Many gardeners are drawn to the vibrant display of cutting flowers and showy shrubs. For the practical or out-of-the-ordinary horticulturist, however, groundcover plants can be a great way to fill space and add a unique touch of greenery to your garden. From evergreen varieties to flowering attention-grabbers, there is a ground cover for every garden and soil type.
Creeping thyme is a great option for gardeners and homeowners who want to cover a barren spot but don’t want to devote too much time to a new plant. It requires little attention and grows to a height of two or three inches while spreading several feet. To grow well, it requires full sun and well-drained, somewhat dry soil. It does not need to be fertilized, but if you plant it in a rock garden, the parent part of the plant will die in three to four years. When this occurs, the newer portions of the plant will need to be divided, and new plants should be added when spring approaches.
True to its name, English ivy calls to mind stately English colleges and manicured grounds. Its handsome foliage offers benefits beyond looks; the plant will keep weeks in check and helps prevent erosion. When it’s grown horizontally, it can be eight inches tall and spread more than 15 feet. English ivy enjoys partial to full sun and can grow in temperatures between 45 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be fed every two weeks in the spring and summer, with half of the feed dosage for a houseplant and fertilized every month in the fall and winter.
Bunchberry, a ground cover in the dogwood family, has lush green foliage to offset flowering plants and dainty white flowers of its own in late spring. True to its name, it also boasts bunches of red berries in the fall, which are bland but edible raw or cooked. It grows well along edged pathways and stays relatively stout. It needs plenty of shade and sometimes needs help retaining water, so mulching or layering pine needles over the roots can help it along. Bunchberry doesn’t thrive in hot summers, so gardeners with warm summer months may want to look elsewhere for their groundcover needs.
Creeping juniper is less of a ground cover and more of a low shrub, although it acts as an effective groundcover when cared for properly. Its tints change from blue-green in the summer to plum in the winter. The type of creeping juniper determines how tall it grows; some are as short as 6 inches or as tall as two feet. It can grow up to eight feet and is quite adaptable. Creeping juniper do best where other plants would likely die: hot and dry soils near walls, clay areas, and sandy soils. At the very least, this plant needs a well-drained area with abundant sun. It doesn’t need pruning or cutting back unless it grows further than you’d like.
For a groundcover that’s more shrub-like, nepeta catmint is a long-blooming perennial that offers months of fragrant flowers. Its limited problems and pests make it an easy, low-maintenance plant that can be a substitute for lavender. This shrub can cover one to two feet of space and grows vigorously. It doesn’t need to be manicured, but trimming it after the first spring bloom can lead to more blooms later on. It needs well-drained soil and sunlight to thrive, and the flowers can be cut for a beautiful bouquet.
Basket of gold is a stunning low-growing flowering plant that’s a part of the alyssum family. It can grow and thrive in unlikely places: in cracks of stones, between pavers, and rocky soil. This plant does well in northern areas since the summers in southern regions are often too hot the allow the plant to thrive. It spreads from 12 to 18 inches, and its gold blooms can be up to 3 feet tall. Basket of gold performs well in containers and enjoys sunshine. Since it can live in poor soil, fertilizing isn’t necessary.
Similar to basket of gold, creeping phlox thrives in northern conditions like and can spread up to two feet. When planting creeping phlox, be sure to amend the soil with organic matter and fertilize in the early spring. You can propagate it by digging up one root ball and cutting it in half, then replacing one half and planting the other wherever you’d like. Cut the plant back in late winter to encourage new shoots to produce flowers in the spring.
Angelina sedum is a low-growing perennial that can reach three to six inches in height and spread 18 to 36 inches. To reach its fullest potential, place it in a place that receives full sun or partial shade with well-drained, medium moisture, or dry soil. With too much shade, Angelina sedum’s yellow foliage turns lime green. If you live in a dry or hot area, don’t fret: Angelina sedum is heat and drought tolerant that needs only occasional waterings.
For tall ground cover, look to amethyst in snow. It will reach 12 to 18 inches at its full height and up 28 inches wide. It does well in USDA zones three through eight, so gardeners in cooler climates can enjoy its slender foliage and spiky, unique blooms that appear in mid to late spring. It enjoys full sun, but mostly sunny areas will suffice. Plant it in normal or slightly alkaline soil and remove dead or dying blooms to improve plant health.
Irish moss is an incredible emerald green moss-like plant that isn’t a moss at all. Its growing season is typically in the spring, and white flowers will appear during this season. It needs some light to give the small leaves their green glow. Sunny to partial hade areas will ensure the moss grows well, and be sure to protect it from the hot sun. It may turn brown as the summer heat beats down, but will regain its green hue when fall approaches. It spreads like grass and can be used as a grass replacement.