- Zone 7 Evergreen Groundcovers – Growing Evergreen Groundcover In Zone 7
- About Evergreen Groundcovers for Zone 7
- Zone 7 Evergreen Groundcovers
- 2. Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis)
- 3. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
- 4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
- 5. Creeping Thyme (Thymus serphyllum)
- 6. Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
- 7. Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana)
- 8. Horned Violet (Viola cornuta)
- 9. Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
- 10. Liriope (Liriope spicata)
- 11. Lithodora (Lithodora diffusa)
- 12. Pig Squeak (Bergenia cordifolia)
- 13. Spike Speedwell (Veronica spicata)
- 14. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
- 15. Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri)
- Choose the Right Plant for the Right Space
- Know When to Plant
- Fast Growing Flowering Ground Cover Plant Seed – Shake ‘n Seed
- Reasons To Replace Lawns With Ground Cover Plants
- Alternate Ways To Use Ground Covers
- Selecting The Right Ground Cover Plants
- Best Ground Cover Plants For Full Shade
- Best Ground Cover Plants For Partial Sun
- Best Ground Cover Plants For Full Sun
- Best Drought-Tolerant Ground Cover Plants
- Colorado State University
Zone 7 Evergreen Groundcovers – Growing Evergreen Groundcover In Zone 7
Groundcovers are valuable as more than beautiful additions to the landscape but also as weed preventers, soil stabilizers and moisture conservers. Evergreen groundcovers perform their duties year round. In zone 7, you need hardy evergreen groundcover plants for year round benefits. Choosing the right evergreen groundcovers for zone 7 will enliven the landscape and provide all the above benefits and more.
About Evergreen Groundcovers for Zone 7
Picking perennial plants for the landscape is an important choice, as you will be living with those selections for years to come. When deciding upon an evergreen groundcover in zone 7, the hardiness of the plant is only one of the considerations. You must also opt for plants that are suited to the site conditions such as sun exposure, soil type, ease of care and water accommodations. Luckily, there are some hardy evergreen groundcover plants that are low maintenance and remarkably unfussy about their environment.
During the vetting process for your evergreen groundcover, decide if you want flowers, fruits or just greenery. Is the site located near a manicured bed or lawn? If so, you also need to consider the invasiveness of the plant. For example, plants like English ivy root at internodes and will spread out into other beds or even the lawn. They are best used where shearing is suitable and on rockeries, beds bordering paths or along the driveway.
A plant like Pachysandra might be a better choice. It does grow rapidly but doesn’t spread through rooted nodes but by rhizomes and, as an added bonus, it gets sweet little white flowers in spring. It is also easily kept sheared to a compact height and trimmed around obstructions.
You must also consider how large the plant will become. Not all areas of the landscape require foot or more tall plants and a close-to-the-ground profile may be more desirable.
Zone 7 Evergreen Groundcovers
- If a glossy, showy leaf is what you want, Asiatic jasmine might be your plant. It grows 3 to 6 inches tall (3-15 cm.) and spreads quickly so it may require lots of pruning to keep it in check. Its counterpart, Confederate jasmine, however, though taller at 1 to 2 feet (3-5 cm.) in height, produces heavenly scented flowers in late spring and is less aggressive.
- Holly fern has leathery, glossy leaves and works beautifully in shade.
- Sweet box is unparalleled in winter, with flowers that smell like candy and small, tidy glossy leaves.
- Another zone 7 evergreen groundcover not to be missed is St. John’s Wort. It has big, yellow flowers with prominent anthers that bristle around the bloom.
- Autumn fern creates foliar drama combined with low maintenance.
- Mondo grass comes in green or black and has a low profile and maintenance reputation. It also develops small attractive flower spikes.
- Cotoneaster has delightful berries and fine foliage that responds well to pruning to keep it in habit or you can choose to let the elegant branches arch attractively.
- A perfect evergreen groundcover for zone 7 is the creeping juniper. There are several cultivars with varying heights and foliage colors from which to choose. Many are almost blue with others in green and gold tones.
- Russian arborvitae has wonderful rust color and grows two feet high (.6 m.) with no fuss maintenance.
- Creeping Jenny is a classic groundcover with rich golden leaves.
For flower shows, choose from the following groundcover plants:
- Japanese Ardisia
- Dwarf Gardenia
- Creeping raspberry
- Wooly Stemodia
- Creeping Thyme
In zone 7, many half hardy perennials will perform well as evergreen groundcovers provided sustained freezes don’t occur. Some of these might be:
- Carpet Bugle
- Beach Wormwood
- Japanese Painted Fern
- Hardy Ice Plant
These have a better chance of remaining evergreen when planted in a protected area or microclimate of the garden.
Topping out at 6 inches, it derives its name from spikes of tiny bugle-shaped blossoms that range in color from blue to white. The leaves of this plant are glossy, toothed or smooth, and often tinged with shades of purple. Bloom time is May through June.
‘Black Scallop’ Bugleweed, available from Nature Hills Nursery
Nature Hills offers A. reptans ‘Black Scallop’ in 1-gallon pots.
2. Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis)
Perennial Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis) is a US native wildflower that spreads well in zones 3 to 8, prefers moist soil, and thrives in full sun to part shade.
Its height varies from one to two feet. Blossoms are individual and white in color, and leaves are bright green with toothed edges.
Everwilde Farms Canada Anemone Native Wildflower Seeds, available on Amazon
Amazon offers packages of 150 Canada anemone native wildflower seeds from Everwilde Farms.
3. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) is a woody, mounding perennial that likes full sun and well-drained soil, and tolerates drought. It’s suitable for zones 3 to 8, and reaches a height of about 12 inches. In warmer climates, this plant is evergreen.
