Ground cover around trees

Ground Cover Plants: Tips For Planting Ground Covers Under A Tree

Trees make attractive focal points in any landscaping design, but the ground around their trunks can often be a problem. Grass might have a hard time growing around roots and the shade a tree offers can discourage even the hardiest of flowers. Instead of leaving the circle around your tree a line of bare earth, why not install a ring of attractive ground cover? These plants thrive on neglect, requiring less sunlight and moisture than most other garden plants. Surround your trees with circles of ground cover and you’ll give your landscape a professional, finished look.

Ground Cover Plants

Choose your ground cover plants according to the trees around which they’ll live. Some trees, like the Norway maple, have very thick coverage and offer almost no sunlight underneath. Others have sparser branches and smaller leaves, giving you more options to choose from. Find out how large each plant type will eventually spread to determine how many plants you will need to cover the entire area around the tree.

Some good choices for ground cover plants under trees include:

  • Ajuga
  • Lungwort
  • Foamflower
  • Creeping juniper
  • Liriope/monkey grass
  • Periwinkle
  • Pachysandra
  • Wild violets
  • Hosta

Planting Ground Covers under a Tree

Like any other part of the landscape you install, planting ground covers under a tree starts with preparing the planting spot. You can plant ground coverage for trees at any time of the year, but early in the spring and later in the fall are the best.

Mark a circle around the grass at the base of the tree to indicate the size of your proposed bed. Lay a hose on the ground to indicate the size of the bed, or mark the grass with spray paint. Dig the soil inside the circle and remove all the grass and weeds growing inside.

Use a trowel to dig individual holes for planting the ground cover plants. Stagger the holes instead of digging them in a grid design, for the best eventual coverage. Drop a handful of all-purpose fertilizer in each hole before placing the plants. Leave enough room between plants to allow them to fill in the spaces when full grown. Lay a layer of bark or other organic mulch in between the plants to help retain moisture and to shade out any emerging roots.

Water the plants once a week until they begin spreading and have established themselves. At this point, natural rainfall should provide all the water your ground cover under trees should need, except in extremely dry period of drought.

Japanese gardens utilize elements such as ponds, streams, islands and hills to create miniature reproductions of natural scenery. The following are some of the most commonly employed elements:

Stones, Gravel and Sand

Since ancient times, stones have played an important role in Japanese culture. In Shinto, prominent large stones are worshiped as kami, while gravel was used to designate sacred grounds, as seen at some ancient shrines such as the Ise Shrines or Kyoto’s Kamigamo Shrine.

In today’s gardens, large stones symbolize mountains and hills, set decorative accents and serve as the building material for bridges and pathways. Smaller rocks and gravel are used to line ponds and streams. Meanwhile, dry gardens are comprised entirely of stones, with larger stones symbolizing mountains, islands and waterfalls, while gravel and sand replace water.

Ancient sand structure at Kamigamo ShrineDry garden at Daitokuji’s DaiseninRaked sand at GinkakujiPebble lined pond at Sumpu CastleJapan’s largest rock garden at Kongobuji Temple on Koyasan Large, beautiful or unusual stones have been considered status symbols (Nijojo Castle)

Ponds, Streams and Waterfalls

Ponds are a central element of most gardens and often represent real or mythical lakes or seas. Sometimes they provide a habitat for carps (koi) which introduce additional color and life to the garden. In dry gardens, ponds, streams and waterfalls are symbolized by raked gravel, sand and upright stones.

In recreational types of gardens, ponds can be used for boating or enjoyment from pavilions built out over the water or from plazas and embankments on shore, which often served as the site for aristocratic poetry or moon viewing parties in past centuries.

Carp are commonly found in ponds (Korakuen) KinkakujiStreams feed larger ponds in Motsuji Temple (left) and Kenrokuen (right) Waterfall at Ginkakuji Raked gravel representing rough seas at Daitokuji’s Zuihoin Pure Land style pond at Motsuji Temple

Islands and Bridges

Islands are another long standing component of Japanese gardens, and range in size from single stone outcroppings to large islands big enough to support buildings. They often represent real islands or have religious symbolism, such as those built to resemble turtles and cranes, symbols of longevity and health, or Horai, a sacred mystical mountain in Taoism.

