Preparation tips and spacing chart
Planting Groundcovers
Derek Fell
Tough dependable and attractive Aaron's beard (Hypericum calycinum) grows vigorously even in poor soil.

Where winters are cold, plant in spring; this will give the groundcover an entire season to become established before it must face the rigors of winter. In areas with hot, dry summers and mild winters, plant in fall; the winter rains will help get the plants off to a good start.

Though ground covers are tough, they’ll grow and spread more quickly if you prepare the planting area carefully. Dig out weeds, amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure, and broadcast a complete fertilizer over the area (follow the package directions for amounts).

Work in amendments and fertilizer with a shovel or tiller, then rake to level the soil.

Note: Shrubby plants from gallon containers are an exception to the above advice; these are often planted in the native soil, without amendments. Install landscape fabric if desired.

Ground cover plants are sold in small pots, cell-packs, or 1-gallon containers, or as rooted cuttings in flats. Before setting out flat-grown plants, separate them by cutting between them with a putty knife.

When planting ground covers purchased in smaller pots or flats, set them in holes just deep enough for and slightly wider than the root ball. To plant from gallon containers: dig a hole that tapers outward at the bottom to accommodate the loosened roots, leaving a “plateau” of undisturbed soil in the middle. The root ball rests on the plateau; the crown of each plant should remain slightly above the soil surface to prevent rot.

After planting, water the plants thoroughly. As they become established over the next several weeks, water every few days, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. To help maintain soil moisture and prevent weed seeds from growing, spread a 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of an organic mulch between the young plants, taking care not to cover the plants’ crowns.

Planting ground covers on a slope

When setting plants on a steep slope where erosion may occur, arrange them in staggered rows. Make an individual terrace for each plant and create a basin or low spot behind each one to catch water. Set the crowns of the plants high, so they won’t become saturated and rot after watering.

Spacing ground cover plants

The spacing to allow between ground cover plants depends on the particular plant and, to some extent, on how quickly you want the area covered with growth. The descriptions in the sampler give guidelines for spacing; for ground covers not discussed there, consult knowledgeable nursery personnel. Check the chart below to calculate the area that will be covered by a specified number of plants set out at various spacings.

Spacing between plants


48 plants*


64 plants*


72 plants*


100 plants*

6 in.


10 sq. ft.


13 1/2 sq. ft.


15 1/2 sq.ft.


21 1/2 sq. ft.

8 in.


18 sq. ft.


24 1/2 sq. ft.


27 1/2 sq.ft.


38 sq. ft.

10 in.


28 1/2 sq. ft.


38 1/2 sq. ft.


43 sq.ft.


60 sq. ft.

12 in.


41 1/2 sq. ft.


55 1/2 sq. ft.


62 1/2 sq.ft.


86 1/2 sq. ft.

15 in.


64 1/2 sq. ft.


86 sq. ft.


97 sq.ft.


135 sq. ft.

18 in.


92 sq. ft.


123 sq. ft.


138 sq.ft.


192 sq. ft.

24 in.


165 1/2 sq. ft.


220 1/2 sq. ft.


248 sq.ft.


344 1/2 sq. ft.



*Plants per flat