University of Illinois Extension
About Groundcovers Care and Maintenance Tips Directory of Groundcovers Credits

Tips to Consider When Adding Groundcovers to Your Landscape

  • Use groundcovers for problem areas and to unify divergent components of the landscape. They can be used as traffic barriers, visual guides and to define space.
  • Use low groundcovers for a transition between the lawn area and taller plants in the garden bed.
  • Try groundcovers where lawn grass either won’t grow or is too difficult to maintain such as in very small, confined landscapes.
  • Select groundcovers based upon their ability to add year-round beauty to the landscape. Herbaceous groundcovers die back to the ground in the winter, exposing bare soil. If this is not the look you want, choose evergreen groundcovers.
  • Select groundcovers, according to your site’s conditions: Sun or shade? Clay soil or sand? Moist or dry? Select groundcovers that will survive and thrive under your conditions; not require heroic measures to keep them alive!
  • Moss as a groundcover? Sure! While heavy, dense shade is often considered a curse, it is a blessing when it comes to moss. The color and texture of moss can add great interest. And, it’s virtually maintenance free.
  • Consider the height of the groundcover. Will you choose a six-inch ajuga or a four-foot fern?
  • Before planting, always prepare the soil as you would for any other permanent type of planting. Remember, groundcovers are capable of giving long lasting beauty and function, but their performance is only as good as the effort one puts into soil preparation.
  • Beware of groundcovers that state, “Easy, rapid coverage in either sun, shade, wet or dry.” They may be horticultural nightmares due to their aggressive nature. If you need fast coverage, closer planting of better behaved groundcovers may be the better answer.
  • Groundcovers are not the “bottom feeders” of the landscape. They add interest, and bring unity to the garden making them the unsung heroes among the more horticulturally prominent members of the garden.

Determining the Number of Plants Needed

This chart may be used to determine how many plants you will need based on the square footage of your area.

Square feet of planting area
Spacing (in inches)
6 in. 8 in. 9 in. 12 in. 18 in
400 225 178 100 45
800 450 356 200 90
1,200 675 535 300 135
1,600 900 712 400 180
2,000 1,125 890 500 225
2,400 1,350 1,068 600 270
2,800 1,575 1,246 700 315
3,200 1,800 1,425 800 360
3,600 2,025 1,602 900 405
4,000 2,250 1,780 1,000 450

About Groundcovers - From The Ground Up - University of Illinois Extension