There is nothing like evergreen ground cover plants to fill a vacant space in your yard and minimize the amount of time that you spend maintaining your garden. Over the first few seasons, after you plant these fast-growing ground cover plants, your flat space will be transformed into a rich tapestry of colors, textures, and leaf shapes.
They are perfect for sprucing up challenging areas under and around trees, accenting transitional locations along a home’s foundation and pathways, and are perfect for adding visual interest to broad areas throughout your yard. Similar to our article on evergreen shrubs, one bonus that evergreen ground cover plants and perennials provide, unlike turf, is a seasonal show of colors, fruits, and flowers.
To begin transforming your yard, it’s best to plant ground cover plants in the spring or early summer. Planting during this time of year gives them the opportunity to get well rooted, reducing the chances that they will heave out of the ground come winter.
It is vital that before you do any planting that you adequately assess the conditions of the area and prepare the soil. It is also essential to sufficiently space the plants and maintains them until they’ve become established. Before you can enjoy the billowing waves of green leaves and foliage, you will have to take the time to care for the plants diligently, but it will be well worth it.
- Assess the Conditions of the Area
- Best, Fast-Growing Ground Cover Plants
- Trailing Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
- Dragon’s Blood (Red Sedum)
- Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
- Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
- Mazus (Mazus reptans)
- Tufted Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
- Creeping Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum coccineus)
- Big Root Geraniums (Geranium macrorrhizum)
- Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
- Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
- Ask Mr. Smarty Plants
- Zone 4 Ground Covers: Choosing Plants For Zone 4 Ground Coverage
- About Zone 4 Ground Covers
- Ground Covers for Zone 4
- Cold Hardy Annuals – Choosing Annual Plants For Cold Climates
- Cold Tolerant Annuals
- Additional Annuals That Tolerate Cold
Assess the Conditions of the Area
The most important and first step in establishing your ground cover plants, whether flowers or perennial grasses, is to evaluate the area and the soil. You will have to determine the texture of the soil first to determine if it is sandy and dry or if it’s wet if it’s a soggy clay or a lovely loam. At the same time, you’ll need to test the acidity level and adjust the soil to raise or lower its pH.
You may also have to modify its texture by adding gravel or organic matter. Take the time to assess the shade and sun patterns of the area, as well as the degree of protection the area provides during the winter. Is it protected from the prevailing winds and sun, or is it exposed to the harsh winter elements?
Once you’ve come to understand the soil you have in the area, you can begin selecting plants that are best suited to the pH, drainage, texture, and degree of shade, sun, and exposure.
Best, Fast-Growing Ground Cover Plants
Fast-growing ground cover plants are great for filling underdeveloped areas of your yard with lush, green foliage and flowers when the season permit. As well as rose bushes, the following evergreen ground cover plants are great to use in areas of your yard that are underdeveloped or in an informal garden. With their capability to grow quickly and densely, you’ll have a beautiful yard in no time.
When choosing your ground cover, it’s essential to not only look at the conditions in your area and how quickly the plants grow, but also consider how prolific they are. Plants like English ivy are pretty, but they are highly invasive plants and can quickly take over not only your garden but your yard. They are also difficult to eliminate once established.
In addition to beautiful ground cover flowers, think about adding some herbs to your garden space, too. Not only will many herbs that grow in full sun complement your other plants, but you can likely use them in other ways, as well. Many herbs deter annoying insects from the yard and others can be used to add flavor to your recipes.
Trailing Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
This ground cover plant yields beautiful periwinkle blue or violet blossoms that release a lovely scent. If it is left unattended, it will quickly spread throughout your garden. It is crucial that you carefully monitor its growth so that it doesn’t spread into other areas of your garden where you don’t want it to go.
The periwinkle plant is a great choice because it grows just as strong and dense in full sun as it does in full or partial shade. Finding shade tolerant plants like periwinkle make it an excellent plant to place around the base of your trees, beneath tall shrubs, or on top of a rock wall where it will cascade down like a waterfall once it has become established.