Bridges are another common feature that is used to connect islands and cross streams or ponds. They are built of stone or wood, and range in complexity from a simple slab of uncut rock laid across a stream to elaborate, covered wooden structures that span more than ten meters.

Large ponds often have high arching Chinese style bridges under which boats can pass (Korakuen) Covered wooden bridge at Heian Jingu Stone bridge at Rikugien Wooden zig zag bridge at Korakuen Stone island amid a sea of gravel at Ryoanji A unique bridge made of coral at Shikinaen in Okinawa


Trees, shrubs, lawns and flowers of all kinds are used in Japanese gardens. Plants, such as maple and cherry trees, are often chosen for their seasonal appeal and are expertly placed to emphasize these characteristics. Conversely, pine trees, bamboo and plum trees are held in particular esteem for their beauty during the winter months when other plants go dormant. Mosses are also used extensively, with over a hundred species appearing at Kokedera alone.

Plants are carefully arranged around the gardens to imitate nature, and great efforts are taken to maintain their beauty. Trees, shrubs and lawns are meticulously manicured, and delicate mosses are swept clean of debris. During winter, straw, burlap and ropes are used to insulate and protect the trees and shrubs from the freezing snow, while straw wraps protect against bug infestations.

Manicured shrubs at Adachi Museum of Art Maple trees at Koishikawa Korakuen Pine and cherry trees at Shinjuku Gyoen Bamboo grove at Kodaiji Temple Moss covered statues at Sanzenin A variety of moss on display at Ginkakuji Winterized plants at Rikugien


Larger gardens, especially the strolling gardens of the Edo Period, make use of large man made hills. The hills may represent real or mythical mountains, and some can be ascended and have a viewpoint from where visitors are treated to a panoramic view out over the garden.

Hill representing Mount Fuji at Suizenji Park View from the artificial hill at the center of Rikugien


Lanterns come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have been a common element of Japanese garden design throughout history. They are usually made of stone and placed in carefully selected locations, such as on islands, at the ends of peninsulas or next to significant buildings, where they provide both light and a pleasing aesthetic. Lanterns are often paired with water basins (see more details below), which together make up a basic component of tea gardens.

Cut stone lantern at Shimogamo Shrine, snow lantern at Kenrokuen and pedestal lantern at Rikugien Buried shaft lantern at Sento Palace Row of pedestal lanterns at Saimyoji and uncut pedestal lantern at Yoshikien Garden

Water Basins

Many gardens contain stone water basins (tsukubai), which are used for ritual cleansing, especially ahead of tea ceremonies. The basins vary from simple depressions in uncut stone to elaborate carved stone creations, and are usually provided with a bamboo dipper for scooping up water. These days they often appear as a decorative addition more than for a practical purpose. Water basins are an essential element of tea gardens and are often paired with lanterns.

Stone lantern and water basin pairings in Urakuen (left) and Kotoin (right) Basins at Chusonji Temple and Ryoanji Temple Cut stone water basin at Jojakkoji Temple in Arashiyama


Paths became an integral part of Japanese gardens with the introduction of strolling and tea gardens. Strolling gardens feature circular paths constructed of stepping stones, crushed gravel, sand or packed earth, which are carefully prescribed to lead visitors to the best – albeit controlled – views of the garden. Winding paths also serve to segregate different areas, such as an isolated grove or hidden pond, from each other so that they may be contemplated individually.

Packed earth paths lead through Korakuen Stone paved path at Kotoin Stepping stone path through Heian Jingu’s Dragon Pond that was featured in the movie Lost in Translation


Many types of gardens were built to be viewed from inside a building, such as palace, villa or temple. In contrast, gardens meant to be entered and enjoyed from within, use buildings as a part of the garden’s composition, including pavilions, tea houses and guest houses.

Higashi Honganji’s Shoseien Garden The celebrated Joan Teahouse in Urakuen Pavilion at Kenrokuen

Borrowed Scenery

Borrowed scenery (shakkei) is the concept of integrating the background landscape outside the garden into the design of the garden. Both, natural objects such as mountains and hills and man made structures such as castles, can be used as borrowed scenery. In modern times, skyscrapers have become a (usually) unintentional borrowed scenery for some gardens in the cities.

