Ground covers are low-growing plants that prevent weed establishment and act as a living mulch. Desirable ground covers compete minimally for nutrients, light, water or space. They require minimal maintenance and return organic matter and nutrients to the soil.
Three factors help determine whether changing an existing ground cover is justified. Ask yourself these questions:
Objectives of using ground covers:
Ground cover alternatives include:
Grasses: rye (annual, perennial), perennial bluegrass, redtop, nimbleweed, fescues (creeping red, red, sheep, hard)
Legumes: birdsfoot trefoil, crownvetch, clovers (Dutch white, crimson, Ladino), lespedeza (dwarf, sericea)
Using harvestable crops: (alfalfa wheat, strawberries, pumpkins) as alternative ground covers will impose the cultural requirements of those crops on your holly maintenance regime and will, therefore, generally be impractical to consider.
When selecting an alternative ground cover, consult with you local Virginia Cooperative Extension agent for help in selecting a cover well suited for your location in Virginia.
Where desirable ground covers can't be established, mulch young hollies for weed control. Organic mulches (plant derived) include shredded bark, bark chips, cocoa bean hulls and pine needles. Apply mulches 2-3 inches thick, never touching the holly's stem. Obtain added weed control by using a layer of landscape fabric under the mulch, or by using a circle of fabric alone around each plant.
Disclaimer: Commercial products are named in this publication for informational purposes only. Virginia Cooperative Extension does not endorse these products and does not intend discrimination against other products which also may be suitable.
Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
May 1, 2009