For a touch of lavender blue, choose some periwinkle. You won’t be disappointed.
Dragon’s Blood (Red Sedum)
A beautiful and bold ground cover plant, Dragon’s Blood loves the sun. It boasts a beautiful deep red color, and the more sun it absorbs, more brilliant color it will develop.
After several years, when it’s fully established, it can stand 8-inches tall and becomes a wonderful perennial. It grows quickly and will spread thickly throughout your yard. Dragon’s Blood is an extremely hardy ground cover plant and will tolerate dry soil and temperature variations.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
This low-lying ground cover plant produces flower blossoms in an array of outstanding colors. This particular species of ground cover plant is the fastest growing plant on this list, so it needs to be trimmed regularly, especially if you are using it along a pathway or as a border.
When the plant isn’t in bloom, creeping phlox has tiny green leaves, transforming into a blanket of color when it blooms.
Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
This rugged, ground cover plant thrives in wet areas. While it will grow in partial shade, planting it in an area with full sun will provide you with more vibrant colors.
It has long trailing stems, round chartreuse leaves, and vibrant yellow flowers. It can quickly cover large areas, choking out weeds and pulling out roots along its stems.
>> Further Gardening Tips: Find out about 17 plants that repel mosquitoes fast.
Mazus (Mazus reptans)
This is another perennial ground cover plant that’s low-maintenance. This is one of the shade perennials that performs best when planted in partial shade but will also grow in full shade.
If planted in mild climates, it will remain green throughout the year and will begin to bloom in early spring. If you live in a tropical environment, it’s essential to keep the mazus moist during hot weather.
Tufted Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
Native to North America, the tufted creeping phlox prefers to be planted in partial sun and moist soil. It is part of the phlox subulata easy to grow perennials family. The needle-like evergreen leaves form a dense mat across the ground to efficiently suppress any weeds.
It produces small pink or white flowers in the early spring and can reach up to 12-inches in height.
Creeping Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum coccineus)
Red creeping thyme is tolerant to heat as well as being drought tolerant. It grows close to the ground and thrives in full sun. It is like the deer resistant shrubs and is great for planting around stepping stones, or along borders.
In the spring it enhances your yard with a deep green color, erupting into gorgeous crimson flowers in the summer. Because it grows close to the ground, it chokes out weeds.
>> Further Reading: 28 Fantastic Ways to Use Neem Oil For Plants and in Your Garden
Big Root Geraniums (Geranium macrorrhizum)
The big root geraniums need to be planted in well-drained soil which also helps to kill fungus gnats and thrive in dry to medium moisture and full sun. They can grow to 12-inches in height and form a thick, weed-resistant ground cover.
In late spring and early summer, the otherwise grayish-green plant transforms into a beautiful array of purple-pink flowers with inflated red calyces blooms. Sidenote: As a variety of the big root geraniums, try apple geraniums as they are very drought tolerant ground cover plants for hot areas.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
A low growing evergreen shrub, the Bearberry can be planted in dry, sandy, and rocky soils. It is a hardy winter plant that is slow-growing. It typically grows between six and 12 inches high, and three to six feet or more in width.
The Bearberry plant begins to bloom in early spring with miniature, drooping, white or pink flowers, and transitioning into rounded, berry-like fruits in August and September. These evergreen bushes have leaves that have been included in traditional medicine in Europe and by Native Americans in the United States.
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Sweet Woodruff flourishes in densely shaded areas, making it the perfect perennial and ground cover plant to have under trees and dwarf evergreen shrubs. It will add interesting textures to your yard with its star-shaped whorls of leaves and fragrant lacy white flowers.
If you have a problem with deer nibbling on your trees and plants, Sweet Woodruff is the perfect choice for your yard. Deer don’t like this beautiful plant so it can help you create a deer proof garden with strategic planting.
Once the Woodruff plant becomes well established, maintenance is simple. Add some Epsom salt, but generally speaking, you won’t need to fertilize it and will only have to water it in times of drought.
