David H. TrinkleinHorticulture State SpecialistDivision of Plant Sciences

Ground covers are low-thriving plants that spreview quickly to form a dense cover. They include beauty to the landscape and at the exact same time aid proccasion soil erosion. Grass is the best well-known ground cover, yet grass is not suited to all areas. Other ground cover plants should be used where grass is hard to thrive or keep.

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Unfavor grass, a lot of ground cover plants cannot be walked on. They have the right to be provided properly to mitigate maintenance work-related and to put the finishing touch on any landscaping job.


Ground covers deserve to be found to fit many problems, but they are provided the majority of commonly for the following locations:

Steep banks or slopes.Shady areas under trees and next to structures.Underplantings in shrub boundaries and beds.Areas wbelow tree roots flourish close to the surface and proccasion grass from flourishing.Locations that are very wet or extremely dry.

When planted under trees, ground covers alleviate the possibility of mower damage to the base of the tree. Some ground covers may be used to defend the roots of shallow-rooted trees. They shade the soil and store it from drying out rapidly. Some ground covers don’t need as much moisture and nutrients as grass. As such, they are in much less competition through trees and shrubs.


Selection of a suitable plant for ground cover counts on the location where it will certainly be grown. Some ground cover plants prefer partial shade, others flourish in deep shade or full sun; a couple of thrive well in either sun or shade. The selected ground cover plants noted below prosper well in a vast selection of soil forms. Some, however, choose moist soil while others need dry or well-drained soil. All the ground covers disputed are reliably cold hardy throughout slrfc.org.

First, choose kinds finest suited to the problems existing wright here the ground cover is necessary. From these selected kinds, select one that ornamentally blends best through neighboring plantings.

Table 1. Area spanned by 100 plants at various planting ranges.

Planting distanceArea covered
4 inches11 square feet
6 inches25 square feet
8 inches44 square feet
10 inches70 square feet
12 inches100 square feet
18 inches225 square feet
24 inches400 square feet
36 inches900 square feet
48 inches1,600 square feet


A well-all set planting bed is vital to develop a thick, healthy ground cover planting. The soil should be functioned to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Take care to remove perennial weeds and grass that might contend via the ground cover throughout establishment.

Organic materials such as peatmoss, leaf mold, comarticle or well-rotted manure lighten clay soils and also improve the water-holding capacity of sandy soils. Eight to 10 bushels of organic products per 100 square feet integrated to a depth of 6 to 8 inches may be vital in exceptionally bad or hefty soils.

A soil test provides the ideal guidance for fertilizer consumption. Without this indevelopment, a general dominion would certainly be to usage three pounds of a commercial fertilizer such as 5-10-5 per 100 square feet. Mix the fertilizer right into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

Many ground cover plants deserve to be planted any type of time throughout the growing season, but either spring or fall is preferred.

The plan and spacing of plants in the planting bed relies on the development qualities of the plant. Void plants so they will certainly build a uniformly extended location in a reasonably short duration of time.

Plants that spread quickly may be spaced a lot larger than slow-spanalysis types. Spacing likewise counts on funds available and how quickly a finish cover is wanted. Spacings from 1 to 2 feet apart are many commonly provided. Table 1 says the location that roughly 100 plants will certainly cover once collection at assorted distances. For instance, if plants are spaced 4 inches acomponent, 100 plants will cover about 11 square feet. A staggered row planting pattern typically will certainly cause the quickest cover of the planting bed.

Watering, weeding, mulching and feeding will be the primary requirements of the brand-new ground cover planting. Water throughout dry durations. An occasional thounstable soil soaking is better than constant light waterings. Occasional hand weeding with a minimum disturbance of the soil may be essential. A one-inch mulch layer of peatmoss, comarticle or similar organic product used in between plants will certainly conserve soil moisture and also minimize weed growth. An yearly spring application of a 5-10-5 or similar analysis fertilizer at the rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet is recommended to preserve vigorous growth.


Barrenwort (Epemedium)

The epemediums are a group of low-growing perennials that are exceptionally efficient as ground covers in shade. They thrive around a foot tall in clumps and have actually attrenergetic, often vivid, heart-shaped, serprice leaves. They bloom in spring with clusters of delicate flowers resembling tiny columbine blooms. Epemediums tolerate sunlight however prefer shade and bimpend well in mulched beds under trees. Red epemedium (E. x rubrum), among the a lot of commonly planted types, has an excellent bronze-purple autumn color.