Tenryuji borrows the scenery of the Arashiyama mountains, and Ritsurin Koen the backdrop of Mount Shiun Korakuen includes nearby Okayama Castle as borrowed scenery Hama Rikyu’s borrowed skyscraper backdrop is unintentional but fascinating

Check out these 18 Flowering Ground Cover Plants, you’ll find some best low growing plants on this list, they’re not only easy to grow but looks beautiful too.

1. Bigroot Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum)

This old fashioned tough and aggressive perennial ground cover is a good choice for gardeners who want to grow low maintenance plants. The plant barely grows up to 1-1.5 feet tall and loves the sun. Blooms appear when the weather warms up in colors like pink, red or pale pink with interesting variegated foliage. You can also plant it in groups under the trees, the bigroot geranium is a drought tolerant plant and best grown in temperates under USDA Zones 4 to 8b.

2. Spotted Dead Nettle

Dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) is notable for both its variegated foliage and its dense clusters of flowers, which appear in a variety of colors, including white, pink and purple (depending on the cultivar). This low growing plant can be grown diversely in different climates (USDA Zones 3-10), providing it cool, moist soil and shade to part shade. However, it must be noted that dead nettle can be invasive and considered as a weed by many gardeners.

3. Moss Rose (Portulaca)

This pretty little plant with needle-like foliage and tiny colorful flowers looks absolutely stunning. It is an annual or perennial (*in warm tropical and subtropical climates) ground cover that spreads densely. The blooms come in yellow, pink, red, white, orange and many more colors. Moss rose is very tolerant of poor conditions and dry soil.

4. Helianthemum

Also called ‘Sun Rose’ or ‘Rock Rose’, this subshrub comes from the family Cistaceae and barely grows up to 1 feet tall. Providing a well-drained soil and full sun (part shade in warmer climates) it blooms happily. The showy flowers of this genus come in shades of orange, pink, yellow, scarlet, and white. There are some varieties available that bloom for a long time from spring to fall (autumn). Grows in USDA Zones 5-9, this plant usually dies back in the colder regions when the winter perks up, whereas in warmer zones it remains evergreen.

5. Lilyturf (Liriope)

Lilyturf is neither a grass nor a lily. This showy and tough groundcover has lush and deep green, grass-like foliage ordered in slightly upright tufts. Spikes of violet or lavender color flowers appear from late summer until the fall.

Lilyturf (USDA Zones 6-10) requires full sun in colder regions but in warm subtropical or tropical climate, you can grow it in dappled shade. It can be grown between tall shrubs and underneath the canopy of trees, also use it for edging walkways or as and a low border accent. Liriope ‘Muscari’ and Liriope ‘Spicata’ are two most popular varieties.

6. Sweet Woodruff

Sweet woodruff is an excellent ground cover if you want to add fragrance to your garden. Grows best in part shade to full shade and on well-drained soil, this plant can grow up to a height of only 8-10 inches (When in bloom). It starts to bloom prolifically from mid-spring, sweet woodruff leaves also release fragrance when crushed.

7. Creeping Thyme

Thymus serpyllum is a low-growing aromatic flowering herb that is perennial and hardy in USDA Zones 4-9. Just like other thyme varieties it is edible too. This tiny plant barely grows up to 3 inches tall. It is deer resistant and an amazing alternative of grasses.

8. Brass Button

If you’re searching for a lawn substitute on which you can set foot without thinking much then consider growing brass button. It also forms yellow-golden flowers that appear from spring to summer. Brass buttons are hardy in USDA Zones 5-10 (but evergreen only in Zone 8-10), growing in temperates to subtropical climates both.

9. Creeping Phlox

This ground cover has pleasant flowers that appear in pastel hues. Growing this sturdy, low-maintenance plant is possible in USDA Zones 3-8, it is the plant that can be used in landscaping to hide the unsightly slope or other difficult areas as it rambles between rocks or cascades down. It can also be used as a bordering plant around the flowerbeds.

10. Sedum

The genus ‘Sedum’ has a diverse group of ornamental succulent plants, you can grow low growing sedums as a ground cover in full sun and well-drained soil. Yellow flowers appear in summer. The best thing about sedums is there are about 400 species of them around the world that can be grown diversely in every climate.

