Ground Cover Plants: How Many To Plant?

  • 0.5-1
  • Beginner
  • 5-6
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Pencil and paper
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Pencil and paper

Ground cover plants mature to a single mass of foliage creating beautiful garden landscapes. Ground cover planted around garden beds, planters, or other open areas will shade those areas while minimizing weeding. Planting ground cover controls erosion and is useful for crop rotation nutrient replacement.

Correct spacing is the key to the effectiveness and longevity of your ground cover project. Plants spaced too far apart may require unnecessary weeding or may not establish properly. Plants spaced too close together may compete with each other for nourishment and not mature properly. Too many plants can also add unnecessary expense and labor to your project. The exact number of ground cover starts you need for your project can be determined following the simple directions below.

Step 1 - Determine Square Footage

Determine the total square footage of your ground cover planting area. To do this, measure the length and width, in feet, of the areas you are working with. Record these numbers. Multiply the length times the width and the product equals the square foot area expressed as square feet (ft²). If you are working on more than one area, add the square footage of the individual areas together to calculate total square feet. If your area has an irregular shape, break it down into smaller, measurable areas, then add together the individual square footage.

Step 2 – Determine Spacing

Determine the center to center plant spacing, in inches, for the species you are working with. This information should come with the plants. The range is from six to twenty four inches.

Step 3 – Find Corresponding Plant Spacing

Use the table below to find the corresponding plants per square foot multiplier for the center to center spacing you are working with.

Center to center (inches)

Plants per square foot

















Step 4 – Calculate Total Number of Plants

Multiply the plants per square foot multiplier by the total square footage. The product is the number of plant starts that you need.

Consider increasing your total plants by five or ten percent if your area is very irregular and difficult to calculate. The extra plants will also compensate for plant failures during transport or transplanting.

Installing landscape cloth or burlap before you plant the ground cover will maintain weed and erosion control until the ground establishes itself. Cut holes in the fabric using the center to center plant spacing and then plant your starts though the holes.

Many suitable ground cover plant species are available for all growing zones. Match a species according to the plant’s growing preferences for sun, water, temperature, soil drainage, ph and slope to your local growing conditions. Then go for the look you are trying to create. Within three growing seasons your ground cover should develop into attractive maintenance free landscape.