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Bearberry is a woody evergreen plant that stays much less than 12 inches tall, however can spreview approximately 6 feet. It roots at the nodes and gradually develops a dense mat of little, glossy leaves that revolve purplish in winter. Flowers in spring are tiny, pink and bell-shaped, like those of heather or blueberry. Although it does not reliably create fruit in slrfc.org’s climate, when it does, the bappropriate red berries persist, adding winter interest.

Bearberry prefers a sandy or rocky, acidic soil and full sun or partial shade. Excellent drainage is a need to, yet irrigation throughout drought conditions may be crucial. Wbelow irrigation is not useful, afternoon shade will certainly aid get this plant through the summer warm in great problem.

Blood-red cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)

Several species of geraniums, often dubbed wild geranium or cranesbill, make efficient ground cover plants. Cranesbill differs significantly from the widespread garden geranium (Pelargonium) in that they are cold hardy, herbaceous perennials. One of the best species of Geranium for ground cover functions is G. sanguineum, blood-red cranesbill. Cultivation 12 to 14 inches tall, it has actually attractive, dark green foliage and also many 1-inch red, pink or purple flowers (depending upon cultivar) in late spring. It toleprices complete sun and also drought however also grows in partial shade. It works well as a ground cover border in a perennial bed.

Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

Figure 1. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens).

Candytuft is an excellent ground cover for the border of a perennial garden in complete sun. Cultivation about 12 inches tall, it has actually small, dark green, evergreen leaves and produces a carpet of pure white flowers in spring (Figure 1). Candytuft prefers full sunlight and also well-drained soil. It benefits from cutting earlier after flowering to keep compactness.

Coralbells (Heuchera sanguinea)

Coralbells is a fantastic ground cover for partial shade. It produces rosettes of rounded basal leaves close to the ground however blooms virtually all summer long, sfinishing up foot-lengthy graceful freduced stalks bearing clusters of colorful, bell-shaped flowers well over the foliage. Coralbells grows ideal in a moist, fertile, yet well drained soil through high organic issue. Partial shade and irrigation are important to keep this ground cover in great condition during warm and drought.

Creeping juniper (Juniperus sp.)

Several juniper species are naturally low-growing, and also other species encompass selected low-flourishing ranges (cultivars) that make great ground covers for sunny, well-drained areas. They selection in elevation from about 6 inches to around 2 feet, relying on cultivar. These vigorous growers are tolerant of reasonably poor soils and have the right to spcheck out to cover a room from 6 to 8 feet. They are suitable for sunny slopes or banks wbelow an evergreen ground cover is wanted.

Juniper leaves are brief, needle-shaped and also, depending upon array, may be green or blue-green. Needles might adjust from their summer color to a purplish or slate color in winter. Spacing of plants counts on just how conveniently cover is wanted, but mostly junipers for ground cover should be spaced 2 to 4 feet acomponent. Many kind of cultivars of Juniperus horizontalis have actually been developed. A few of the lowest prospering of these encompass ‘Emerald Isle’, ‘Prince of Wales’ and ‘Wiltoni’, also well-known as Blue Rug. These cultivars prosper to a elevation of 6 to 8 inches. Slightly taller cultivars include ‘Bar Harbor’, ‘Hughes’ and ‘Youngstown’, which may reach around a foot in elevation.

Another species offering some exceptionally low prospering cultivars is Juniperus procumbens. Two cultivars from this species in the 6- to 8-inch elevation range are ‘Nana’ and also ‘Greenmound’.

For areas wright here taller ground covers may be preferred, cultivars of Juniperus sabina could be schosen. Two well-known cultivars from this juniper species are ‘Broodmoor’ and also ‘Skandia’. These cultivars thrive to a elevation of 1-1/2 to 2 feet.

Although junipers are commonly adjusted, tbelow are some species even more suited to cooler or warmer conditions. Among the low-flourishing forms, a variety that has become quite renowned is ‘Blue Star’, which grows to a height of around 2 feet. It belongs to Juniperus squamata, a varieties best suited to cooler climates. From this species, and also requiring the very same conditions, the selection "Blue Carpet" is likewise extremely attractive and also grows just to a elevation of around 1 foot.

In warmer locations of the state, a number of cultivars of the shore juniper, Juniperus conferta, could be schosen for a looser, textural adjust of ground cover. Possible selections include ‘Boulevard’, ‘Emerald Sea’ and also ‘Blue Pacific’.