11. Campanula Portenschlagiana

Campanula portenschlagiana or ‘Dalmatian Bellflower’ is a beautiful annual or perennial plant that forms a mat of small rounded leaves. The flowers are star-shaped, blue-purple in color that blooms from spring through summer. Relatively cold hardy but requires shelter when temperature dips below much. It grows in full sun and in the part shade too, on a fairly loose, well drained and alkaline soil.

12. Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is one of the easiest and best flowering ground covers. Its fragrant little bell-shaped white flowers grow well in shade and have long blooming period. Growing lily of the valley plant is possible in cool temperate zones in USDA Zones 2-9.

13. Vinca minor

One of the most popular groundcovers, it is a hardy plant in both cold and warm climates under USDA Zones 4-10a that spreads quickly. It blooms prolifically, is easy to grow and tolerates poor soil and drought. Provide it full sun in the cold climate and part shade in warm climates.

14. Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’

This low growing beautiful perennial blooms from summer to fall. Good for country style or cottage style garden and also suitable for containers. With its spiky blue blooms, it looks good with bright green foliage. Veronica ‘Goodness Grows’ requires full sun and regular but moderate watering.

15. Firecracker (Russelia equisetiformis)

A warm climate plant that grows best in warm temperates, subtropics, and tropics (USDA Zones 8b-11). This drought tolerant plant is loved by nectar-feeding species of birds, and by butterflies. Fluffy, errant and wispy stems and foliage cascade down and camouflages the unsightly areas. It is suitable for slopes, borders, retaining walls and containers too.

16. Lamb’s Ear

One of the best flowering ground cover plants on our list due to its thick attractive silver-grey-green foliage that forms gentle and velvety rosettes, not only the foliage, its purple colored flowers that appear from late spring are appealing too. This excellent edging plant only grows up 12 inches tall in part sun to full sun under USDA Zones 4-9.

17. Society Garlic

Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) is also known as ‘Pink agapanthus’. With its edible garlic-flavored purple flowers and clump forming grass like blue-grey foliage, this tough and low maintenance ground cover is a good option for those who live in warmer climates. Suitable for warm temperates, subtropics and tropics under USDA Zones 7-11.

18. Ajuga

Ajuga Reptans ‘Jungle Beauty’

Ajuga, which is also called ‘Bugleweed’ is a genus of perennial or annual flowering plants. It becomes an excellent ground cover, sometimes invasive. Many of its species are very popular, especially ‘Ajuga reptans’ that spread through its runners, having attractive foliage that forms a dense carpet-like mat and deep blue flower spikes. It is possible to grow ajuga in both cold and warm climates (USDA Zones, 3-10).

Lawns and Ground Covers in Landscape Design

4. New lawn foundation

The foundation of a problem-free lawn is land that has been proper drainage and watering system. However, the ground should slope gently and evenly so that rain water is carried steadily away from the land. Moreover, there should be no low spots in the lawn to collect and hold water as well. Most land has a general slope in one direction, and a well-planned lawn and its surroundings (house) are placed to take advantage of it. It is well established that the following steps should be considered all the time for a new, healthy lawn foundation. They are;

  • Soil preparation

  • Plants preparation

  • Nutrition adding

  • The Bed preparation

  • The time selection for plant grass

  • Seeds selection and sowing

  • Springs, Plugs and Sodding

Soil preparation

The preparation of soil for lawn foundation has some steps. The first step is to loosening of the subsoil because the heavy traffic may have packed the soil hard that nothing less than a pickax can penetrate it. Obviously neither water nor roots can pass such a compacted soil. Thus, after the rough grading is done, but before the topsoil is replaced, it is recommend that the entire area be tilled with a rotary tiller to a depth of 10-15 cm. These effects the health of the lawn subsequently planted in the area.

Organic matter, with proper fertilizer, can convert subsoil into a satisfactory growing medium for grass. Hence, in heavy clay soils organic matter opens the soil’s structure, improving drainage and allowing air and water easier access to the root zone. In light, sandy soils it can acts as a sponge, soaking up and holding moisture and nutrients.