The blossoms of candytuft consist of sweetly scented clusters of white petals, which are often so profuse that you can’t see the elongated green leaves below. Bloom time is April through May.
Outsidepride Candytuft Groundcover Seed
Seeds are available in packs of 1,000 from Outsidepride via Amazon.
4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Creeping phlox, or moss phlox, makes a bold statement as a carpet of color in shades of pink, blue, or white. Leaves are small and evergreen.
It stands up to light foot traffic and is lovely cascading over slopes and garden walls. This is a native variety suitable for zones 3 to 9 that is perennial in most regions.
Plants are about two inches tall, and may exceed 6 inches when in bloom, during March through May. Provide sun to part shade, with average soil and moisture.
Phlox Subulata ‘Scarlet Flame’
P. subulata ‘Scarlet Flame’ in 2 1/2-inch pots are available on Amazon.
Read more about growing and caring for creeping phlox here.
5. Creeping Thyme (Thymus serphyllum)
Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox) is a wild variety of the herb that is wonderful between stepping stones. Light foot traffic releases a delightful minty aroma.
Hardy in zones 4 to 8, this woody perennial likes well-drained dry to average soil and full sun. It’s drought tolerant, and evergreen in mild climates.
Reaching approximately 3 inches in height, this plant has tiny, round, glossy green leaves and spikes of tiny pink-purple blossoms from June through July.
‘Coccineus’ Creeping Thyme
Nature Hills offers T. praecox ‘Coccineus’ in 1-gallon containers.
Consult “Tasty Turf: Tips for Using Culinary Herbs as Ground Cover” for more ideas on using herbs in your landscape.
6. Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
Lamium maculatum thrives in zones 3 to 8 in part to full shade. It is evergreen in temperate zones. Leaves are variegated green and silvery-white, and pink blossoms appear from May through July.
This drought-tolerant plant prefers cool, low-humidity regions with well-drained soil. Varieties vary in height from several inches to about two feet, grow in a clumping or creeping fashion, and form an interconnected network that crowds out weeds and inhibits soil erosion.
The shorter varieties are great for those narrow spaces in between paving stones, as well as in rockeries and border gardens, where you want to inhibit weed growth.
‘Beacon Silver’ Deadnettle, available on Amazon
Amazon offers L. maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’ in 4.5-inch pots, 10 to a flat.
7. Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana)
Reliable perennials, hosta leaves vary from forest to lime green, to variegated green and white, to all white. Blooming is inflorescent in nature, with tall spikes of small white or purple blossoms appearing from May through July. Some varieties are sweetly scented.
Also called plantain lilies, hostas have always been a staple in my family’s gardens. My great-grandmother had enormous plants with foot-long dark green leaves. These were divided for propagation at my parents’ home and later my own, in a rite of passage that continues today.
Perfect for zones 3 to 8, most prefer shade and rich, damp soil. Heights vary, with some reaching over 2 feet.
Hosta ‘Elegans,’ available from Nature Hills Nursery
Nature Hills offers H. sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, available in 1-gallon containers.
8. Horned Violet (Viola cornuta)
Horned violets are annuals with green, rounded leaves, and scented two-toned blossoms in shades of purple and blue that bloom from April through June. They are perennials in temperate climates.
Reaching from 6 to 8 inches in height, creeping horned violets are suitable for zones 6 to 11. They require average soil and moisture, and do best in full sun to part shade.
‘Arkwright Ruby’ Viola Seeds, available on Amazon
Amazon offers V. cornuta ‘Arkwright Ruby.’ Each package contains 600 seeds from the Seed Needs company.
9. Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Japanese pachysandra, or spurge, is an evergreen perennial that’s perfect under shrubs where grass doesn’t want to grow.
As a kid, I helped one neighbor gather a bucketful of cuttings from another neighbor to plant under a large tree with distressed, sprawling roots, and bare soil.
Those cuttings took root almost immediately. Before long, there was a pretty bed of glossy green whorled (i.e. spiraled) leaves that not only hid the tree roots, but protected them from further lawnmower damage. In April, spikey white blossoms made for an added attraction.
If you’re in zones 5 to 9 and looking for a fast-growing option, this could be the one. It’s drought tolerant, does best in part to full shade, and reaches a height of about 12 inches.
Pachysandra ‘Green Sheen’
Nature Hills offers Japanese spurge (P. terminalis ‘Green Sheen’) in 1-gallon pots.
10. Liriope (Liriope spicata)
Liriope is also known as lily turf. I have this hardy perennial beneath my front garden rosebush. It’s a grass-like plant with clumping and creeping varieties that may reach 1 to 2 feet in height.
Spikes of tiny blossoms in shades of blue, white, or purple appear in August and September. Some have green foliage, while others are variegated.
Liriope thrives in sun as well as shade, and likes moist, rich soil. It’s suitable for zones 5 to 10. I’m in zone 6, and mine turn brown in the winter and freshen up in spring.
Liriope makes pretty garden borders and is good at inhibiting erosion on slopes. It’s great under trees where you just can’t seem to get the grass to grow.
Nature Hills offers L. spicata, a creeping variety, in 1-gallon pots.
11. Lithodora (Lithodora diffusa)
I recently planted my first lithodora. It was the tiny, bright blue blossoms that caught my eye at the nursery.
It likes part shade, particularly in hot regions, and must have well-drained soil.
Great for zones 6 to 8, and able to withstand light foot traffic, this plant may reach 12 inches in height. It has small, hairy “sessile” green leaves that are attached without stalks, making for a low profile.
Lithodora blooms vigorously in May, then occasionally through August. In temperate zones, it is a perennial.
