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‘.