Aeration is also important step and done by a machine called an aerator (a drum-shaped device) that fitted with hollow tines, pulls plugs of soil from the lawn, leaving holes that permit movement of air, nutrients, beneficial microorganisms, and water as well as creating more growing room for the grass roots. However, when rough grading is completed and topsoil put back, the soil conditioning should be start immediately. Some organic material to improve the soil’s texture, with a fertilizer may be needed to bring the soil into the proper pH range. Moreover, soil amendment may be needed to alter the pH factor at this stage. It can reduce future maintenance if in selecting a ground cover that pH preferences are close to the natural pH of the soil. Hence a numbers of organic materials are suitable for ground covers such as; well-rotted manure, spent mushroom soil, compost, leaf mold etc.. One of the most popular and most widely available types is peat moss.

A 5-8 cm layer of peat moss spread evenly on the surface and thoroughly incorporated to a depth of 15-20 cm could be adequate for most soils. However, it is important to note that ground covers do not have the same fertilizer requirements as grass. But it is advisable to add some nutrients to the soil to get the young plants off. Moreover, ground cover fertilizers, have less nitrogen and higher amounts of phosphorus and potassium than grass fertilizers. These produce strong roots and healthy top growth. Hence, the fertilizer should contain N, P and K elements in the right proportion. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the soil at the rate of 10 to 15 kg per 100 m2 area it in thoroughly along with the peat moss. The peat moss, fertilizer with other materials can be useful into the soil quite satisfactorily with a four-tined spading fork if the area is small; when the area to be useful is of any appreciable size, it is easier to use a rotary tiller.

After the soil is prepared, the land should be prepared for planting. However, on slopes, a diamond pattern can help prevent gullies forming during a rainfall. For that reason, there are two steps that should be taken to protect the soil around the roots of new plants.

  • The first step; setting the plants into scooped-out pockets, which serve as catch basins for rainfall and act as moisture reservoirs for the young plants.

  • The second step; the entire area should be mulched. The kind of mulch depends on the size and scale of the plant. Around woody plants like juniper and bearberry, coarse mulch like wood chips is suitable. On the other hand, for small creeping plants like Corsican mint or thyme, fine-textured mulch like buckwheat hulls or finely ground bark is more appropriate.

Plants preparation

It is well known that the cost of ground covers is important criteria for selection. However, although some varieties can be started from seed, for quicker results most are purchased as young plants, and plants in large numbers can be expensive. But gardeners who want to economize can purchase only enough stock for one small area, and then propagate their own new plants from that parent stock. Moreover, many ground covers root and transplant rather easily.

One of the most common form of propagation is to take cutting from the ends of the stems. A cutting should be 7-15 cm long. Strip the cutting of its lower leaves and dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone powder. Then plant the cutting in a 7 cm pot filled with coarse sand, peat moss, perlite or a mixture of equal parts of coarse sand and peat moss. Water the cutting well and then slip it, pot and all, inside a clear plastic bag that will serve for the rooting period as an individual “greenhouse.” However, the place the encased cutting in a warm, partly shaded place until new growth begins, indicating that roots have formed. If a number of cuttings are being grown, they can be set in a flat, a shallow box in which seedlings are started, filled to within 2 cm of the top with damp rooting medium. Once the roots have formed, remove the cutting from the plastic bag or the glass-topped rooting medium, knock it out of the pot, soil mixture and plant it wherever need in the garden. It is also important to note that the ground covers should not transplant any rooted cutting outdoors later than two months before frost is expected. Hence, if in complicated situations, it is a good idea to keep the plants through the winter in a cold frame and set them out in the spring.

However, there are some ground covers that should not take cuttings until before frost, when the growth is mature. The best rooting bed for these cuttings is a flat, 7 to 10 cm deep, containing a mixture of equal parts of peat moss and coarse sand. If kept in a cool place (5-12 0C), they should have rooted by spring. At this point it is better to plant them outdoors in a protected spot until they have become well established; the following year they will be sturdy enough to flourish.

Another method of propagating, especially for herbaceous plants, is by division these plants develop thick crowns of roots and stems, which can be broken apart. Plant the separated sections quickly, before the roots dry, watering thoroughly, and they should flourish as additional plants in your ground-cover bed.