I’m on the annual/perennial cusp, so if I layer my plant well with mulch and we have a mild winter, it should return next spring.
One thing I learned quickly with this plant is that it won’t spread out and naturalize if it has competition from native weeds and wildflowers.
Be sure to give your new ground covers room to grow. Once established, their matted root networks should squeeze out the competition.
12. Pig Squeak (Bergenia cordifolia)
Pig squeak is a perennial whose name comes from the squeaky sound the leaves make when you rub them between your fingers. It’s suitable for zones 3 to 8, and grows best in part to full shade.
Pig squeak is a clumping plant with shiny, dark green leaves and stalks of pink blossoms that bloom in April and May. It’s a slow-grower that may exceed 12 inches in height. This plant is drought tolerant.
‘Winter Glow’ Bergenia
Nature Hills offers Pig Squeak ‘Winter Glow’ in 5-inch pots.
13. Spike Speedwell (Veronica spicata)
Spike speedwell, often called royal candles, is a clumping perennial suitable for zones 3 to 8. Its narrow green leaves form a base for tall spikes comprised of tiny blossoms in shades of purple, blue, pink, or white. Bloom time is June through August.
Spike speedwell prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It grows to a foot or more in height. Multiple plantings merge into a vibrant swath of color.
Veronica ‘Blue Bouquet,’ available from True Leaf Market
True Leaf Market offers V. spicata ‘Blue Bouquet’ seeds in packages of 100 and 500.
14. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Sweet woodruff is a fragrant perennial with star-like white blossoms atop whorled (spiraled) green leaves. It blooms during the months of May and June.
Perfect for zones 4 to 8, sweet woodruff prefers part to full shade and moist, well-drained soil. It tops out at approximately 8 inches, and naturalizes rapidly. This variety is great as an underplanting beneath shrubs.
Sweet woodruff is one of my favorites, as I’m a fan of woodland gardening with shade perennials.
Sweet Woodruff Flower Seeds
Seeds are available via Amazon, in packets of 20.
15. Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri)
Wishbone flower, also called bluewings or clown flower, is an annual that grows best in part to full shade.
Suitable for zones 2 to 11, it likes moist, well-drained soil. The blossoms of wishbone are trumpet-shaped in shades of purple, pink, white, and yellow, often with contrasting “throats.” Leaves are light green and oval.
Wishbone is desirable for its ability to produce vibrant color all summer, in the shadiest portions of a garden.
Outsidepride T. Fournieri Seeds
The Outsidepride company offers multicolor 100-seed packages of T. fournieri, available on Amazon.
Some professional landscapers suggest homeowners design sections of their landscape as they would design each room in their home. This image helps homeowners give their yards dimension with layers of color and texture. Imagine vines as window coverings, group trees and shrubs as if they were furniture, and use groundcover plants as carpeting–a far better carpet than just having gravel. Groundcover can make the difference between a traditional desert yard and the lush look of a professionally designed landscape, which still is low maintenance and low water use.
There are practical reasons to use groundcover plants in a desert garden. These low-growing and sprawling, creeping or clumping plants serve the same purpose as gravel, without radiating excessive heat. Some professionals use both groundcover plants and a thin layer of gravel. Groundcover plants suppress dust and slow evaporation of water from the soil. Groundcover also controls erosion on a slope. Like the flooring in your home, groundcover can bring cohesion to an eclectic design that may have been planted without much thought or by several different homeowners.
Groundcover plants need a bit more care than cactus. The University of Arizona reports that after two to four years many groundcover plants can develop bare spots, perhaps due to weather, watering practices, or a change to older, tougher and less dense foliage. Plan on buying a few more plants every few years to keep the groundcover dense enough to serve its purpose.
Choose the Right Plant for the Right Space
Before you plant large sections of your yard with groundcovers, UA’s Ground Covers for Arizona Landscapes suggests asking yourself a few more questions.
1. What will this groundcover look like in the middle of winter or at the height of summer? Some groundcover plants have an off-season and are sensitive to the cold. Select the toughest plants available, particularly ones that can stand a desert winter.
2. How far and wide will a groundcover plant spread? Don’t choose a fast-spreading flourishing plant for a small or narrow space, particularly along a walkway. That’s just creating work. Don’t assume a grass trimmer will keep a vigorous groundcover in check.
3. Will this groundcover collect debris from trees and shrubs? If you choose a groundcover with thorns or spines it could be tough to rake and keep pretty when planted under trees or with shrubs.
Know When to Plant
Spring is a good time to plant groundcover. After you select your plants at the nursery, keep the soil wet in their containers until you have time to plant them and then plant them in moist soil. These plants have shallow roots so water every two to three days for the first two to four weeks. Once established, water every five to 10 days during the hottest time of the year, but only every three to six weeks in the winter and only if winter rain is sparse.
It’s always best to narrow your selection before you go to the nursery. Visit the AMWUA plant selection guide before your visit and bookmark your favorite groundcover selections on your phone. Several AMWUA cities’ conservation professionals suggested these favorite groundcover plants.
- Gopher Plant or Blue Euphorbia (Euphorbia Rigida) This shrubby evergreen is native to the Mediterranean area and is gaining a following among desert gardeners. It has yellow-green flowers mid-winter to early spring. The stalks die off during the summer allowing new foliage to reemerge.
The appearance of chartreuse flowers on the Gopher Plant in late winter and into spring adds welcome color to cool-season landscapes.
- Lantana (Lantana hybrid) This popular and hardy favorite needs a moderate amount of water. It will bloom all year and is available in a variety of colors, including purple, white and orange. It attracts butterflies and is sensitive to frost but rebounds in the spring.
