Plant Spacing-How Many Plants to Buy
We receive a fair number of questions concerning spacing of plants, usually in regards to ground covers, and how long it will take for a particular variety to fill, or fully cover an area.
Proper spacing for plants often seems to create confusion. We can not uniformly recommend exactly how far apart plants should be placed, because spacing depends on a number of factors -- what effect is to be achieved, the time/growth factor, growing conditions (light, soil, moisture) in the area that is to be planted, etc.. In addition, plant spacing may vary with the gardening budget, or purpose of the planting. Also, we want to space plants so they may develop fully without crowding each other too much. Before selecting the exact spot for a plant, here are some things to keep in mind:
Appropriate plant selection for the location
What type of soil do you have? How much light does it receive? Is it exposed to wind? What will work on a steep bank? Does it receive foot traffic? View Sun loving groundcovers, Shade loving groundcovers, and Drought tolerant groundcovers.
Design & layout
For large areas, consider higher growing groundcovers, select short growing groundcovers for small areas or steep banks or slopes. Best when planted in groupings.
When to plant
Groundcovers can be planted in the spring and fall. With cooler temperatures of fall, more energy goes into root development thus not competing in the spring with top growth. Groundcovers can be planted in summer provided the area has access to consistent water supply.
Soil preparation (see our article on soil preparation)
Taking the time to prepare the soil and removing the weeds will reduce maintenance time once your plants are in the ground. Once established, groundcovers require little maintenance, help suppress weeds and reduce mulch needs in the landscape.
You can find general guidelines for spacing on our plant labels, but there are factors to consider when deciding how to space your groundcovers. As a general rule, it is best to space plants so the area will be filled in by the second or third season.
Plants have different growth rates. More aggressive growing types such as aegopodium, plumbago, and houttuynia, are going to grow fast, so subsequently they can be spaced further apart.
Budget & time
You can space at greater distances and save money, but that also means you may need to divide and move clumps, and/or wait longer for plants to fully fill in a designated area.
General Spacing Recommendations:
|Aegopodium ||12-18" |
|Anacyclus ||8-12" |
|Ajuga ||8-12" |
|Coreopsis ||12-18" |
|Delosperma ||8-12" |
|Dianthus ||10-12" |
|Festuca ||12-18" |
|Geranium ||12-18" |
|Hakonechloa ||12-18" |
|Heuchera ||12-18" |
|Heucherella ||12-18" |
|Iberis ||8-12" |
|Isotoma ||8-12" |
|Lysmachia ||10-12" |
|Microbiota ||24-36" |
|Nepeta ||12-18" |
|Pachysandra ||8-12" |
|Phlox, creeping ||12-18" |
|Rosemary ||18-24" |
|Sagina ||8-12" |
|Sedum ||10-12" |
|Sempervivum ||6-8" |
|Thyme, creeping ||10-18" |
|Tiarella ||12-18" |
|Vinca ||8-12" |
|Viola ||8-12" |
We recommend you do not fertilize the first year of planting.
Unless your site is under irrigation or evenly moist all season long, consider using soaker hoses. Even drought tolerant plants need water to get established. Water 1" of water per week on newly established beds.
We recommend 2-3" of mulch. Stay away from commerical plastic or spun-bonded landscape cloth. Weed seeds blow on the cloth and set seed making it difficult to remove and it can prevent plants with runners from growing well.
Check out our Plant Calculator for help in estimating number of plants needed for a specific area.