A third method of propagating is by layering. However, layering is best begun in early spring. To layer a woody plant, notch the underside of a stem and dust it with rooting hormone powder, then pin it against the ground with a forked stick or a loop of wire and cover it with a mound of soil. Moreover, the soil should be kept steadily damp. Roots will eventually sprout from the notched section of the stem, which can then be removed from the ground, severed from the parent plant and set out as a new plant.

Nutrition adding

Ground covers, like other plants, benefit from an annual application of fertilizer in the spring just as their season of new growth begins. As mention above, a typical fertilizer application would be 10-15 kg per 100 m2 used in setting out the plants. However, fertilizer should be sprinkled over the surface of the ground on a day when the foliage is completely dry, and watered in thoroughly as a result none remains on the foliage to burn it.

After that, maintenance is of minor concern for the balance of the season. About the only left is the removal of leaves that fall among ground cover plants, and they can be dispatched easily with a stream of water from a garden hose.

The bed preparation

The simplest way to get these soil supplements into the ground is to till them in all in one operation. For that, first spread them on the topsoil. Then, with a rotary tiller, go over the soil in a crisscross pattern until the added materials and existing soil are well blended to a depth of 10 or 15 cm. After the surface dries out, it should be raked with a garden rake to remove stray roots and stones. However, this is one that many gardeners find frustrating, mainly because they do not handle the rake properly.

Raking, no matter how carefully it is done, often leaves small irregularities in the soil’s surface. However, the best way to level out these high and low spots is to use a drag a ladder. The texture of the top of the soil need not be very fine; in fact, it helps if the soil clumps are a little rough, 0,3 to 2,0 cm in diameter, so that the grass seeds will fall into the crevices in the surface.

However, most new beds of ground cover benefit from a mulch to help hold down weeds and keep the soil moist. Not only does the mulch shade the ground to prevent weed seeds from sprouting, its soft texture also makes stray weeds easier to pull out. Moreover, weeds can be very troublesome in ground cover because they are so inaccessible, and perennial weeds can be a particular problem because they will continue to sprout from any stray pieces of root left in the ground. In pulling a perennial weed, always pull all of them properly.

Mulching not only keeps weeds away from ground covers but also insulates the soil, keeping it cool and moist. However, even after the ground cover has overgrown it, the mulch will continue to serve as a water absorbing medium beneath the plants. For the first year or so, a bed of ground cover will usually need a frequently watering even in areas where the annual rainfall is sufficient. This is especially important during dry spells. Moreover, mulching protects the soil and seeds from driving rain, especially on slopes, holding them in place until the grass roots are well developed.

One of the cleanest mulch for a lawn is straw. One bale of straw is enough to cover 100 m2, since only a thin layer is needed, three or four straws deep. The soil should still be visible through the mulch. However, straw has one drawback: it may contain seeds of undesirable plants. It is better, therefore, to put the straw several weeks in advance, and to open it and wet it down; this will allow any grain or weed seeds to germinate and die before using the straw on the lawn. But, it is important to notice that not use hay instead of straw. Straw is the stems of cereal grains wheat, buckwheat, oats all of which are annual plants that die after one season and there is no trouble for lawn. But hay is full of seeds of wild perennial meadow grasses and their presence can create problems for years. Moreover, salt hay is the exception which is native to shore areas and its seeds normally do not germinate in ordinary garden soil.

In windy locations, straw mulch should be anchored with string stretched between pegs and kept moist so that it will not blow away. Natural mulches like straw can be left in place to rot into the soil, or can be raked up when the seedlings are 3-4 cm high.

In cold climates, the aim of winter protection is not to keep the ground warm, but to prevent it from thawing and freezing, with the resultant heaving that forces plant roots out of the soil. However, one of the best protections any ground cover can have is a blanket of snow. The protective covering should not put before the ground is frozen, and do not remove it until the ground has thawed in the spring.

The time selection for plant grass

The ideal time to plant a lawn is at the beginning of a period when grass growth is most aggressive and weed growth is slow. Although, this period varies with the region and the climate, cool-climate grasses begin new growth in early spring, reach a peak of activity during the late spring and early summer, and then lapse into relative inactivity during mid-summer. But by summer’s end, when autumn rains begin, they grow luxuriantly again until slowed by cold weather late in the fall.