The flowers of the Lantana come in a wide array of colors including purple, yellow, red, orange, pink and mixed colors. They are a colorful addition to any Xeriscape landscape.
- Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’) First, check whether the type of plant you see at the nursery grows into a shrub or is the “trailing rosemary” that is better suited for groundcover. Trailing rosemary is a hardy evergreen and has small blue flowers winter through spring. It is an edible herb that attracts bees.
Trailing Rosemary thrives in full sun and is great around a pool due to minimal litter.
- Bush Morning Glory (Convolvulus cneorum) This fast-growing evergreen plant has silvery green leaves that create a beautiful setting for the other plants in your yard. It likes full sun and produces showy white flowers in the spring.
The Bush Morning Glory produces showy white flowers in the spring. It is a drought-tolerant, low-water-use plant that thrives in full or reflected sun.
- Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) This hardy evergreen plant has dark foliage with yellow daisy-like flowers in spring and fall. It likes full sun and is great for around pools.
The golden-yellow, daisylike flowers of the Damianita will brighten up the landscape in the spring and fall.
Visit the AMWUA plant selection guide to find the right groundcover for your yard. If you need help designing, selecting, planting or nurturing your desert landscape, AMWUA cities offer free landscape classes.
Did you know that up to 70 percent of water use is outdoors? That’s why we love desert plants and feature them each month. You can learn more about Ironwood and other plants on our Arizona Low-Water-Use Plants page. Visit our page on Choosing and Planting Low Water-Use Plants for tips on plant selection and how to plant properly. Also, be sure to read through all of our featured Plant of the Month blogs!
Three hand-picked articles to read next:
- Can You Over-water Your Plants in the Desert? We Asked a Local Plant Expert!
- Fall Planting — Wildflowers and More!
- Three Easy Steps to Keeping our Landscape Plants Happy
This blog originally appeared on April 3, 2017, and is being reprinted with permission. Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) is one of 20 Water – Use It Wisely partners to offer water-saving advice and programs.
Fast Growing Flowering Ground Cover Plant Seed – Shake ‘n Seed
Top Ground Cover Sellers:
Candytuft – Both the annual and perennial varieties of candytuft are very good ground covers plants. Annual candtuft, if planted from seed, it begins flowering withing just a few short months with colors ranging from white to pink to purple. Perennial candytuft is a low, semiwoody, densely growing, upright-stemmed, fast growing ground cover that reaches 10″ tall.
Creeping Thyme – Both our regular creeping thyme and the magic carpet creeping thyme are two of our best selling ground cover seeds. Magic carpet is sold in packets so you don’t get near as much seed as buying in bulk. This seed is just too expensive as it is imported from Europe. For large areas that need planted by seed, the wild creeping thyme is more suitable for that type of an application.
Dichondra – Dichondra is attractive due to its beautiful dark, green foliage. It is an evergreen plant can look beautiful all year in warmer climates. It will die out with hard frosts so it does not work will in colder zones. Dichondra has broad, almost circular leaves (looks similar to clover) and when mown low establishes a thick dense carpet look. Some people actually have dichondra lawns instead of grass lawns. Used in mass plantings for a low growing ground cover plant.
Ice Plant – Ice Plant ground cover plants produce brilliant fushia blooms in just four months from seed! This hardy, drought-tolerant plant forms a ground-hugging mat that blooms all summer long! A mainstay of the water-saving or dry-climate garden, this hardy Ice plant is a flowering ground cover that blooms for months with little to no care!
Irish Moss – The most popular ground cover seed we sell in packets. Very tiny seed so sowing properly is essential to success, but when properly planted is a wonder plant that is often sowed in between stepping stones or rocks. Use Shake ‘n Seed for easy sowing. Irish Moss typically only grows 2″ to 4″ tall. It is one of the lowest growing ground covers that we sell.
Periwinkle – AKA vinca. For hot southern or desert climates or a hard to maintain spot near a concrete or reflecting wall, vinca is your plant! Blooms best when other plants are hurting from the heat. Very few insects or disease problems. This ground cover plant can be grown as a perennial in frost-free areas. Readily reseeds itself. Very drought tolerant.
Sedum – We offer three varieties of sedum, but only two of them (acre and dragon’s blood) are typically used as ground covers. Sedum does not require much water at all even though it is shallow rooted. It like, Irish Moss, is one of the lowest growing ground covers we offer; however, sedum is more drought tolerant then Irish Moss.
Verbena – We offer several varieties of verbena sold in seed form. Moss verbena is sold by the pound and can be used for large areas where a flowering ground cover is needed. Our other verbenas are only sold in packet sizes so smaller scale operations are better suited for it.
Miniclover – This is the most versatile ground cover seed we offer. It can be used for erosion control, as a ground cover, as a lawn substitute, as a cover crop, and has many other used. Typically, it will stay less the 6″ tall and can be mowed and trained to stay at a lower height. Clover does not require much water and can tolerate light shade.
Wildflowers – Sunburst is our lowest growing wildflower mix that can be used as a colorful flowering ground cover plant seed. It will bloom in six to eight weeks after planting in the spring in a vast array of colors. Even though it is an annual, most of the flowers will reseed themselves and come back the following spring.
Are you looking for ground cover plants? Because oh, are there a huge number of these plants available. They range in size from only an inch or two to nearly a foot tall. Some creep steadily along the ground, where others grow up, flop over, and then trail out.
If you’re concerned about soil erosion, or sick of your lawn, ground cover plants are for you. Landscaping professionals love them as they can be used to create curves of color. They can grow around the bases of shrubs or bushes in the yard. And they’ll even look good right at the root area of your ornate fruit trees.