If you’re trying to figure out how to add color and texture to undeveloped areas in your yard, consider planting an assortment of ground cover plants, dividing grass, or even large or small evergreen trees, in addition to a selection of perennials and annuals. The variety of plants will fill your yard with an array of beautiful colors and rich textures, with little maintenance required.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the best ground cover plants to bring into your yard. If you found this information about evergreen ground cover plants useful, please feel free to share it with everyone you know.
Groundcovers solve a number of garden problems, from covering bare spots to preventing erosion to covering an area that is too steep to mow. While most are grown for their foliage, many have colorful blooms during part of the year. Back in 2012, we highlighted four favorite groundcovers: Thyme, wild ginger, ajuga and sweet woodruff. But those are just the beginning of great groudcovers available for the North.
Here are four more favorites for shady and sunny spots.
Creeping phlox looks gorgeous in a rock garden.
Creeping phlox. This time of year, the creeping phlox is stunning. One of my neighbors has planted a hillside rock garden with this plant and its bright purple waves of color are a springtime treat. Creeping phlox likes sun and grows well in rock gardens. It does not require much effort — a bit of fertilizer in the spring, if you like, and perhaps some water during very dry periods. Otherwise, just let it go and enjoy the spring show.
Pachysandra. Pachysandra is one of the plants that grows well under walnut trees, which produce a substance called juglone, which is toxic to many plants. This shade-loving plant is popular under all types of trees, providing a shiny, green carpet. In the right site (avoid full sun), pachysandra requires very little care. New plants need adequate water to get established and you may want to pinch them back to encourage bushiness. Once you have a healthy patch established, you can enjoy the groundcover with little effort.
Lamium brightens a shade garden.
Spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’) will easily cover an area 2 to 3 feet wide. Its heart-shaped leaves are silvery white with a green edge and will brighten any area under trees or shrubs. The plant is about 6 inches tall and has white flowers for a long period in spring and early summer. It’s deer resistant and grows well in clay soil. After a few years in the same place, you may see a hole in the center of the clump, but deadnettle can be divided easily in spring. If it wanders into spots where it is not welcome, just pull it out. In addition to White Nancy, other popular deadnettle varieties include Purple Dragon and Golden Spotted deadnettle.
Sedum adds texture to this border.
Sedum. Popular in rock gardens, sedum is a groundcover with lots of texture. It is extremely hardy and comes in a variety of colors, from the blue-gray foliage of Sedum cauticola ‘Lidakense’ to the chartruese to gold of Sedum ‘Angelina’. Many sedums grow well in lean soils, which is why they are so often used in rock gardens and on green roofs.
Which are your favorite groundcovers?
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Tuesday – May 24, 2016
From: Apple Valley, MN
Title: Groundcover for sunny slope in Minnesota
Answered by: Nan Hampton
Hi, I’m from Apple Valley, MN. We backyard has large slope areas that get sun through out the day. We have huge weed and buck thorn problem. Can you please suggest a good ground covering plant that grows not more than 4/5 inches
Here are plants native to Minnesota that could serve as ground covers. All of them will grow in the sun, but may do better in part shade. Please read the Growing Conditions on each species page to learn more about whether they would be suitable for your site.
Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry dogwood) Here are more photos and information from Missouri Botanical Garden.
Phlox subulata (Creeping phlox) Here are photos and more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.
Rubus pubescens (Dwarf red blackberry) Here are photos and more information from Northern Ontario Plant Database.
Sibbaldiopsis tridentata (Shrubby five-fingers) Here are photos and more information from Minnesota Wildflowers.
Verbena bracteata (Bigbract verbena) Here are photos and more information from Illinois Wildflowers.
Viola labradorica (Alpine violet) Here are photos and more information from Plants for a Future.
Viola sororia (Missouri violet) Here are photos and more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.
Viola pedatifida (Prairie violet) Here are photos and more informatation from Minnesota Wildflowers and Illinois Wildflowers.
