The Best Ground Cover Plants For your Yard
Ground cover plants are some of the best and most aesthetically pleasing problem solvers out there. There's little in your backyard that ground cover plants can't help around with.
Bare spots? Pesky stems of flowers that ruin the look? Tricky areas that are difficult to plant, and which get on your nerves? Ground cover plants are a great solution for it all.
Ground cover plants are low-growing plants that are used as attractive and all-around helpful carpets when it comes to gardening.
They make your yard more beautiful (much more than turf grass does), but also they are helpful are great, natural weed control, where they suppress the growth of weeds. Ground cover plants also help protect the soil against erosion and drought.
As their roots hold everything together when it heavily rains, and then it locks soil moisture and nutrients in when there's a lack. Ground cover plants aren't just alternatives too. They work amazingly alongside other weed-controlling methods like landscape fabric.
And can also be stunning additions to garden beds!
You won't run out of choices when it comes to those ground covers, but, as it always is the case, you have to be careful choosing a suitable ground cover plant, as each type has particular needs. Some require full sun, some do well with half sun. Some are more drought-tolerant than others.
They differ in maintenance as well. Some are more low maintenance than others, but generally speaking, ground cover plants don't usually require much effort and are easily found in any garden center.
You'll need to inspect your soil closely, and weed the area thoroughly, as it would be too much of a hassle to try to do it after the cover plants are on.
Then put extra attention to the state and climate of your zone, and closely follow the plant care tag to make sure your chosen ground cover plant can do its job fully and at its most beautiful!
There are five main types of ground cover plants, each with its varieties, that you can choose from.
Ground Cover Vines
Vines are famous for spreading upwards, but what you might not know is that many species spread horizontally. Making them great ground cover plants that can control erosion and fills your empty areas beautifully.
And quickly too! The downside to that is that they can be aggressive spreaders, but you can take care of that by avoiding the invasive varieties and taking care of consistent pruning.
The best ground cover vines include:
Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Periwinkle is an evergreen ground cover that bears blue flowers, lavender flowers, purple flowers, and white flowers. It mostly blooms in early summer and is pretty low maintenance.
It only needs well-drained soil and, like most cover plants, needs good moisture until it's fully established. Once maturing, it can be very drought tolerant, but if moist soil is an option, then keep with it.
This creeping vine should be grown in full shade or at least partial shade. Growing it underneath trees is a good idea!
Once you give it those qualities, the periwinkle evergreen will take cover, rooting in the ground immediately and rewarding you with those stunning flowers.
Blue Dawnflower (Ipomoea indica)
Another stunning vine, this perennial plant blooms with indigo and bright blue flowers. And it usually does so in late spring to summer and up until early fall.
So, if you choose this perennial cover plant, it'd be like you covered your backyard with a stunning blue rug.
It's extremely high maintenance, but it also needs moderately moist yet drained enough soil. Too much water can cause damage. If the soil is slightly acidic, then all the best.
But the most maintenance that goes to the plant is trimming and pruning, as it can grow from 10 to 25 feet (from 120 to 300 inches tall).
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Another perennial, this beautiful ground cover produces colorful flowers with red on the outside with orange inside. And rarely, fully orange or yellow flowers. They are also fragrant and small flowers.
Well-drained soil is best as it flourished in dry soil or at least moderately moist soil. It can also flourish in either full sun or partial shade.
It blooms fully from early spring to early summer, with occasional blooms throughout summer. It also produces beautiful red berries in late autumn, which are edible to birds but poisonous to humans.
If you like in a cold area, then you might want to choose this vine, as it's one of the hardest against extreme cold, with the ability to tolerate temperatures down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
Named after its trumpet-shaped flowers, this vine produces attractive flowers with colorful shades, from midsummer to early autumn. And in fall, its leaves turn yellow.
As it spreads aggressively, it needs frequent pruning and only occasional watering when it's facing dry spells. Full sun or partial shade both are fine with trumpet vine.
English Ivy (Hedera helix)
English Ivy is a classic evergreen ground cover if you want thick, green foliage and fleshy leaves. The only flowers it produces are tiny white flowers that are often greenish during the late summer, fall, and/or winter.
You would be getting mostly dark green leaves though.
It doesn't need much maintenance. It's best in full or partial shade but can tolerate the full sun. It also needs medium moisture with soil that's well-drained enough but can resist drought.
The only real maintenance it needs is frequent pruning and/or trimming as it can creep up to 36 feet (432 inches tall)
Ground Cover Herbaceous
Herbaceous ground cover plants, unlike vines, are without any woody stems. Also different from trees and shrubs, they are most often low-growing. Their lifecycle is either annual, biannual, or perennial lifecycles, and when they die, they die completely, unlike plants with woody stems, and regrow again from the seeds.
Many types of herbaceous ground cover plants are fast-growing. And all of them are great as ground cover plants, especially in arid areas where they are naturally a generator of precipitation and catalyst for dew.
Which is why most ground cover plants are herbaceous ones. Here are the best cover plants from them:
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily of the Valley is a low-growing plant with growth up to 1 foot tall (6 to 12 inches tall). It's characterized by its tongue-like leaves and bell-like tiny white flowers.
It starts blooming in early summer and the flowers it produces have a sweet, pleasant scent.