So let’s go over some information about how best to utilize ground cover plants in your yard. We’ll explore a few popular ones for each of multiple categories. Then all that you’ll need to do is to start seeds and get to planting!
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Reasons To Replace Lawns With Ground Cover Plants
A mixture of ground cover plants can easily replace grass. Source: Gardener Susan
Lawns can be a real hassle at times. Even in the best conditions, you will have issues with weeds popping up in the midst of the grass. Weeds like dandelions and annoying crabgrass infestations will wreak havoc on the green turf. Other weeds infiltrate, too.
But when planting ground cover plants, you’ll avoid much of that. Sure, you may still have some weed issues, but once the ground cover takes over, most weeds won’t survive. The dense matting of roots that these hardy little plants put down choke out other growth.
A ground cover can look lush in all sorts of weather, and often requires far less watering than a standard lawn. It requires less frequent fertilization as well. And if the plants begin to get too tall, many types can be trimmed down to size using a standard lawn mower.
Additionally, your “lawn” will be a cacophony of bright flowers during parts of the year. From spring into the summer and possibly even fall, colored blooms will dapple your yard.
Unlike grasses, your ground cover plants can be a real draw for pollinating insects. Butterflies are often drawn to your plants for nectar, as are bees. If you’re trying to grow vegetables, having these beneficial insects at hand is great!
Ground covers don’t all have to be traditional. There are miniature succulents and taller plants. Round leaves, fern-like leaves, or even pointed grassy leafed plants are visually appealing.
Did I mention that they can smell amazing? If you’ve always wanted your yard to smell like the herbs you grow, a ground cover plant may be for you! And if you find yourself needing a sprig of thyme for a recipe, you might have an entire yard full awaiting you.
If you have children or pets who are likely to play on your yard, you can do a blended yard. Leave a segment of grass for them to play on, and turn the rest into a sculpted landscape of flowering delight.
Alternate Ways To Use Ground Covers
Blue star creeper can slowly fill in around stepping stones in a garden path. Source: libraryrachel
Do you want to give the effect of rolling hills of color in the yard? Ground cover plants can help with that, too. Start with a maintained short lawn space. Sculpt a curved bed into it and amend it and plant ground cover plants there.
As ground cover plants vary from only an inch or two tall to 10″, you can do multiple “layers” of beds. Use flexible garden edging to separate the roots and prevent spreading. This can create the visual effect of a tiered garden and spare you a lot of headaches.
Ground cover plants can also be worked into beds to prevent weed development. They’re especially useful around established perennials or shrubs. Be mindful not to mix these with plants that don’t like to be crowded, as they can creep around other plants.
If you’ve got spaces between raised beds and you just don’t want grass there, plant a ground cover instead. You won’t have to fight with weeds or irritating grasses, and they’re easier to maintain.
Ground cover plants can really look lovely surrounding stepping stones or pathways. When in flower, these provide a luscious carpet of color that’s sure to brighten your yard!
Selecting The Right Ground Cover Plants
Select plants like wooly thyme which look good even when they’re not flowering. Source: KingsbraeGarden
Before you can select a plant as a ground cover, there’s some important things to know.
First, you’ll need to know your soil type. Do you have clay soil? Sandy soil? Loamy soil? Is it well aerated or is it somewhat compacted?
Different plants will prefer different soil types. While some can grow in even poor soil, many prefer richer, well-draining soils. Clay is hard to grow a good ground cover plant on as it can bake to a rock-hard consistency. You may need to amend your soil for specific types of plants.
The area that you’ll be growing in has an impact as well. If your yard is fully shaded, sun-loving varieties won’t work for you. And desert dwellers shouldn’t choose mountain plants or those which prefer wetter conditions.
Height is also an issue. Some people want plants that stay only a couple inches tall so they simulate a lawn a bit better. If you’re layering in different heights, you’ll need multiple different sizes.
Speed of growth can be a factor. If you’re doing a variety of ground covers, one which grows faster than all the others may become a problem. It can choke out the other plants’ growth or take over all the available space.
Don’t forget to be aware of its temperature requirements! A plant which does well in hot sun may not do well if your temps drop to freezing in the winter. Be mindful of both your average high temps and your low temps, and pick plants that can handle both.
Best Ground Cover Plants For Full Shade
There’s a wide variety of plants which prefer to be out of direct sunlight. While some of these can tolerate a little bit of sun, they often thrive in shady conditions. This makes them perfect for those awkward spaces under or around foliage. They’re also great alongside buildings where the sun rarely reaches plants.
Miniature Brass Buttons
Brass buttons plant. Source: Mollivan Jon
An aggressive grower, Leptinella gruveri prefers to remain in the shade. Still, it can tolerate some morning light. Its leaves are fernlike in shape. Greenish-gold flowers appear throughout the spring. Ideal in zones 7-10.
Learn More: Brass Buttons Plant Care
Pink and white impatiens make a beautiful low-border plant. Source: drakelibguy
Impatiens walleriana is a popular flowering ground cover. Growing on average 7-10″ in height, this short plant can be a very effective ground cover. They work especially well on borders or in layered beds. Best in zones 10-11, although other impatiens species can grow as cool as zone 3.
Learn More: Impatiens Walleriana Plant Care
Baby’s tears as seen without its flowers. Source: wallygrom
Soleirolia soleirolii is called many things – angel’s tears, baby’s tears, even “mind-your-own-business”. This relative of the nettle is a shade and moisture-loving plant. It produces a blanket of tiny white flowers overtop lush green foliage. Baby’s tears grow best in zones 9-11, but may die back a bit in zone 9’s winter.
