Groundcover sedum

Landscaping with Groundcovers

In Blog, Feature, Gardening, Perennials, Summer by Megan Nichols

Along with trees, shrubs, and perennials, groundcovers are an important part of the garden and landscape. The most common living groundcover is turf grass, and wood or rock mulch is common for non-living mulch/groundcover to keep weeds at bay and add the finishing touch to a garden or landscaping project. While grass and mulch can be the perfect choice, the benefits of alternative groundcovers abound:

  • Living mulch – No need to replace or replenish wood mulch every year if you plant living mulch instead. Use groundcovers in place of wood mulch for lower maintenance and a different (more attractive?) look.
  • Flowers for pollinators – Many groundcovers produce flowers, which means more nectar and pollen for pollinators.
  • Erosion control – Roots hold soil in place. Instead of watching soil and mulch drift away in heavy rains, anchor it in with groundcovers.
  • Low growing tapestry – Feel free to mix colors and textures, just like you would with upright perennials.

There is a groundcover for every type of light and moisture condition, and every type of garden and landscape.

Sun Groundcovers

Sedum

Groundcover sedum

Perfect for hot, sunny spaces, sedums spread and flower, and they come in pretty greens, reds, and chartreuse shades. 1-3 inches tall, some blooms might grow taller.

Moneywort

Lysimachia (Moneywort)

Green or gold, moneywort creates a thick, low carpet and has a delicate flower in spring. Full to part sun, moist, well-drained soil. 2-3 inches tall.

Creeping Phlox – Thin leaves create an interesting texture in the landscape, and creeping phlox is a profuse bloomer is spring, creating a stunning, colorful carpet. Best in full sun, average water needs, 2-5 inches tall.

Creeping Thyme – Low growing, pretty flowers, and wonderful fragrance are all great reasons to love this groundcover. Given it’s dense, low growth habit and ability to handle light foot traffic, its perfect for tucking between pavers and stepping stones in a sunny garden path. ½ – 2 inches tall, low water once established, full sun.

Shade Groundcovers

Lamium and Lamiastrum

Lamium

Pretty, silver and green variegated leaves and flowers in shades of pink, purple, white, or yellow make this groundcover a great choice for brightening a shady spot in the garden landscape. Part to full shade, average water needs, 3-6 inches tall.

Vinca

Vinca

This low growing, vining groundcover is also known as periwinkle due to the pretty blue flowers that bloom profusely in spring, and then again sporadically throughout the summer. This plant really has no end as it sends out runners, roots in, creates another plant and continues the process. It’s not an extremely fast grower, however, so it’s easy to maintain and control. Full sun to full shade, average water needs, 2-3 inches tall.

Pachysandra

Easy to grow, great spreader, and the ability to handle a weed whip if it gets too tall are all great features of pachysandra. Full to part shade, average water needs, 6 inches tall, but can be lopped after white spring flowers have faded in order to maintain a tidier look.

Sweet Woodruff

Galium (Sweet woodruff)

An old-fashioned herb sometimes used in sachets, teas, and even to curdle milk, woodruff has the prettiest, most delicate little flower in spring. When dried, the plant has a vanilla scent. Full to part shade, tolerates occasionally dry soil but grows best in rich, moist soil, 6-12 inches tall.

Ajuga

Ajuga

Variegated or very dark leaves make this one a fun addition to any garden, as ajuga can go in the sun or shade. Pretty blue flower stalks pop up in spring, which can be trimmed off when flowers have finished, leaving the gardener with stunning foliage. 1-2 inches tall, average water needs.

Bergenia

Bergenia

Also known as pig squeak (rub the leaves together, you’ll see) has thick, chunky leaves and produces a flower stock that blooms pink in spring. It’s a spreader by nature, making it a groundcover even though it seems like any other perennial at first glance. Technically an evergreen, it remains green under the snow in winter. Just trim away any leaves that didn’t make it through the winter and the healthy leaves will perk up and the plant will just keep producing more. Full to part shade, average water needs, 12 inches tall with a taller flower stalk.

Keep in mind, groundcovers want to do just what their name states – they want to cover ground. They do not know how to stay in clumps or behave in a bed of mulch. Some maintenance is required to keep them in check, and though they respond fairly well to being contained by a mulch boarder, they do not grow well if mulch is too tight. Be sure to pull mulch away from the plant to allow it to grow.

Try a new groundcover today, or mix and match a few!