Perennial weeds such as; mouse ear, chickweed, dandelion, ground ivy and others developed in cool weather; they are in direct competition with desirable grasses throughout the year and the choice of planting time has no effect on competition from them. But annual weeds are easier to deal with. While many such as common chickweed, mayweed and pepper grass compete with grasses in early spring, all slow or stop their growth in fall.

In cool-climate regions, it is typically practices; one of the best possible times to sow grass seeds in cool-climates is in late summer or early fall, up to two months before the ground freezes. From that point on, it is advisable to start planting early spring. However, seeds may be sown after the ground is frozen, so that they will begin to grow with the first warm weather of spring and get an early start in their competition with weeds.

In warm-climate regions, it is better to start new lawn not with seed but with pieces of growing grass. Live grass can be installed in three forms:

  • Sod, large rectangles of turf cut free of the ground,

  • Plugs, which are small pieces of sod each about 5 to 10 cm across and 5 cm deep,

  • Springs, which are bits of stems with several blades of grass and bits of root attached.

However, the habits of grasses dictate planting times, and variations in weed growth structure cannot easily be taken advantage of warm-climate grasses, such as Bermuda grass, Centipede grass, Zoysia grass, St. Augustine grass, Carpet grass and Bahia grass, are at their best during the hot days of summer. The time to start a new lawn in warm regions is just before this period of rapid growth begins, in the spring or early summer. Hence, grasses started then from sprigs and given proper care will become well established before they enter their dormant period and turn brown in fall.

Seeds selection and sowing

As mention above, mixtures contain some grasses that thrive in sun and others that grow in shade, since most lawns have areas of both; each type of grass eventually predominates in the area best suited to it. But before establishing a mixture, it is better to know about the nature of each of its ingredients.

Most grass seed is usually sold by weight, and the package specifies what percentage of the total weight is accounted for by each type grass, as well as how large an area the seed should cover. Kentucky bluegrass, for instance, has about 5,000,000 seeds per kg; fescues average 1,200,000 seeds per kg; rye grasses contain only 500,000 seeds per kg. Thus a mixture labeled 52 per cent bluegrass, 80 per cent germination; 35 per cent creeping red fescue, 80 per cent germination; 35 per cent creeping red fescue, 80 per cent germination; and 10 per cent Chewings fescue, 85 per cent germination, might seem to contain about half bluegrasses, a sun-loving type, and half fescues, which are shade tolerant (the remaining 3 per cent is inert matter). In fact the mixture contains more than four times as many useful bluegrasses as fescue seeds.

Once a seed selected, there are two important things to consider when using it. That are;

  • Sow the seed as evenly as possible,

  • Cover it with a very thin layer of soil.

As like spreading fertilizer; first lay down a double swath of seeds at each and of the lawn as a turn-around areas, than overlap all rows slightly to prevent bare strips.

Seeds of fine-textured grasses, which make the most attractive lawns, should be covered with soil to a depth no greater than 2-8 cm; more than that and the seeds may not germinate. There are two methods for covering seeds lightly; neither covers all the seeds, but the first watering will carry most of the unburied seeds down into the soil crevices.

A practical approach especially useful for small areas as; a leaf rake is inverted and dragged with slight pressure across the seeded surface; the inverted tines bury some seeds and leave behind small stripes into which others fall, to be covered when the stripes disintegrate during the first sprinkling. However, for larger areas, employs a piece of chain link fencing or a flexible wire and rubber door mat, to which a rope is attached. When it is pulled, it tumbles the soil, covering seeds as well as footprints and leaving behind a crumbly surface percipient to moisture.

Another approaches as; after seeding a lawn it has been rolled it once lightly. It is suggested that simply water the lawn; sprinkling is necessary, and it will settle the surface sufficiently in most cases.

Springs, Plugs and Sodding

Springs are cheaper than plugs. However, plugs are easier to handle. Springs are generally set 15 cm apart, plugs 9 cm apart, on a planting grid marked in the soil. Plugs are set into the ground upright, with the leaf bases level with at least part of the leafy portion above the surface. After planting, firm the surrounding soil to assure contact between the dirt and the roots, then water the lawn gently but thoroughly. Mulching is not necessary because the plants spread rapidly and soon come together. Until they do, weeds can e kept down by hoeing; using weed killing chemicals on a newly sprigged or plugged lawn is as dangerous as it is on a newly seeded one.