Learn More: Baby Tears Plant Care Guide
Golden star is a wonderful ground cover! Source: tgpotterfield
Sometimes called green-and-gold, Chrysogonum virginianum is a popular ground cover. It blooms best in cooler conditions, making it a perfect shade plant. Tolerant of some sunlight too, it requires moist-well-drained soil. Grows in zones 5-9.
Learn More: Chrysogonum Virginianum Care
Sweet woodruff. Source: rachelgreenbelt
Producing a sweet scent, Galium odoratum prefers the shaded areas too. It loves soil rich in organic material, but wants it to be well-draining while moist. Sweet woodruff spreads via runners and can become invasive if not maintained, but is easy to care for. This plant is a wild shade cover plant in some regions. Zones 4-8 are preferred.
Best Ground Cover Plants For Partial Sun
Looking for a plant that can handle both shade and sunlight? The following plants are perfect for you. It’s best to avoid desert full sun conditions on these as they may be subject to sunburn. But if you’ve got a space that’s intermittently shade or sun, they’ll grow nicely!
Creeping phlox stays very compact but produces good-sized flowers! Source: rachelgreenbelt
Tiny little phlox plants that rarely reach above 6 inches in height? You bet! Creeping phlox flowers in pink, white, purple or blue colors and makes a dense little mat of greenery. This plant’s not good for walking on, but for manicured lawn replacements it’s great. Best in zones 3-9.
Learn More: Creeping Phlox Care Guide
Dwarf forms of dianthus keep a low profile but have bright flowers. Source: beautifulcataya
Sweet william, pinks, and dianthus have been in our spotlight for a while. But the dwarf varieties make phenomenal ground cover plants! Dianthus gratianopolitanus is a perfect example of a ground cover species. They’ve got lower watering requirements than other ground covers and will slowly spread. Ideal zones for these are 3-9.
The tiny, rounded leaves of Corsican mint create little bursts of mint scent as you walk through them! Source: D.Eickhoff
Who doesn’t love mints? Mentha requienii produces miniature mauve flowers overtop of rounded tiny leaves. Its minty aroma makes this plant a favorite for use around stepping stones. Tolerant of being walked on, this plant stays low to the ground. Corsican mint grows in zones 6-10.
Learn More: Corsican Mint Care
Mazus reptans has stunning beautiful, iris-like flowers. Source: rachelgreenbelt
With blooms from mid-spring to almost mid-summer, Mazus reptans is a great choice. Fairly drought-tolerant, it can grow in full sun but flowers more in partial shade. Its flowers range from blue to purple in hue, and it’s a quick spreader. Ideal for zones 4-10.
Learn More: Mazus Reptans Care
Blue Star Creeper
Blue star creeper is a nice, low-lying ground cover option. Source: andrey_zharkikh
There’s many names for Isotoma fluviatilis. Whether it’s white star creeper or pale blue, it’s a perfect partial-sun plant. Spreading rapidly in filtered light, it can tolerate full sun in cooler weather. I’m particularly fond of the blue flowered form, but it can produce blue, white, or mixed flowers. Grows best in zones 6-9.
Learn More: Blue Star Creeper Care Guide
Best Ground Cover Plants For Full Sun
Those wanting to replace their lawn or with larger spaces are likely in need of full sun plants. Plants like these will hold their own against the direct sunlight with ease. They might need a little extra watering in the summer, so remain attentive to their needs!
A patch of creeping thyme that’s dotted with crabapple petals. Source: smilla4
Edible herbs as ground cover? Definitely! Not only does creeping thyme lend itself well to being a ground cover, but it holds up to damage. Walking on it will cause little bursts of thyme scent to accompany every step. It produces itty bitty purple-pink flowers, and has tiny, delicate leaves. Perfect in zones 5-9.
Thick lamb’s ear leaves create a silvery ground cover option. Source: A.Poulos
Silvery and thick, the leaves of lamb’s ear create a soft grey backdrop for spring purple flowers. Not as small as some other ground cover plants, it typically reaches heights of up to 6-8″. This plant does best in zones 4-9.
A blanket of floral color can be had with creeping speedwell. Source: Rüdiger Stehn
Veronica filiformis grows well from full sun into dappled shade regions. Its miniscule purple flowers emerge in the spring, delicate and beautiful. This plant is one of the lowest ground cover plants we’ve discussed, averaging 1-2″ in height. Great in zones 6-9!
Learn More: Creeping Speedwell Care
Wooly thyme has fine hairs on its leaves that help cool the plant in the heat. Source: patrick_standish
Fuzzy, grey-green leaves with tiny pink flowers? Why not! This thyme variety has tiny hairs on its miniature leaves which give it a silvery cast. Underneath those furry hairs are light green leaves. While this is not a popular edible thyme, it has the traditional thyme scent underfoot. The hairs make it less likely to develop sunburn even in very hot climates. Ideal in zones 6-10.
Learn More: Wooly Thyme Care Guide
The ‘Mother Lode’ variety of creeping juniper has brilliant yellow leaf tips. Source: F. D. Richards
Juniperus horizontalis is often used for erosion control. It can be seen on hillsides throughout southern California, especially at the coast. Whether it’s a dark green variety or a brilliant yellow-tinged one like Mother Lode, it creates a 6″ carpet. Zones 4-9 are where it grows best.
Best Drought-Tolerant Ground Cover Plants
But what if you’re in an arid area where xeriscape is the norm? Desert dwellers often find themselves in need of heavy watering to keep plants lush. There are drought-tolerant options for these regions as well! While slightly more exotic to see, these plants can be a wonderful addition to any yard.