Creeping phlox, Moss pink (Phlox subulata)

Creeping phlox is typically supplied as a rock garden plant but creates an efficient ground cover on bad, bare soils wright here tright here is little competition. It develops a dense mat of moss-choose foliage, which is covered in spring via masses of flowers in either pink, purplish or white . In rocky areas it will persist in the existing soil and also drape itself over the stones. It is a plant for complete sun and also fairly dry soils. As plants age, they may tend to construct occasional dead spots. Periodic department to fill such spots might be essential. In mild climates the plants are evergreen, however where winters are cold and plants are exposed, browning might take place.

Goldflame honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrotii ‘Goldflame’)

Although some honeysuckles need to not be provided as ground covers bereason of prolific seed production, ‘Goldflame’ produces no fruit. It is a vigorous vine that develops loose mounds of blue-green foliage. Blooms in May begin out through carmine red buds, which rotate to pink and also yellow as the flowers open, with a slight fragrance. After the initial spring bimpend, ‘Goldflame’ will bloom sporadically throughout the summer and also autumn. This plant can be an attractive ground cover in a huge bed. It need to be mulched, because the foliage might not be dense enough to shade out all weeds.

Hosta, Funkia, Plantain Lily (Hosta spp.)

For shaded areas, hostas make effective ground covers. They appear a lot of frequently in perennial boundaries as accent plants or edgings, but their large leaves carry out a lush extending for the soil. Hosta varieties vary in size and also foliage shade. Some have actually deep-green, yellow-green or gray-green foliage while others are edged or variegated through white or cream. Hostas might additionally produce lily-shaped flowers in white or lavender. Flower stems might be 12 to 24 inches tall.

As a ground cover, hostas are best wright here the soil continues to be slightly moist. Excessively dry soil might cause the foliage to burn approximately the margins or partly die earlier. In full sun, leaf color is pale and also leaf die-ago may be more serious, specifically during dry durations. In winter the foliage of hostas dies ago, leaving the ground exposed. However, brand-new foliage develops easily in spring and lasts well right into the autumn.

Japanese spurge, Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

Japanese spurge is a renowned ground cover suitable for shady landscape cases. This evergreen plant spreads by underground stems and also attains a elevation of 6 to 8 inches.

The foliage is tinged purple in spring, becoming bbest green in summer and also yellow-green in winter or once planted in sunny areas.

Occasionally, clusters of tiny, off-white blossoms appear above the leaves in early May, but they have actually little bit ornamental value.

The plant is adapted to full or partial shade. When planted in full sunlight, development is negative. It is one of the few plants that will certainly glow under evergreens and also in dense shade. The evergreen leaves commonly “burn” and revolve brown in exposed places throughout the winter.

Establimelted plants are typically planted in the spring 1 foot acomponent. Snipping the tips of vigorous thriving shoots in the spring will induce the plant to become more thick. The plants should not be cut all the means to the ground. The plant prefers a moist, very organic, well-drained soil for finest facility. A planting of this ground cover is generally a unicreate height throughout.

Lily-turf (Liriope spicata, L. muscari)

Figure 2. Lily-turf (Liriope spicata).

Lily-turf is a grasschoose evergreen that spreads easily to develop a dense mat. Tright here are two species frequently offered as ground covers in huge locations. Creeping lily-turf (Liriope spicata, Figure 2), grows 10 to 12 inches tall, developing clumps of dark green, strapprefer leaves that create an amazing texture in the landscape. In late summer it produces spikes of purple to white flowers, which ultimately develop clusters of black berries. Creeping lily-turf spreads aggressively by sending out underground stems and also can gain out of bounds if not consisted of.

Blue lily-turf (Liriope muscari) is equivalent in appearance to creeping lily-turf however grows taller (18 inches) and has actually broader leaf chisels. It additionally produces spikes of blue flowers, however creates clumps that enhuge gradually rather than spreading aggressively prefer its creeping cousin.

Liriope will thrive in either sunlight or shade. It prefers moist soil through high organic matter content. It will tolerate a large range of soil conditions however grows even more slowly in clay soils. In north slrfc.org, leaves of both species might look brown and tattered by spring. Appearance can be intensified by mowing or cutting the plants ago to rerelocate unsightly foliage.

Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Figure 3. Lungwort (Pulmonaria).

