about six to eight inches into the ground,
then remove it. If the stick comes out clean the soil is still too dry, so continue
Watering of ground covers should be done every couple of days–more
frequently during the first few weeks after planting. Keep in mind that
overwatering is just as harmful as underwatering. (Underwatering–sprinkling
the soil lightly with the hose–will only wet the top most layer of soil, and will not
allow roots to develop.) Pay attention to weather conditions, and adjust amount
of watering accordingly to ensure successful establishment in your garden. After
roots are established, 1” per week is sufficient.
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Some plants are slow to become established in your garden. Your ground cover
may take a year or longer to fill in, which can be very inviting to weeds. Once
weeds have invaded your ground cover, getting them out becomes increasingly
difficult. The best method of weed removal is by hand. If you choose to use a
herbicide, read the label carefully because it could be detrimental not only to
the weeds, but also to your ground cover. To minimize weed invasion, plant
groundcovers on a tighter spacing for quicker establishment.
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Many ground covers are aggressive and may need to be restrained,
depending on the nature of your landscape and your preference. A formal
landscape will require more pruning than an informal one. Aggressive
ground covers include certain spreading junipers and some species of
sedum, ivy, etc.
Detailed pruning to achieve a specific shape may require professional help,
and you may wish to consult Hinsdale Nurseries. Below are guidelines for
ground cover maintenance that you can perform yourself.
- Prune ground covers in early spring so new growth will quickly
cover the bare stems. Avoid late autumn pruning because new
growth will appear just before winter, often resulting in frost damage
to new growing tips.
- Use hand pruners to remove dead branches and damaged tips. A
dead stem will appear brown when scratched with a knife or
fingernail. A live stem will appear green.
- Prune off the damaged parts of pachysandra or other herbaceous
evergreens to rid them of winter burn in early spring.
- Shearing ground covers such as vinca, pachysandra, ivy, euonymus
and sedum will help keep them dense. Hostas usually do not require
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All ground covers sold by Hinsdale Nurseries are zone 5 winter hardy. A few
steps will ensure their continued health through the cold months.
Evergreen ground covers should be well watered before the first frost to
prevent excessive needle drop or browning. It is common for some evergreen
ground covers to show a brown or purple color throughout the winter. This is
a natural process that decreases the stress of harsh winter conditions. It may or
may not occur annually and is not a sign of sickness or disease.