Are you trying to:
Your solution may be planting a flowering ground cover. So what exactly is a ground cover? It is a plant that forms interconnected mats by creeping or clumping. Ground cover crowds out weeds and forms a continuous expanse of foliage.
Too often the only ground cover seen in landscapes are ivy, vinca and pachysandra. Ivy and vinca are considered invasive species because they are spreading into forests and wildlife areas and choking out native plants that support local insects and wildlife. They are hard to control and, if possible, should be removed and replaced with ground covers that support pollinators and stay within bounds. Pachysandra is a wonderful ground cover for deep shade and in hard-to-grow areas like around the base of trees. As an alternative to pachysandra, we’ve put together a list of hardy and alternative ground covers for your landscape.
The plants are divided into four categories: stepables, sun, sun and shade, shade. Stepables tolerate moderate foot traffic and are effective solutions for lawns, and spaces between stepping stones or along paths.
Most yards have a variety of growing conditions and you won’t be disappointed by the options listed here. Be sure to read the growing requirements before selecting from the abundance of available ground covers. By planting the right plant in the right spot, your new ground cover will establish healthy roots and grow happily. For example, some ground covers for stepping prefer dry feet. If these ground covers are planted in a soggy area, they will experience root rot, disease and fail to thrive.
Before planting any creeping or clumping plant, particularly those that claim to be fast growing, refer to the USDA list of Introduced, Invasive, and Noxious Plants. What is desirable in one state may be considered a nuisance in another.
Pictures and plant descriptions courtesy of Blue Stone Perennials.
Foot Tolerant Groundcovers
Thymus Silver Posie
Most of the perennial thyme plants offer beautiful matted groundcovers. This one is particularly suited as a focal point. For lawns, choose a solid green leaved variety like Thymus Elfin.
Silver Posie is suitable for both ornamental and culinary use. This Thyme is a bit more upright than Creeping Thyme with fragrant gray-green foliage edged in creamy white. Foliage will develop a warm burgundy cast in cooler weather. Harvesting will generate more culinary leaves. Blooms lavender pink, making this a nice dual purpose ground cover.
Laurentia Fluviatilis - Blue Star Creeper
Blue Star Creeper is an adorable little plant that makes a dense, spreading low mat of round, green foliage and equally tiny light blue flowers in spring. Perfect between and around stepping stones. Will need to be contained if spreading is not desired.
Corsican Pearl Wort, Irish Moss
Lush deep green moss-like carpet of foliage 1" tall. Tiny translucent star-shaped white flowers add to its beauty in spring. Irish Moss is just the ground cover you need for rock gardens and planting between stepping stones or pavers.
Ground Covers for Sunny Spots
Cerastium tomentosum 'Silver Carpet'
Snow In Summer, Starry Grasswort
Silvery-gray foliage is covered with cheerful white flowers in late spring to early summer. The combination of flowers and foliage bring a refreshing feeling to the garden. Cerastium Silver Carpet cascades over hillsides and walls nicely.
Gypsophila repens Filou Rose
Creeping Baby's Breath
Long-blooming pink Baby's Breath well-branched with dense blue-green foliage spreading to 2 feet across. Larger five-petaled, fragrant blooms resemble Cerastium but in a bright rose pink. Loads of flowers. Great spilling over the edges of hillsides, walls or rocks.
Sun and Shade
Most of the perennial geraniums (or better known as cranesbill) make excellent long- blooming ground covers. Their blooms are delicate and rise above the mounded foliage. Some have leaves that smell lemony when crushed by an accidental stepping or weed whacker nip. The low-growing varieties (under 12”) recover nicely from a stray ball or wandering pet. They are not considered a ‘stepable’.
Cranesbill, Perennial Geranium
Fragrant, apple-scented foliage and flowers. Thick clusters of five-petaled, pink flowers in late spring. Showy stamens dance with the slightest breeze. Dense ground cover. Geranium Macrorrhizum's foliage displays red and bronze tints in fall. Clusters of crimson-red, berrylike seedheads remain after the flower petals fall away. Tolerates sun and dry conditions.
If you have a bed that includes sun and shade, and you want to include a plant that will offer continuity and grow in both conditions, consider lamium. This is a versatile ground cover resistant to deer and rabbit browsing too! There are many varieties and colors. Below is one that will brighten any garden space.
Lamium maculatum Golden Anniversary
Spotted Dead Nettle
Golden yellow edges on dark green leaves with a white central stripe. Scalloped and bright colored foliage of Golden Anniversary combine to provide interesting texture and light. Lavender flowers appear in Spring and continue on and off until Fall. Stunning planted among Hosta and Ferns.
Campanula is another long-blooming ground cover that blooms in partly shady or sunny locations to offer continuity in a foundation planting that has both conditions.
Half-trailing, prostrate growth, able to cling to dry walls. Large rock gardens or sandy banks permit the 2' stems to trail. Starry blue flowers of Campanula Poscharskyana highlight your garden in summer.
Sweet Woodruff, Galium odorata
Dainty white flower clusters are held above foliage shaped like miniature parasols. Good ground cover for shade, even where only moss will grow. Especially tolerant of acidic soil under evergreens. Fresh foliage has little scent, but when dried you will enjoy a refreshing scent of new mown hay. Dry foliage in bundles or make into a garland.
Phlox divaricata Plum Perfect
Wild Sweet William, Woodland Phlox
Plum-purple flowers with a darker violet eye. A real charmer for shade. Perfect for naturalizing with Tiarella and Lamium. Trouble-free and more humidity tolerant than most Woodland Phlox. Longer stems make for fragrant cut flowers. This Phlox is 'Plum Perfect' as a stunning late spring groundcover. Does best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil.
Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost
Siberian Bugloss, False Forget-Me-Not
2012 Perennial Plant Association's Plant of the Year. Prized for its large, highly frosted and veined heart-shaped leaves. Brunnera Jack Frost produces a truly spectacular display in the shade, even more so when in bloom with its bright blue Forget-me-not flowers in spring. Will multiply politely. Brunnera are ideal for a woodland setting, a semi-shaded border or along a pond edge. Has the biggest leaves of the ground covers on this list. New cultivars add wonderful choices of this versatile garden performer. Lovely naturalizing carefree habit. Tolerates moist, well-drained soil in partial shade.
Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to think beyond the most common ground covers. As you can see from the photos, a ground cover doesn't have to be boring. Our examples are real head-turners and will get noticed on their own merit. With their many unique textures, foliage and flowers, a new ground cover can be a low-maintenance multitasker in your flower bed or rock garden.
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