Woodsia ilvensis (Rusty cliff fern) Here are photos and more information from New England Wildflower Society.
Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) Here are photos and more information from The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.
From the Image Gallery
Dwarf red blackberry
Eastern woodland sedge
More Groundcovers Questions
Plantings for a slope from New Carrollton MD
June 27, 2012 – My house (Maryland, near DC) sits at the bottom of a south facing slope. The soil is very heavy clay. The grade is about 1:20 for about 100 feet (with a steeper part at the top). Part of the hill is i…
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Low groundcovers for MA
June 29, 2011 – We are developing ground mounted solar installations in southeastern MA. We are seeking advice for native groundcover species for our various regions (coastal meadows, etc). Species like bearberry and…
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August 10, 2012 – I have a 40 ft blue spruce limbed up 6 ft in my yard on the west in Greeley, CO (50 mi N Denver, zone 4 or 5). It gets some sun underneath in the later afternoon and evening. Can you suggest 4 to 5 …
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Need to plant something in the cracks in my patio in Skipperville, AL.
February 06, 2012 – Mr. Smarty Pants, I have a cement patio full of cracks. I would like to grow some sort of plant or plants in the cracks. I live in lower Alabama, and my patio is in full sunlight. Do you have an…
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July 04, 2012 – Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I live just north of Seattle and want to build a green roof (outdoor kitchen) I’m concerned about the weight of the soil (saturated), drainage etc. am building from scratch and…
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Zone 4 Ground Covers: Choosing Plants For Zone 4 Ground Coverage
Ground cover plants are very useful for areas where minimal maintenance is desired and as an alternative to turf grass. Zone 4 ground covers must be hardy to winter temperatures of -30 to – 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-34 to -28 C.). While this may limit some of the choices, there are still plenty of options for the cold zone gardener. Cold hardy ground covers are also useful as protection for semi-hardy plant’s roots, minimizing most weeds and creating a carpet of color that seamlessly integrates the rest of the garden into a Monet-like swath of tones and textures.
About Zone 4 Ground Covers
Landscape planning often incorporates ground covers as part of the plan. These low-growing living carpets project interest to the eye while accenting other plantings. Plants for zone 4 ground coverage abound. There are many useful and hardy cold hardy ground covers that may bloom, yield evergreen foliage and even produce fruit.
As you design your landscape, it is important to note areas where most plants don’t grow, such as rocky regions, over tree roots and in sites where maintenance would be difficult. Ground covers are very useful in such situations and generally don’t need much upkeep while effortlessly filling in gaps and providing a foil for taller plant specimens.
In zone 4, the winters can be very harsh and cold, often accompanied by chill winds and heavy snow and ice. These conditions may be difficult for some plants. This is where plants for zone 4 ground
coverage come into play. Not only are they hardy in winter but they thrive in the short, hot summer and add different seasonal interest year round.
Ground Covers for Zone 4
If lush greenery and varying tones and textures of leaves is your desire, there are many suitable ground cover plants for zone 4. Consider the size of the area, the moisture levels and drainage, the height of coverage you desire, the exposure and the fertility of the soil as you choose your ground cover.
Common wintercreeperhas delightful dark green leaves with scalloped edges. It can be trained to trail as well as allowed to creep along, establishing itself in a broad range over time.
Creeping juniper is one of the hardiest evergreen plants, is quick to establish and comes in varieties that range from nearly a foot tall to just 6 inches. It also has several cultivars with foliage ranging from silvery blue, grayish green and even plum tones in winter.
Many ivy plants are useful in zone 4 such as Algerian, English, Baltic and variegated cultivars. All are quick to grow and create a tumble of stems and pretty heart-shaped foliage.
Other foliar forms also produce small but sweet flowers in spring and summer. Some of these are:
- Creeping jenny
- Mondo grass
- Woolly thyme
- Lamb’s ear
- Labrador violet
- Chameleon plant
High impact seasonal displays may be created with flowering species of hardy ground covers. Flowering ground cover plants for zone 4 may produce blooms in spring only or may extend throughout summer and even into fall. There are both woody and herbaceous plant covers from which to choose.
