Ground cover plants can be very valuable members of the landscape. While they are often overlooked and underappreciated, they can provide color and interest to areas that may otherwise be dull or difficult to plant. Many ground covers will grow and thrive under trees where few other plants will grow. They can also act as a low-maintenance weed barrier, stabilize soil, fill in gaps between stepping stones, and provide a habitat for our pollinator friends.
While old-fashioned ground covers such as pachysandra and English ivy are common, why not think outside the box with a prettier alternative that is just as hardy and tough? Flowering ground covers provide all of the above mentioned benefits, along with added color from their blooms. Even when not in flower, many are evergreen and provide interest year-round.
Growing Ground Cover Flowers
Here’s a short list of 10 of our favorite flowering ground covers (plus one additional honorable mention) for you to consider:
- Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) – This pretty plant for full sun provides a thick mass of carpet-like foliage which is completely covered with an abundance of blooms in early spring. Well-drained, sandy soil is a must for this plant.
- Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) – This evergreen can withstand the shade of large trees and showcases small spikes of pretty blue or pink flowers that stand above the spreading foliage in spring. Plus, its foliage is colorful and attractive all year long. However, it does have a tendency to become an aggressive spreader.
- Catmint (Nepeta) – Catmint is a good choice if you are looking for season-long blooms and aromatic foliage. This short clumping perennial blooms most of the summer with superior deer and rabbit resistance.
- Coral Bells (Heuchera) – Although this plant is grown more for its foliage, its dainty little flowers do bloom for a long time during the summer months. This perennial is available in a wide array of foliage colors, shapes and sizes including green, yellow, purple, and some that even change throughout the season.
- Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) – This sun-loving perennial herb is the perfect little filler between stepping stones and patio pavers. The tiny magenta to purple flowers bloom in profusion early in the summer atop its low growing, dense mat of green foliage.
- Lilyturf (Liriope muscari) – This short clumping ornamental grass has unique, wide, dark green strappy leaves and delightful purple flowers that almost resemble grape hyacinths in late summer. It is perfect along paths and walkways, or planted en masse in landscape beds.
- Barrenwort (Epimedium) – Not only does this plant have pretty heart-shaped flowers that float above the foliage, but its ability to grow and thrive under the canopy of large shade trees makes it superior to other ground covers.
- Carnations/Pinks (Dianthus) – This vigorous, heat tolerant, clump-forming plant packs a blooming punch with fragrant flowers available in an array of colors ranging from pinks to reds, whites, lavenders, and even bicolors. The grass-like foliage is bluish-gray and also fragrant when brushed.
- Ice Plant (Delosperma) – The blooms of this ground cover are produced prolifically, completely covering the foliage from late spring through early summer in tropical colors. Choose this perennial for rock gardens, slopes, or in landscape areas that are extremely well-drained and dry. (Note: Delosperma is highly invasive in some parts of the US. Check with your local extension office before planting it).
- Asian Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) – This vigorous twining vine displays small fragrant creamy yellow flowers late spring to summer. Use this quick grower in the front of a border, or as coverage on banks and slopes. It will also climb upwards if given strong support from a fence, trellis or arbor.
Honorable mention: Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) This member of the Dogwood family is best grown in colder regions in a shady, woodland setting. The deeply veined rich green leaves are accented by showy white Dogwood-type flowers in late spring. Bunchberry is a good choice to edge a shady garden, for naturalized areas or to plant beneath evergreen or deciduous shrubs and trees.