HELP !!!!!what about ground cover plants- does it work?

granmagranma Posts: 1,584

I read in a gardening paper that planting ground cover plants will supress weeds , Since I have a bigger than average garden and getting on in years I am all for ANYTHING that keeps weeds to a minimum. I have borders and flowerbeds at least 2 meters wide around most of the garden which I do not want to do away with as some non- gardening friends have suggested .

I also plan to add more shrubs to the borders putting them closer together than advised - to keep weeds from seeing daylight thus dying off .

 I also wondered ......if I plant ground cover plants   ?- the idea to fill and carpet any spaces which are left that look attractive with plants .

I have also tried the covering material but with a half established garden it was more trouble than it was worth.What do you think ?

I would welcome your views/ experiences 



  • Alina WAlina W Posts: 1,445

    You could try ajuga, available in a number of leaf colours. This forms a dense mat that nothing can get through but, like all ground-cover plants, it will crawl over low plants, too, so you have to keep an eye on it. It is no problem with shrubs, though, and easy to remove.

    Whatever you do, don't be tempted to use ivy, as that will kill everything in its path, including shrubs, as many commercial plantings will testify.

  • granmagranma Posts: 1,584

    Thanks Alina W, This sounds just the sort of thing , I will try the ajuga  and if this works with not letting anything grow through it then maybe their are  other  plants that  I can go for so I get a good mix I shall scour the gardening pages.

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    Ground cover certainly works.

    I thnk that plants would work for you depend on your soil, and other factors. You need to ask yourself what plant really grows vigourously on your soil.

    I'm on a clay soil, and the more vigourous varieties of hardy geraniums form a very effective cover. It is impossible for any other plant to seed itself among them. They also make an impressive show when in flower, and they flower for a long period. The single little pink flower is the first bloom just about to flower...

    Hardy geraniums need to be watched, because they self-seed readily, and if one is not careful, they will take over the entire garden. But it's easy to keep them in check.

    I believe that some people use Alchemilla mollis as a ground cover. That doesn't work as well for me because it's not sufficiently vigourous on my soil.

  • granmagranma Posts: 1,584

    Thank you Gary, my soil is sandy and peaty we live on the edge of the moors . Azaleas and the like grow well on my soil so think this makes it acidic ?

  • BerghillBerghill Posts: 2,807

    Sorry, but ground cover does not suppress weeds. If it did then there would be no weeds in our lawns. We have plenty of places where desirable plants cover the ground, but the weeds still come up and because there are lots of leaves and plant stems and flower, they are even harder to pull out. And don't be fooled into using low growing shrubs, they are even worse as weed suppressers. We have an area with Cotoneaster Coral Carpet or some such name. It is a nightmare getting the weeds out from among the branches.

    Ground cover might work in a Urban setting where every surrounding garden is reasonably weed free, but definitely not in a rural setting where weed seeds can arrive from all directions.

    Please don'y ask me for a solution, I have not found it yet, will let you know when I do

  • Green MagpieGreen Magpie Posts: 665

    I agree about ivy, it's a bit of a thug. Vinca (periwinkle) will cover the ground but it will also cover just about everything else, so it's another one to be cautious about. Pulmonaria is pretty and spreads quite easily. Campanulas and aubretias might work. I never had much luck with ajuga but it's worth a try.

    You're right about shrubs, many of them are very easy to manage and soon fill up the space, leaving little room for weeds. Evergreens such as photinia, euphorbias and hebes need little attention and give you colour all year round. You could also consider a creeping, spreading juniper towards the front of the bed.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,852

    Lamiums are good for groundcover, particularly around shrubs, they spread easily and you can get some with silvery leaves and pretty flowers

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • KoalagirlKoalagirl Posts: 225

    I always stuff my flowerbeds full to bursting and don't have a weed problem, apart from one bed where a buttercup ran from the edge of the lawn into a bed with a hardy geranium in it.  The leaves looked very geraniumish so I didn't spot it until it had got established.  There are generally no bare patches of earth for weed seeds to grow in.  My lawn is a different matter because the grass stops growing in summer when it dries out and then seeds can get in.

    Sometimes ground cover plants can become a problem in themselves.  I have a well behaved low growing campanula when does its job perfectly.  My father has got a rampant campanula which shoots out all over the place and tries to smother the roses.

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892

    Here's a snap of my hardy geraniums, taken last Summer. This is a border alongside a lawn. I never have to do any weeding in it. The plant is so vigourous that it encroaches on the lawn, and will easily smother the grass. I keep it in bounds by strimming it...

    I have some other varieties of hardy geranium that are not as vigourous, and not as successful.

    Kate mentions campanula. I have some campanula, and for me, this is a long way from effective ground cover. That's partly due to my soil, campanula is not rampant im my garden. I find that campanula can become infested with grass, and grass is very hard to remove from it.

    Dove mentions lamium. Many people consider lamium to be an invasive weed. It's a pretty weed. I can believe that lamium might be very successful.

    Alina mentioned ajuga. I don't actually have any of that. But I can believe that could be very successful too.

    Alchemilla is worth a try too.

    There's a very close boundary between 'invasive weed' and effective ground cover.

