Plugs are expensive. Like, really expensive. Planting densely is important in native landscape design, but that means adding a lot of plants to your order, especially ground covers. Growing your own plugs from seed is a great idea, but ground cover plants can be slow to germinate. So, is there a better method to consider? That’s what we are testing here at Prairie Oaks with our new Ground Cover Garden.

Our new garden will consist of six bean-shaped beds with varying light conditions from partial sun to full shade. In them, we will be growing nine different species of ground covers: May Apple, Wild Ginger, Violet Wood Sorrel, Common Blue Violet, Pussytoes, Palm Sedge, Christmas Fern, Maiden Hair Fern, and Lady Fern.

What is a ground cover?

Ground covers, as the name implies, cover ground. Okay, maybe there is a bit more to it than that. Ground covers are plant species which are adept at filling in spaces and gaps in landscapes. They are generally good at spreading out on their own, and to do this, they often utilize rhizomes.

Rhizomes let a plant spread out without having to seed. The rhizomes creep horizontally underground, and from them, new clones of the original plant can sprout. The key for our garden plan is that although they are clones of the original plant, the new plants can be divided from it.

Diagram from Research Gate

Our plan

We will be starting our garden from seed (except for the ferns) this fall. A lot of the plants we picked require a period of overwintering, so getting them in the dirt now makes sense. We will plant rather densely so that come summer, we will have lots of young plants to choose from. Then, whenever we need to fill a space in the landscape, we can just pull from this plant stock. However, we will make sure to only take every other plant so that we still have a foundation to regenerate the plant population from. Over the course of the year, whatever is left in the beds will shoot out rhizomes and fill back up with new growth. In time, I also expect them to self-seed for added density. Following this strategy will give us a constant supply of plants to pull from throughout the year without needing to replant.

Want to see how it all turns out? Make sure to follow our Instagram @prairie.oaks for regular updates!

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