The demand for groundcover plants in residential and commercial landscapes is increasing due to several reasons, such as aesthetic appeal of masses of these low-growing plants in small- to medium-sized areas of the landscape, enhanced environmental impact by reducing storm water runoff velocity, controlling weeds in landscapes, and low maintenance requirements (Klett and Wilson, 2009). Niemiera (2012) provided a list of plants that can be used as groundcovers that perform well in various soil and light conditions. The increasing variety of plant materials suitable for use en masse as groundcovers is providing more opportunities for consumers and landscape designers. Groundcover plants are available to landscapers as small plants in celled flats or bare root, or as more mature plants in #1 (1-gal) containers. The cost of large numbers of plants required to cover an area is often a limiting factor considering most landscape installation budgets. Conversations (personal contact) with landscapers reveal their need for locally available perennial groundcover plants of a size that reduces maintenance requirements and gives a relatively quick cover in the landscape. Landscapers are also seeking increased labor efficiency in establishing groundcover beds. The landscape industry is a visible segment of the green industry and having hundreds of plastic containers scattered across a client’s landscape during installation, which must be collected and disposed of or recycled, detract from its image. Recycling of plastic containers is not readily available in some areas (Hurley, 2008). Also, many consumers view the production of groundcovers in individual plastic containers as an unsustainable practice (Hall et al., 2010). Plantable containers that could be used efficiently in a groundcover production and marketing system would allow landscapers to differentiate themselves in the market as offering more ecofriendly products and services. Crop turnover in 8 to 10 weeks may allow growers to keep the price point at a reasonable level for mass plantings.
An increasing number of biodegradable and plantable containers are becoming available in sizes appropriate for groundcover plant production. These containers are made from paper, straw, composted manure, wood fiber, peat, coir fiber, rice hulls, and bioplastics (Nambuthiri et al., 2013), and commonly range in size from 5 to 15 cm in diameter. Production container design must also address the ease of maintenance on job sites and/or in the retail environment. There are several products now on the market aimed at these criteria. Use of ecofriendly containers for producing groundcover plants could make businesses more “green” and enhance customer acceptance (Dennis et al., 2010; Hall et al., 2010).
Two experiments were conducted. The 2011 study evaluated plants with potential suitability for a rapid turnover system for groundcover production in flats and using plantable containers compared with standard plastic containers. The 2012 study built on information gleaned from the 2011 study and evaluated plant performance during production and in the landscape from the same production system but with multiple planting dates.
DennisJ.H.LopezR.G.BeheB.K.HallC.R.YueC.CampbellB.L.2010Sustainable production practices adopted by greenhouse and nursery plant growersHortScience4512321237
HallC.R.CampbellB.L.BeheB.K.YueC.LopezR.G.DennisJ.H.2010The appeal of biodegradable packaging to floral consumersHortScience45583591
HurleyS.2008Postconsumer agricultural plastic report. California Integrated Waste Management Board. May 2008 Report. 14 Oct. 2013. <http://www.wastexchange.org/upload_publications/CIWMBAgPlasticsReport.pdf>
KlettJ.E.WilsonC.R.2009Xeriscaping: Ground cover plants. Colorado State Univ. Ext. Fact Sheet No. 7.230
KnightsM.2011Processing biopolymers for rigid sheet and thermoforming. Tips and techniques: PHA extrusion/thermoforming. 23 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ptonline.com/articles/processing-biopolymers-for-rigid-shee-thermoforming>
KoeserA.K.2013Performance and environmental impacts of biocontainers in horticultural production systems. Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign PhD Diss. 23 Nov. 2013. <https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/44332/Andrew_Koeser.pdf?sequence=1>
MonterussoM.A.RoweD.B.RughC.L.2005Establishment and persistence of Sedum spp. and native taxa for green roof applicationsHortScience40391396
NambuthiriS.SchnelleR.FulcherA.GeneveR.KoeserA.VerlindenS.ConnewayR.2013Alternative containers for a sustainable greenhouse and nursery production. Univ. Kentucky Ext. Fact Sheet HortFact-6000
NiemieraA.X.2012Selecting landscape plants: Groundcovers. Virginia Coop. Ext. Publ. 426-609
University of Kentucky2012Kentucky Mesonet daily weather database. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://weather.uky.edu/php/kymesonet_daily_ro_form.php>