Tiny succulent leaves with white flower stalks are common to Sedum album. Source: anro0002
Tiny succulent leaves and white flower spikes are common for Sedum album. This drought-tolerant plant flowers in the summer months, sending up beautiful little spikes. In the fall months, the succulent leaves turn pinkish-red. Zones 4-9 are best for sedum.
Roman chamomile has flowers that look like miniature daisies. Source: andrey_zharkikh
Chamaemelum nobile thrives in hot and dry conditions. While it can become a bit weedy in appearance, you can use a mower to trim back its stems to about 2″ after flowering. Its flowers are bright and sunny, just like the environment it prefers. Best when planted in zones 4-9.
Ice plant has succulent leaves with distinctive pink flowers. Source: c_nilsen
Poor soil? No problem. Delosperma is a beautiful succulent ground cover that produces daisy-like flowers. It can perform in poor or sandy soils, making it a common sight along the California coast. No soggy soil, please — be sure it drains well! Plant this in zones 5-9.
Creeping sage can reach heights of up to 10 inches. Source: EcoCenter at HHP
Salvia sonomensis is a low-lying sage plant which only reaches about 10″ tall. Extremely drought tolerant as sages usually are, it’s great for low-water gardens. It creates blue-violet spikes of flowers from May to June, and is a perfect layering plant. This sage prefers zones 8-10.
The ‘hirtum’ subspecies of Greek oregano stays low to the ground. Source: Starr Environmental
Want a ground cover that doubles as a flavorful culinary herb? Go with Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum. Spicy and jam-packed with flavor, the leaves are perfect as dried oregano. It’s able to hold up to light walking traffic, sending up spicy scent with every step. Best of all, it looks beautiful in the yard as a ground cover. Grow this one in zones 5-9.
Tiny leaves and flowers or broad leaves and big blooms, scented or unscented… Ground covers are a fantastic choice for your garden environment. What kinds of ground cover plants do you like? Do you grow one that’s not on our current list? Tell me about it in the comments!
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Colorado State University
by J.E. Klett and C.R. Wilson1 (1/09)
- Plants that are low-growing (generally less than 24 inches) and spread easily are suitable ground cover plants.
- Suitable places for xeric ground covers include dry slopes, landscape medians, parking strips, traffic islands and street rights-of-way.
- Consider ground covers on hot, dry, south and west exposures as well as for dense, dry shade.
- Improve soils before planting ground covers.
- Ideally, a ground cover should grow dense enough or be mulched to inhibit weeds
Ground cover plants are appealing for their variety of ornamental features that add interest to landscapes. They provide a variety of textures and colors, help to reduce soil erosion and can function as a transition between landscape spaces. They offer alternatives to turfgrasses in some situations.
A ground cover should spread by itself. Species that produce rhizomes or stolons or that spread by offsets or tip layering are good choices for ground covers. Ideally, they will develop rapidly into a dense cover. Some grow so fast they can become invasive.
Ground covers also can enhance the beauty of shrub borders and break up the monotony of mulched areas. Xeric ground cover plants may be the answer for difficult landscape areas that are difficult to mow or water, require extra maintenance or are less suitable for turfgrass such as:
- landscaped medians, parking strips, traffic islands and rights-of-way along streets;
- steep slopes that are impractical in lawns or a mowing hazard;
- hot, dry areas on south and west exposures;
- deeply shaded areas beneath trees or shrubs, along north sides of walls and fences, between buildings and in front of low windows.
Soils and Exposure
The key to successful ground cover establishment is good soil preparation. Some ground covers spread by offshoots or runners and are more apt to fill in quickly where the soil has good aeration and drainage. Improve soils with good quality organic matter before planting. Incorporate 3 to 5 cubic yards of compost or other organic soil amendment into 1000 square feet of area.
Pay attention to exposure. Tables 1 and 2 indicate ground cover plants for sun or shade as well as bloom characteristics and useful comments.
Weed Control and Maintenance
Prior to planting ground covers, make sure that existing weeds are hoed, pulled or killed with an herbicide. Perennial weeds can be especially troublesome later if not eliminated prior to planting. Glyphosate herbicide controls many weeds if applied a few weeks prior to planting. This herbicide does not leave a harmful soil residue, allowing planting in treated areas 10 to 14 days after spraying. Follow label directions when using
Weeds can be discouraged by using weed barrier fabrics, anchoring with U-shaped wire pins. Plant through slits cut into the barrier. Apply mulch on top of the fabric. Avoid the use of solid sheet plastic as a weed barrier.
All ground covers require maintenance, some more than others. Ground covers that develop flowers and fruit often require more maintenance than evergreen ground covers
Table 1: Xeric ground cover plants for full sun
|Plant Name||Height (in)||Flower Color||Bloom time||Remarks|
| Achillea serbica
|4-8||White||Spring||Toothed, gray leaves|
| Achillea tomentosa
|2-4||Yellow||Summer||Woolly, gray foliage in low mats|
| Antennaria dioica
|1-2||White to pink||Late spring to early summer||Persistent gray-green foliage in dense mats; excellent for rocky slopes|
| Artemisia frigida
|6-15||Yellow||Late summer||Blooms not showy, silver gray fringed foliage, woody stems|
| Bouteloua gracilis
Blue grama grass
|12-18||Tan||Summer to fall||Clump-forming native, sow seed to form solid cover, shade intolerant|
| Callirhoe involucrata
|6-12||Red||Summer to fall||Vigorous trailing stems, Plant Select®|
| Cerastium tomentosum
|6-8||White||Spring to summer||Gray foliage, aggressive spreader|
| Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
|8-12||Violet-blue||Late summer to fall||Shiny green leaves, purplish fall leaf color|
| Delosperma sp.
