Groundcovers are great, but handling weeds in them can be a big challenge. Groundcovers provide advantages both aesthetically and also reduces needs for watering and mulching in some landscape situations. However, there are some disadvantages you should consider when it comes to weed control in beds full of ivy, myrtle, pachysandra, and others.
The easiest way to manage weeds is to spray them with herbicide. When applied to a small weed, it shrivels up and dies, decomposes, and isn’t a big concern. However, when a bed is full of a groundcover plant herbicide injury could occur. There are a few exceptions of specialty herbicides and these cover only a minimal amount of weed varieties. The last thing you want is a dead spot in your pachysandra where you decided to spray chickweed with Round-up. This is why we recommend to not use groundcover in most landscape beds. This is especially true on commercial properties because of its increased maintenance costs.
You have to decide what is more important, having groundcover, or low-maintenance. You can’t have both sometimes. When groundcover is thin, more weeds will grow. When groundcover beds are newer, there will most likely be more weed seed germination because of the soil being disturbed during installation. Also, the soil will heat up more as the sun bakes the earth.
If you decide you go the route of groundcover, just understand this means you will need to pull more weeds than you like. Pre-emergent weed control materials in these areas several times a year can give you relief from those weeds that germinate from seeds, but you may still have other varieties that are persistent or creeping in. You will want to encourage a thick stand of groundcover. This means addressing the insect and disease issues with a Tree & Shrub Care Program, watering in times of drought, and planting groundcover to fill in thinner areas. This may take several years to accomplish your goal.
If that paragraph above sounded like too much work, or too much money involved, you do have another option. You can spray to kill groundcover in your beds and then replace it with mulch. This also may take some time to accomplish as well, because it may attempt to re-grow as well as there may be areas you can’t spray because they are near a shrub or other plant you don’t want to injure with herbicide. In the long run, this will most likely be your less-expensive option vs. maintaining groundcover in beds.
In the end, it basically boils down to your goal and what is important to you. The best way to figure out if groundcover is right for your property or to manage weeds in groundcover beds, find a landscape company that has the full array of services listed above to assist you in whatever decision you make.