Woody specimens bloom at different times of the year and many even produce berries and fruits that attract birds and wildlife. Some may require pruning if you want a tidier ground cover but all are fairly self-sustaining and provide different seasons of interest.
- American cranberry bush
- Grey dogwood
- Red twig dogwood
- Rugosa rose
- False spirea
- Nikko Deutzia
- Dwarf broom
- Virginia sweetspire – Little Henry
- Hancock snowberry
The herbaceous ground covers die back in fall but their color and fast growth in spring fill in open spaces quickly. Herbaceous ground covers for zone 4 to think about might include:
- Lily of the valley
- Wild geranium
- Crown vetch
- Canada anemone
- Woolly yarrow
- Rock cress
- Hardy ice plant
- Sweet woodruff
- Creeping phlox
- Lady’s mantle
- Blue star creeper
Don’t be alarmed if these seem to disappear in autumn, as they will come back with a force in spring and rapidly spread for wonderful warm season coverage and color. Ground covers offer unique versatility and ease of care for many forgotten or difficult to maintain sites. Hardy ground covers for zone 4 can appeal to just about any gardener’s need and provide years of effective weed control, moisture retention, and attractive companions for your other plants.
The ground cover category at Nature Hills includes low-growing, spreading plants that are dependable, hardworking, and require little maintenance. These drought tolerant plants are very functional since they carpet the ground to stop weeds and erosion. Ground covers thrive in dry conditions, so they complement troubled areas in a landscape, border, or a hillside. Flowering ground covers provide color and attractive foliage, adding interest to a garden.
Some ground covers have a fast, aggressive spread like the Sedum Lime Zinger or Fire Spinner Ice Plant. Many ground covers can be used to drape over patio containers or window boxes. Clumping, slow-spreading plants – like the Black Scallop Ajuga – are lovely when grown in large groups. Black Scallop is a very hardy ajuga low-growing plant with a striking purple color that almost looks black.
Some ground covers can tough it out in difficult areas, often competing with trees or shady slopes. Lirope can tolerate sun or shade, is heat, humidity, and drought tolerant, and withstands foot traffic. When choosing ground covers for your property, consider the area’s growing conditions. Ground cover selections are endless, so choose plants based on the garden problems you want to solve, or the look you wish to achieve. Do not overlook the woody vines that provide ground cover for water erosion areas with steep slopes.
Cold Hardy Annuals – Choosing Annual Plants For Cold Climates
Cold hardy annuals are a great way to extend the color in your garden into the cool months of spring and fall. In warmer climates, they’ll even last through winter. Keep reading to learn more about good annual plants for cold climates.
Cold Tolerant Annuals
It’s important to understand the difference between cold tolerant annuals and perennials. Annuals get their name because their natural life cycle lasts for just one growing season. They won’t live through winter like cold hardy perennials will. That being said, they will last much longer into the cold season than tender annuals, and may actually thrive in cool weather.
If you’re growing cold hardy annual flowers, you can’t go wrong with these annuals that tolerate cold:
- English Daisy
- Forget Me Not
- Sweet Alyssum
- Sweet Pea
These cold tolerant annuals can be planted outside in early spring or late summer to provide bright colors at a time when more tender annuals can’t survive. Some other cold tolerant annuals can be sown directly in the ground as seed before the last frost of the spring. These flowering plants include:
- Bachelor’s Button
- Sweet Pea
- Black Eyed Susan
Additional Annuals That Tolerate Cold
When selecting cold hardy annuals, nothing says you have to draw the line at flowers. Some vegetables are very tolerant of the cold and provide welcome, intense color. These vegetables can be started early in the spring before the last frost, or in late summer to last through several frosts well into the fall. Some good choices include:
- Swiss Chard
If you live in a climate that experiences light to no winter frosts, these plants will do best planted in the fall to grow through the cool months of winter.