As lovely as it looks, Lily of the Valley is a quite tough ground cover. It does best in full shade away from direct sunlight but can tolerate some sun. The real maintenance it needs is pruning and grooming as it can spread easily.
Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
This low-growing perennial has stunning colorful foliage, ranging from deep green leaves to bronze and dark brown leaves, making it very attractive among ground covers.
It blooms in the summer with white, blue, and purple flowers. Pink flowers also appear. It spreads rapidly and can tolerate either the shade or the full sun. And it flourishes best in moist ground but can tolerate dry soil.
Other than occasional grooming, this plant needs pretty low maintenance.
Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)
Dead Nettle is another plant that is considered one of the prettiest ground cover plants. It blooms with bright pink and purple flowers in clusters, with occasional white flowers appearing.
Dead Nettle receives its name from its nettles-resembling leaves, which can't sting. The beautiful, peculiar leaves are part of why this is a very popular ground cover.
This low-growing plant is also extremely low maintenance. It prefers full or partial shade, and can tolerate some sun but will need more water in this case. In fully shaded areas, it'll bloom well even in dry, poor soil.
Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
Creeping Thyme is a shrub-like plant that forms a dense carpet of blooming purple, red, and pink flowers in late spring.
One of the most loved ground cover plants, creeping thyme is valued for its striking flowers, ornamental value, visual interest, and low maintenance care. And it's deer resistant as well!
It thrives in the full sun and spreads quickly. Creeping Thyme is also drought tolerant and can grow in poor soil, so it does well with dry spells.
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Sweet Woodruff is another popular choice. It blooms with tiny white flowers that spread beautifully over its deep green foliage. The sweetly-scented cover plant does well in moist but decently well-drained soil.
Sweet Woodruff can tolerate the sun but is best kept under full shade or at least partial shade. And needs occasional grooming as it spreads rapidly.
It blooms in late spring. Another great thing about Sweet Woodruff as a ground cover is that it's deer resistant.
Oakington Blue Eyes (Phlox subulata)
Named after its pale blue flowers, this is one of the most striking ground cover plants. It spreads with dense, grassy foliage.
It requires little care. Only good drainage and full sun. Once established, it can be one of the hardest ground covers against drought.
Ice Plant (Delosperma)
Ice Plant is a succulent, evergreen ground cover that blooms starting late spring up throughout summer and fall with daisy-reminiscent purple and pink flowers.
The ground cover plant needs full sun but can do with some shade. Full shade would impede its flower production. It needs occasional watering only if there is no rainfall, but once mature can be quite drought-tolerant.
The important part of this ground cover plant is well-drained soil, as wet soil can kill it, especially in winter.
Like other evergreens, you'll have a great cover with it all year long, although it can have dead foliage during the winter.
Hardy as they are, ice plants don't get their names from their hardiness against the cold, but from their shimmering flowers and leaves that appear to be covered in ice crystals.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Creeping Phlox is another well-liked ground cover. It's low growing and blooms pink flowers from late spring to late summer.
As a ground cover plant, or with a rock garden, creeping phlox is adored for its stunning, fragrant clusters of flowers. It's also pretty low maintenance, needing watering only if a week or more passes without any rainfall.
Otherwise, it flowers best in full sun. Without direct sunlight for at least some hours a day, its flower production would be hindered. It can tolerate part shade but that's it!
In maturity, it can be drought tolerant as well.
And it's not very cold hardy. But on the other hand, humidity and heat wouldn't be a problem with it at all.
Like many other plants from the herb family, even when Creeping Phlox is not flowering in winter, its green leaves remain to look good, making it one of the good ground cover plants.
Ground Cover Shrubs
Shrubs also make up a large part of ground cover plants. Especially the spreading, low-growing types that remain on ground level.
They make a dense mat with their thick foliage and can flower and bear fruits, making them an all-around beloved choice in ground cover plants.
Evergreen types especially form dense foliage, but they aren't the only types you could go for. Here are shrubs of different types that make perfect ground cover plants:
Creeping junipers are slow-growing evergreen shrubs. They are low-growing, but their branches can spread up to form a dense mat ten feet wide. Making them one of the most preferred ground cover plants.
The tendril-resembling branches of a creeping juniper in needles like yellow-green foliage. And from early spring to early summer, the creeping juniper blooms with white flowers.
It prefers full sun, although it can live with partial shade. And grows to be a hardy ground cover plant that's drought tolerant and is nearly completely impenetrable by weeds.
Rock Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)
This slow-growing shrub is one of the most attractive cover plants. It spreads widely and is characterized by its overall colorful look; its glossy and small leaves turn orange and red in fall, and it blooms in late spring with pinkish small flowers.
It also produces colorful berries. Rock Cotoneaster needs little maintenance as well. Just the full sun and weekly or biweekly watering during the hot days. For this ground cover, also try to keep the soil well drained.
Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo pumilio)
This ground cover type is a dwarf, evergreen conifer. It's a low-growing form of mountain pine, which makes it a great choice among ground covers if you want to have a mountain-inspired look.
It's very hardy and needs little maintenance. Just the full sun, good drainage, and occasional pruning. In maturity, it tolerates drought and cold, making it a great choice among ground covers for most areas.
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