Groundcovers are great for covering larger areas of soil quickly, and with low maintenance. They control soil erosion, suppress weeds, act as a natural mulch under shrubs and trees, and make a pretty carpet of planting to boot! There are groundcovers for hot, dry sites, ground covers for shade, poor soil and areas that are always wet. Some flower, some don’t. Some have a strong fragrance, and some have great texture. They don’t have to necessarily hug the ground, either, btw. Groundcovers just need to spread well over a larger area than the average plant and cover the ground with a relatively dense form. They can be short or of medium height. (Lavender is a good example of a medium height plant that can be used as a ground cover.)
So we have our top favorite ground cover choices that we use here at TGG, as well as ground covers for shade and drought tolerant picks. This is especially important in the west, but increasingly gardeners everywhere are becoming aware of planting their landscape with drought tolerant choices. Photo by ‘HGTV‘.
Favorite Ground Cover Varieties
Creeping Thyme Groundcover
Bright pink flowers in spring and summer, this sun lover spreads quickly and is a fairly fast growing ground cover. It smells amazing, and even takes light foot traffic. Be aware, it does attract bees when in flower, as most plants. Drought resistant, semi evergreen and can be rejuvenated in the fall with a light shearing.
‘Lankford Associates‘ used creeping thyme in this mixed garden.
Sedum ‘Angelina’ Ground Cover
I have Sedum ‘Angelina’ all over my yard…. It grows in sun or shade, with moist soil or dry, and spreads like crazy. It even plants itself from broken stems that blow around the yard! It’s a gorgeous yellow green, and gets yellow flowers in early summer, but they aren’t really attractive to bees. Works in beds, containers, or between pavers. It is semi evergreen ground cover, and gets a cool bronzy tip in the winter. Love. This. Plant.
Here is a great example of how Angelina looks in the garden, used with Hostas. Photo by ‘Winterthur Gardens‘.
Lambs Ear is one of those plants that is not traditionally used for a ground cover, but it has great color and texture, fuzzy grey leaves, sets off other flowers perfectly, and spreads to 3 feet. It has pink spikes of flowers in early summer. I choose to cut them off after a week… They are pretty, but attract more than their fair share of bees, and fade quickly. It’s the leaves where this plant shines. One of my fav plants of all time. Sun, partial shade, well drained soil, drought resistant, but prefers evenly moist.
Ground Cover for Shade
Most people think of Hosta as a feature plant, but they make an excellent ground cover for dry shade. Many varieties spread, and planted close together, even tall varieties can cover the ground with those leaves! Consider using different varieties together for diversity, like this collection from ‘White Flower Farm‘.
Cranesbill (Perennial Geranium)
This pretty, flowering plant comes in pinks and blues, and realm when cut back after blooming. They love partial shade, but will grow in deeper shade. Rich soil and regular fertilizer, regular water and room to spread 24-36 inches per plant, depending on the variety. Some varieties grow close to the ground, and others to 3 feet tall. Cranesbill is a pretty fast growing groundcover.
Cranesbill, as used in the garden as a ground cover. Photo by ‘Proven Winners’. This variety is “Sugar Plum“.
Not really sure why this is called “Deadnettle”, there is nothing dead looking about it! Most varieties have leaves splashed with cream in different patterns, which make this a great foliage ground cover after it’s spring and early summer bloom. Flowers in white, pink or blue. Covers a shady area with a bright accent. Will grow in dry shade, but will spread better with regular moisture.
Evergreen Ground Cover
Creeping Jenny Ground Cover
Creeping Jenny is a fast growing and pretty vigorous evergreen ground cover in all but the toughest winters. We love that it grows quickly to form a dense carpet of foliage and color ranging from lime green to soft chartreuse as shown in this photo from ‘Fine Gardening‘. Creeping Jenny as a ground cover is simply lovely!
Elijah Blue Fescue
Not normally thought of as a groundcover, Blue Fescue is actually a nice solution and is also an evergreen ground cover. This photo from ‘Wayside Gardens‘ shows an example of how it can be used.
Sedums and succulents are great drought tolerant plants, and many varieties spread well and are hardy outside of a greenhouse. Hen and Chicks is an old fav that has made a comeback, and are an evergreen ground cover as well. They require almost no maintenance, but do need well drained soil. Most love full sun, but some creeping sedums will take partial shade.
Many ornamental grasses are clumping and low growing, and make good foliage ground covers. Mondo grass is one of the most common, because it grows well in shade, a common place to use groundcovers. Black mondo grass can be especially striking. Mexican Feather Grass grows, and spreads around my garden with abandon. VERY drought resistant. Blue fescue is another good choice for grasses used as groundcovers, that are drought tolerant.
Snow in Summer
This is another silver leaved groundcover that is covered with dainty white flowers in early summer. This plant spreads rapidly, and looks great tumbling over walls as well. Loves well drained (poor) soil, and can tolerate some shade, but does well in hot, dry sites.
Snow in summer – a great ground cover for the garden, photo by ‘Pacific Horticulture‘.
Now that you know about groundcovers for your yard and garden, we know you will also love our posts on Stepables : Plants for Paths & Walkways and DIY Garden Paths!
Lots of ideas here for ground cover plants, and GREAT images and info on Maples! Thank you!
