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Last updated on January 21st, 2020
If you have a large area of the garden to cover or are simply looking for plants to fill in some gaps between larger plants, it’s important to find the best plants for ground cover. These run the gambit from plants that grow wide without a great deal of height such as the evergreen shrub vinca, to those that grow with both width and a little higher such as Cotoneaster horizontalis.
They are a great way for suppressing weeds in the garden but they can also look eye-catching if used correctly. Examples of this might be using a very low growing plant such as Phlox subulata, also known as creeping phlox in the front of borders as they provide all year round foliage and bright star-shaped flowers in many colours. Ajuga would be another suitable plant.
Depending on the needs of your garden, you will benefit from picking any one of the plants covered in this list. Below is a list of 10 of the best ground cover plants to include in your garden, the list includes a mix of shrubs and perennials and some alpines that are often evergreen:
As the name suggests, this particular plant a rhizomatous perennial. That means that it lies dormant during the winter but once spring emerges so will come alive with brand new leaves. For this particular plant, the flowering can last all the way through summer simply becoming less and less intense as the cycle continues.
For this plant the height and the spread you are able to achieve is going to vary greatly from one variety to another it’s important to check the exact specifications as well as the growing conditions for the variety that you choose. One of our favourites is Johnson’s blue, this variety is pictured above has lavender-blue flowers and prefers full sun or semi-shade but will also grow in shade making it ideal for under larger shrubs. Grows to around 30cm tall but can spread around 50-100cm.
Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)
Lily of the valley is a highly poisonous flowering plant that will work well for ground cover and leave a sweet scent. This plant is one that goes by many names such as Mary’s tears and May Bells. While consumption of it is poisonous, it is still a stunning specimen to behold, so much so that it was included in the wedding bouquet of Kate Middleton.
It grows to around 20cm and often forms extensive colonies up to 50cm wide. This plant is best grown in semi-shade or shade making it another good choice for under large shrubs or trees.
Vinca minor (periwinkle)
This variety of flowering plant is a beautiful option to include a large array of ground cover, it only grows to around 10cm tall but can spread as much as 100cm wide.
The Periwinkle brings with it stunning colours and growth options. Perennial plants, especially in things like rock gardens, serve well to offer low-growing ground cover and fill in any spaces that might exist in the existing rock formations or other natural components to the landscape.
Although often sold as a perennial, it’s much more like as shrub with evergreen foliage. It can be grown in just about any soil type in all positions from full sun to full shade.
Ajuga reptens (rockery perennial)
Perennials will grow regularly and this is no exception. This particular perennial is also referred to as the carpet bugle and it is a semi-evergreen perennial, often evergreen that is part of the mint family. It offers beautiful flowers of blue and purple that grow in whorl designs.
The flowers can be seen on large spikes the foliage for weight ranges in colour from white or green to pink all the way to a purple bronze hue. The carpet bugle will grow in shade or sun and it’s perfect for filling in spaces in between other natural aspects to your landscape. The dense foliage is quite beautiful and some varieties turn colours throughout the seasons. Ground covers prefer well-draining soil and this one is no exception.
Pachysandra Terminalis (Japanese spurge)
This plant is very strong and it’s the strength that makes it quite useful in your garden. This plant is very tolerant of changing seasons and belongs to the boxwood family. It is widely grown as an evergreen perennial or subshrub and the foliage doesn’t die back in the winter but rather turn the shade of yellow which makes it beautiful for ground cover all year round especially if you want vibrant colours throughout the winter.
This plant also grows in nearly all soil types but prefers semi-shade or shade with moist, but well-drained soil. Grows to just above ground level with a spread of 50cm.
This plant is part of a flowering plant known as stonecrops. They are incredibly fast growing and will spread quickly effectively forming a sort of mat across your garden.
They will grow prolifically outward but they don’t get very tall so this is perfect for shorter ground cover especially if you don’t want anything more than a few centimetres. There are many varieties to choose from with just as many colours. You often see them planted in rockeries.
Phlox subulata (creeping phlox)
This perennial plant is native to Woodlands around the world and brings with it beautiful strength and cover for your garden. This perennial does not need to be replaced which is what makes it so effective as ground cover.
This is true of all the plants on this list such that you can plant them effectively once and simply cater to their needs long-term without having to replace the plant each year. They will grow back and even when they die off during the winter they will resume their growth the following season. That being said this type of phlox is often evergreen but prefers full sun.
Black grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’)
Black grass will grow very well in slightly acidic and rich soil so long as it is well draining. It can thrive in partial shade or full sun. It is not the strongest of plants when it comes to severe winters but it requires medium maintenance and blooms in a pink shade from July through August.
It will remain very short in terms of the height and achieved but it grows prolifically outward which makes it ideal for covering a large amount of space. It is commonly referred to as Mondo Grass and has very colourful leaves and is incredibly drought tolerant.
It will develop black foliage depending on the weather, sunny locations will help this colour to develop. If you want it to grow prolifically as ground cover it is recommended that you space it 120mm apart from the other perennials.
This plant is a deciduous shrub that can reach 50-100cm in height and spreads rapidly in terms of its width to around 150cm. It requires full sun to partial shade & blooms with green foliage and showy pink-tinged flowers between May and June followed by red berries.
It is a very low maintenance plant that requires some watering until established and will attract birds to your garden. It is very drought resistant once established. It also makes an excellent choice for covering large sloped banks or just large empty beds
This species is a deciduous flowering shrub will tolerate cooler temperatures quite well. In fact, it grows in higher altitudes naturally so makes a good choice for more exposed areas. There are many varieties such as ‘Elizabeth’ which produces primrose yellow flowers from late spring to early autumn and grows in most soil types in full sun or partial shade. Grows to around 50-100cm tall and just as wide.