|1-6||Red, yellow, white, fuchsia||Spring to fall||Succulent leaves|
| D. floribundum
|4-6||Pink with white centers||Summer to fall||Cushion growth form, requires dry soil in winters, Plant Select®|
| D. ‘John Proffit’
|2-4||Fuchsia||Spring to fall||Durable, leaves turn purple in winter, Plant Select®|
| D. ‘Kelaidis’ PP#13,876
|2-4||Salmon-pink||Spring to fall||Vigorous, compact habit, Plant Select®|
| D. nubigenum
|1-2||Yellow||Early to mid summer||Light green, compact foliage turns purplish in winter|
| D. ‘Psfave’
LAVENDER ICE TM
|2-3||Lavender||Spring to fall||Foliage turns purple in winter, Plant Select®|
| Duchesnia indica
|4-6||Yellow||Late spring to summer||Aggressive creeper, inedible red fruit|
| Eriogonum umbellatum
|3-6||Yellow||Early to mid summer||Flower stalk 8 inches, foliage in a low mat, reddish in winter, native|
|E. umbellatum v. aureum ‘Psdowns’ Kannah Creek buckwheat||6-12||Yellow||Summer||Foliage turns reddish in winter, Plant Select®|
| Festuca glauca
Blue fescue grass
|6-15||Tan||Summer||Bunch grass producing tufts of blue-gray foliage|
| Juniperus horizontalis
|2-24||Evergreen, several foliage colors|
|‘Bar Harbor’||8-10||Gray-blue foliage, purplish winter color|
|‘Blue Chip’||8-10||Silver-blue foliage, purple in winter|
|‘Icee Blue’||2-4||Compact silver-blue foliage turns purplish in winter|
|‘Hughes’||12-24||Silvery blue foliage turns light purple in winter, distinct radial branching|
|‘Prince of Wales’||4-6||Ground hugging foliage turns plum in winter|
|‘Wiltonii’ (‘Blue Rug’)||4-6||Very low, silver-blue; purplish winter tinge|
| Juniperus sabina
|12-18||Bright green foliage on horizontal branches|
| Marrubium rotundifolium
|4-6||Silver-fringed rounded foliage, Plant Select®|
| Nepeta Psfike PP#18,904
Little Trudy® catmint
|8-10||Lavender||Spring to fall||Silvery foliage, low compact habit|
| Penstemon caespitosus
|1-4||Blue||Early summer||Speading carpet-like growth habit|
| Penstemon linarioides var. coloradoensis
Silverton® bluemat penstemon
|8-12||Lavender||Late spring to early summer||Evergreen silver foliage, Plant Select®|
| Penstemon pinifolius
|‘Mersea Yellow’||6-8||Yellow||Summer||Needle-like leaves|
| Phlox subulata
|6||Red, white, lavender||Spring||Moss-like foliage|
| Persicaria affinis
Himalayan border jewel
| Potentilla neumanniana
|2-4||Yellow||Late spring to early summer||Low mat, aggressive|
| Salvia daghestanica
|8-10||Dark blue||Spring to early summe||Silvery white foliage, slow spreading, Plant Select®|
| Sedum acre
|2-4||Yellow||Early summer||Bright green evergreen leaves|
| Sedum kamtschaticum
|4-6||Orange to yellow||Late summer||Toothed, glossy dark green leaves|
| Sedum spurium
|2-4||Rose red||Mid summer||Red edged foliage turns solid red in fall|
| Stachys byzantina
‘Helene von Stein’ lamb’s ears
|8-10||Not important||Not important||Large leaves, rarely flowers|
| Thymus praecox
|1-4||Pink||Spring to early summer||Fragrant, evergreen foliage|
| Thymus praecox
|1-2||Pink||Spring to early summer||Woolly-gray foliage turns purplish in winter, sparse flowers|
| Thymus serpyllum
|3-6||Pink to purple||Late spring||Mint-like fragrance|
| Thymus x citriodorus
|6-12||Pink||Early summer||Lemon scented foliage|
| Verbena bipinnatifida
Valley lavender ®
|3-6||Purple||Summer||Flowers held above plant with deeply cut leaves, Plant Select®|
| Veronica ‘Reavis’
Crystal River ® veronica
|2-4||Blue||Spring to early summer||Evergreen, fast growing, vigorous, Plant Select®|
| Veronica liwanensis
|1-2||Blue||Late spring to early summer||Dark green leaves, evergreen, Plant Select®|
| Veronica pectinata
|1-2||Blue||Early summer||Gray foliage, evergreen in mild winters, tolerates part shade|
| Zauschneria garrettii
Orange Carpet ®
|4-8||Orange||Late summer||Tubular flowers, cascades over walls, attracts hummingbirds, Plant Select®|
Table 2: Xeric ground cover plants for part shade to shade
|Plant Name||Height (in)||Flower Color||Bloom time||Remarks|
| Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
|4-6||Pink||Spring||Evergreen, red berries, native|
| Euonymus fortunei
|12-18||Not important||Not important||Glossy dark green leaves turn purple in winter|
| Mahonia repens
Creeping Oregon grape
|6-18||Yellow||Spring||Evergreen holly-like foliage turns reddish in fall, native|
| Vinca minor
|4-6||White or purple||Spring||Semi-evergreen, dark glossy green leaves|
1J.E. Klett, Colorado State University Extension landscape horticulturist and professor, department of horticulture and landscape architecture; and C.R. Wilson, Extension horticulture agent, Denver County. Revised from original fact sheet authored by J.R. Feucht, retired. 3/96. Revised 1/09.
Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.
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