    You could try a few plants of each, and see which one romps away. One of them would come to dominate the others, depending on your soil and conditions.

  • BerghillBerghill Posts: 2,807

    Well all I can say is, you are luckier than us. I have just spent an hour of more weeding a patch of  Geranium macrorhizum (?Rose root I think) of about 6 feet by 2 feet and it definitely covered the ground. I only managed to remove a 2 gallon ucket of weeds from within it. Dandelions, goosegrass, groundsel, poppers, an annual grass and ragged robin, plus the usual for this garden Ash tree seedlings. tp name but a few.

  • BerghillBerghill Posts: 2,807

    I did type the B in bucket but it failed to work!

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892
    Berghill wrote (see)

    ...I have just spent an hour of more weeding a patch of  Geranium macrorhizum...

    There's a very wide range of hardy geraniums. I have several different ones, mainly because they grown well on clay soil.

    I did say...

    Gary Hobson wrote (see)
    ....I have some other varieties of hardy geranium that are not as vigourous, and not as successful....

    I'm not exactly sure what variety that one is, but it is far more aggressive and vigourous than any of the others. Most hardy geraniums that are sold in garden centres are the well behaved ones. I think I got it from a specialist geranium stand at Gardeners World Live a few years ago.

    Gary Hobson wrote (see)

    ....Alchemilla is worth a try too...

    Someone else has just started a thread about Alchemilla titled 'Ladys Mantle': Lady's Mantle

    They are complaining that the plant is taking over their garden, and want to know how they can get rid of it. One man's weed is another man's ground cover!

  • auntie bettyauntie betty Posts: 208

    My garden's on the edge of countryside, and my next door neighbour's garden is left completely wild, so I have a big problem with weed/wildflower seeds blowing in. I've tried everything to minimise this, but have to say the final solution has been a combination of spring hoeing before everything's come up too far and ground cover planting. Favourites in my garden are ajuga (purple or pale green variagated), wild violets which seed wildly but are so small and pretty and easy to pull and move that they're never a problem, persicaria (the little flat ones), sedums (same), hardy geraniums (some very short, some taller), lamium, epimediums, cotoneaster, bergenia, and heucheras at the front of a border. The violas, ajuga, persicaria and sedums are particularly useful deep into a border as they don't mind being heavily shaded later in the year as everything swamps them, but cover the ground from very early in the year, meaning weeds don't get the jump on them. Its also worth considering putting the odd bit of slab or something anywhere yu habitualy have to stand to prune or tie in larger stuff. Saves you standing on plants. Things like geranium phaeum flop over my paving and hide it - but I know its there and can kind of shuffle it aside when I want to get in there. I've also got several of my shrubs tightly clipped - things like golden spirea and potentillas work well. That stops light penetrating and keeps things weed free round their feet. Shows off the blowsier, freer herbaceous stuff in between better as well. Anyway, yeah, ground cover saved my life...

  • BerghillBerghill Posts: 2,807
    I wish the wild violets we have here were easy to remove. They snap off at the roots and then regrow and they seed themselves into every other plant in the garden and choke them.

    Mulching is a good way to reduce the problem, as long as the mulch is at least 2 inches deep and better 4 inches. then the weeds root into the mulch and are easier to remove. Trouble then is of course that you cannot use a hoe or you are mixing the mulch with the top soil.
  • auntie bettyauntie betty Posts: 208

    Yeah, perhaps I should've been more specific - ground cover is great if your problem is with annual weeds. If its perennials, you actually make life harder, because you can't spray them or dig them up easily. Get rid of them first with a herbicide, would be my advice. My violets don't bother me, Berghill, because the soil where I have them is an average-density loam, so they pull very easily. A heavier soil would obviously be more problematic...

  • Jean GenieJean Genie Posts: 1,724

    Whatever you do don't plant Houttuuynia to use as ground cover I planted some cordata chameleon and it turned into a triffid - very pretty but very invasive !

  • BerghillBerghill Posts: 2,807

    My soil is a peaty silt and fairly light in nature and too well drained for our liking.

    The answer to weeds is probably a combination of heavy mulch and ground cover and starting off with clean soil.

    I did notice though that even in places which have been gardened for a very long time, that there are perennial weeds. Check out the borders  near the Pin Factory at Bodnant Gardens, stuffed with Asters and Campanulas and Ground elder.

  • How about Mulch it's a good weed suppressant and is good for the soil ?

    Nicholas Kiely
    William Grace Ltd

  • auntie bettyauntie betty Posts: 208

    Again, it depends. I manure-mulch for feeding and moisture retention and tidiness. But it doesn't help my annual weeds - they just root in it. But thats because I have constant blow-in from my surrounds. Denying light through close planting and ground cover suits my situation better.

  • Gary HobsonGary Hobson Posts: 1,892
    auntie betty wrote (see)

    .. mulch doesn't help my annual weeds - they just root in it.... . Denying light through close planting and ground cover suits my situation better.

    I don't use mulch and have no experience of it, but my perception is that weeds - both annual and perennial - would eventually colonise mulch, unless the mulch is reapplied every year. For me, that's work and expense, and is not a sustainable solution. Using ground cover is a far more satisfactory answer.

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