Sodding that are laying a growing turf in place piece by piece, is one of the fastest way to create a lawn. However, sod can be supplied from sod farms and nurseries in strips a 30 cm to 40 cm wide and up to 2.0 m. long. Ideally, the strips should be cut from their original growing bed so that the root zone in the strips is no deeper than 2 cm. This requirement may seem contrary to good garden practice, which ordinarily demands the deepest roots possible for transplanting. But in fact, thick sod will take a long time to push roots down into the soil beneath and take hold, while a 2 cm sod, given plenty of moisture, will begin to send out new feeder roots that will knit to the soil beneath it in a few days.

Option 1: Mulching around the base

Updated: July 8, 2017

Leaving the base of the tree bare can often look unkempt or out of place since it’s not easy to mow right up to the edge of a tree or to even weed-eat around it carefully. Plantings or mulching around the base of the tree trunk can not only help protect roots from the mower’s blades, but also make your existing trees a part of the landscape design and reduce the amount of weed-eating that is necessary. Here are some of my favorite ideas I have come across.

While this method reduces the amount of weeds at the base of the tree, you still have the problem of weed-eating at the edge of the mulch to create a nice clean edge. And besides, it’s not that interesting.

Pine mulch at the base of this tree Wood mulch at the base of the tree

***Based on a comment from a reader, I am including this brief information on mulching around the base of a tree: Mulch should not be deeper than 2-4 inches and should not touch the base of the tree. For more information on properly mulching around the base of a tree, visit:

Option 2: Plantings encircling the trunk

I like this option – but it won’t work if there isn’t enough soil around the base of your tree or enough water. Consider the amount of water that will be available when you select your plants. If you put something that requires moderate water levels, you may want to incorporate a watering system.

I really like these hostas (below), but you would have to add some soil to make this work. The daylilies are very nice as well. They’re pretty hardy but require several hours of sun. Recently, I have fallen for cast iron plant. It is hardy, usually staying green throughout the winter, and looks so classic.

You can also plant things a little further from the trunk of the tree and mulch in between the plants and the tree trunk. This will reduce the competition for water between the plants and the tree roots while also controlling weeds around the tree base.

Daylilies make a nice border around the tree but require a decent amount of sun Hostas look great around the base of this tree but you’d have to have decent soil and adequate water. I love this look! Cast iron plant is quickly becoming one of my favorites Nice use of shade plants around the base of this tree The owners of this tree created a raised bed and added shrubs These yucca were volunteers in my yard but I transplanted them and as they grow they will make a nice surround for the base of this tree This planting is beautiful and fits the antebellum home nicely – cast iron plant and liriope edged with bricks Hostas Around the Tree Base

Option 3: Groundcover plantings

Be careful when using groundcover around the base of your trees – some can be quite aggressive and aren’t a good idea when there are other plantings around (liriope). However, the thick groundcover makes a nice smooth transition from trunk to ground.

Combination of variegated liriope and English ivy. Be cautious with ivy as it can get invasive. Mondo grass around base of tree This groundcover only works when planted in a stand alone bed. It definitely prevents weeds. The liriope creates a nice edge and border, but it is not recommended to be planted in mass with other plants. Vinca can take over. It works here b/c it is in a bed separated from other plantings and edged with rocks Vinca can take over. It works here b/c it is in a bed separated from other plantings and edged with rocks

Option 4: Enclose it in a bed

In some spots, it only makes sense to incorporate the tree into a fully planted flower bed. Here are some photos from my yard and a yard I saw in Pennsylvania.

This pecan was incorporated into a bed which includes hostas, ferns, and some containers This is how the same pecan tree and bed looks in winter In PA I saw this bed which incorporated this small tree Gravel path with shrubs under 5 trees Lantana bed around pecan tree

In this area in my yard, there are so many trees clustered in one spot that there was always bare ground and leaves. I decided to put in a nice path and bench and create a shade garden full of azaleas and hydrangeas to make it a nice sitting area. Because hydrangeas require moist soil, I incorporated a sprinkler system in to the beds.

Gravel path with shrubs under 5 treesGravel path with shrubs under 5 trees

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