Looking for ground cover, plants,flowers that are deer resistant. Can’t plant anything they don’t eat over night
BHG has a couple of lists that might help at http://www.bhg.com/gardening/pests/animal/the-top-deer-resistant-plants-for-your-region/?slideId=e9a8c2bf-5dcd-4c22-98c5-effd9277a3ca and http://www.bhg.com/gardening/plans/dramatic/deer-resistant-garden-plan/
Our fav deer resistant ground covers are creeping or wooly thyme, or check out this list… https://www.bluestoneperennials.com/listid/DEERHATE/groundcover.html
Please, for the love of God, don’t use roundup for anything other than the most invasive plants. Sod can easily be eliminated by simply sheet mulching the area with kitchen scraps, cardboard and mulch. The grass will decompose and help build your topsoil, which will in turn will help any plants you decide to put in the ground. Roundup is poison. It’s bad for the soil, bad for the environment and totally unnecessary to get rid of sod.
Thx for the opinion Michelle!
I am Done with Grass & am ready to make my small front yard into a Fun to Look at Yard, with Ground Covers & different textures. I am so excited and the wheels are spinning!
How do i start?!? lol How do i remove the Grass from my yard? Dig with a Shovel, Till….?
I want a Yard that is Pleasing on the eyes & Give back to Nature!
So fun to hear excited gardeners! I used to have a really big semi rural yard, and every season I would dig up more sod and enlarge my beds. I would just spray it with Roundup, wait a few days, then pry and roll sod sections with a gardening fork. (OK, reality check. More than once in my excited impatience, I just dug up live grass, and dealt with grass growing into my flower beds for the rest of time. Don’t be like me. :)) But here is a link from Fine Gardening to get you on your way! Let us know how it comes along this season!http://www.finegardening.com/4-ways-remove-sod
ROUNDUP??? TOO DAMAGING TO OUR ENVIORMENT. AND ALSO PROFITS MONSANTO/BAYER, LEADING GMO PRODUCER, CONTRARY TO THEIR OPINION ACTUALLY REDUCES PRODUCTIVETY.
I live in north Georgia zone 8… I want to replace the pine straw that is used everywhere as ground cover with plants, but I would like to use something that will stay green over the winter months. Any ideas or suggestions?
We use a Sedum called ‘Angelina’. You’re local nursery may have some good suggestions for your area! Give ’em a call!
Just found this pin and I will be honest, I have no green thumb at all. I hate mowing our lawn and sure as hell wont have any grass in my yard when I move out. Problem I have is that most xeriscape pins seems to focus on drought-areas, way closer to the equator than I am (I live in Sweden, aka the north pole according to some americans). How well do all these plants stand cold? I am well aware I can’t have succulents outside as they would freeze and die in the first winter. We normally get around -20C (-30 happens too) so I want something that is both drought resistant (yay hot summers) and which also survives winter (yay barely-any-daylight-winters). Any suggestions?
It sounds like your area would be equivalent to a US hardy zone 4, which means that creeping Thyme would be perfect for you, as it also does well in hot summers…And the hardy Sedums, like the “Angelina” mentioned in the post are hardy to US zone 3, so you shouldn’t have any problem with that plant either. Hope that helps!
Good post. I am bookmarking this!
What is the dark purple flowers/plant next to the Lambs Ear? Please and thank you :)
Its a little hard to tell, but I would guess a blue salvia. Anyone else have a guess?
I think it might be Salvia Marcus, it’s a small version of the larger Salvia’s ,such as May Night. I have the Marcus in my garden and it is quite small, such as in the photo.
Why, oh why are you cutting off the Lamb’s Ear flower stalks? Because they attract too many bees? I would think that as an expert you would know that the bee population is devastatingly low and we should be growing to feed them. Shame on you! But thanks for all the other great information.
While I totally support your take on the bee population, I know a lot of readers have small children, or even people who are allergic to bee stings and have to take measures… Thanks for brining it to our attention though! We love the bees too!
There are two dams in my hobby farm, so those two surrendering area are always wet. Could you please recommended some ground cover which can be planted in that area?
Hi Amy! If there area is in shade, I would suggest a moss, Bishops Weed or Ajuga, but be careful with the Bishops Weed, it can be invasive… If sun, Creeping Jenny can be a good choice! Good luck!
We recently bought our first home, which has a very overgrown, neglected lot. I have had two landscape designers out, both of whom wanted to put in grass lawns. I don’t feel like i have the vocabulary to explain what I want– some ground covers that will be Eco-friendly and not too high-maintenance. Do you have any suggestions for finding a landscaping company who can help me, or for explaining to someone that I’d like an option other than 8000 square feet of grass?
Find someone who specializes in Xeriscaping… That is the term for landscaping with low water, low maintenance plants!
have a very steep hill in my back yard, recently I had it striped to the ground as it was mostly weeds. I will have it sprayed to kill the weeds and was wondering if I should cover it with burlap to help keep the dirt in place just in case we get some rain this year, if I plant some ground cover for it to spread would the runners be under the burlap ? In that case it could not spread, any thoughts or recommendations would be greatly appreciated I’m at a loss as to how to keep this hill looking neat, it’s to steep for me to weed.
Great ground cover ideas..that I will use!
I have a hilly bank and want to use the running rose bush as a ground cover.. is that A good idea ? if so what can ! use with it ?
Thanks for ideas!!
I think ground cover roses are great for banks! What do you mean when you say “with it”… do you mean another type of ground cover that could be co-planted together?
Are these ground covers Havelina, rabbit & squirrel proof!!! Live in Arizona, 5000 ft elevation. Having a very hard time with growing a flower garden also. Have fenced off against havelina & rabbits but the squirrels are a BIG problem. Any list of flowers squirrels don’t like? Love your site!
No plant is pest “proof” thought some are less desirable than others! Lambs ear and sedums are indeed rabbit resistant! Squirrels are less likely to be picky!