Pulmonarias as a group are easy-to-thrive, low-flourishing perennials that are advantageous as ground covers in shade. They have actually exciting, mottled foliage and attractive clusters of blue, purple, pink or white flowers in spring. They spcheck out slowly from the crown, developing large clumps. One renowned cultivar, Pulmonaria sacharata ‘Mrs. Moon’, has distinctive silexceptionally spots on the leaves and magenta flower buds with flowers turning blue at maturity (Figure 3).

Because they tolerate shade well, pulmonarias are well suited to planting in mulched beds under trees wright here grass is hard to grow. When supplied in this way, continuous watering might be crucial to aid the ground cover contend via shpermit tree roots.

Pinks (Dianthus)

Pinks are popular, easy-to-thrive, drought-tolerant perennials that generally percreate will in complete sunlight. They are finest known for their attrenergetic, little carnation-like flowers in spring. One of the finest species of Dianhence for ground cover is D. gratianopolitanus, the cheddar pink. It grows 6 to 8 inches tall, forming a thick, grassy mat that produces an abundance of flowers in early on spring.

Cheddar pink renders a terrific rock garden plant wbelow perfect soil drainage is assured. Pinks frequently die out in the facility after numerous years and might have to be re-establiburned by transplanting divisions.

Stonecrop (Sedum)

Figure 4. Stonecrop (Sedum).

Tright here are a number of species and cultivars of sedum that make reliable ground covers. All have fleshy, drought resistant leaves and many have colorful flowers. Sedum kamtschaticum (Figure 4), among the most frequently grvery own species spreads easily, forming a thick mat of 6- to 9-inch stems that produce an superior display screen of yellow, star-shaped flowers in midsummer. Yellow stonecrop (Sedum reflexum) has actually equivalent flowers, however smaller leaves and also a much shorter stature. Sedums are obtaining in popularity and also many type of kinds, through miscellaneous leaf sizes, plant heights and leaf and flower colors can be found in garden stores.

Sedums, in basic like full sun or light shade. They tolerate a wide array of soil conditions as long as drainage is fantastic. As the widespread name indicates, they perdevelop well in rock gardens.

Thyme (Thymus)

Two species of thyme are generally offered as ground covers in rock gardens. Creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum) is a mat-forming perennial via tiny leaves, developing rounded purplish flower heads about 4 inches tall. Stems are woody at the base and also spreview progressively to create a mat up to 3 feet in diameter. Wooly thyme (T. pseudolanuginosis) is a prostprice plant via tiny, hairy leaves, remaining much less than one inch tall. If produces few flowers yet offers an amazing texture in the garden.

Thymes need a well-drained, sunny place. Unprefer the majority of ground covers, they will certainly tolerate some foot web traffic and are commonly planted in cracks between rock measures or pavers.


Some plants frequently provided as ground covers in landscapes grow aggressively and have the potential to spreview right into herbal areas, wbelow they might crowd out existing vegetation. Such aggressive expansion might be considered desirable in a landscape establishing because it leads to rapid ground cover. However before, usage of such plants must be avoided in locations where tbelow is a significant danger of escape to herbal areas. Commjust supplied ground cover species that are taken into consideration by many kind of world to be “invasive” incorporate English ivy, wintercreeper, crownvetch, ajuga, periwinkle, Liriope spicata and certain forms of honeysuckle. Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) poses a significant risk, because it grows well in shade and competes strongly via understory plants in wooded locations. Although several forms of wintercreeper sold in garden centers primarily do not develop seeds, they can spcheck out promptly by rooting of runners. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) need to not be offered as a ground cover bereason it produces plentiful fruit that is attrenergetic to birds, which disperse the seed.

Ajuga, Bugleweed or Carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Ajuga forms a thick carpet of foliage over the soil. This semievergreen plant grows quickly by producing mats of foliage in rosettes. “Runners” build from the “mother” plants, take root and develop new plants comparable to the expansion habit of strawberries. The foliage grows about 4 inches high via upideal clusters of blue flowers getting to 6 to 8 inches. The plant flowers in early on May to mid-June. Ajuga will flourish in almost any soil through excellent drainage. It grows finest in full sunlight but also toleprices shade.

The foliage is deep green in shade and also partially evergreen, turning brown after significant freezing weather. Bronze and also variegated cultivars are also easily accessible. The considerable root system avoids soil erosion.

If establiburned plants are set acomponent in the spring, they will cover the soil in one growing seakid. Do not set the plants too deep. The crown have to never before be covered. In the spring or beforehand autumn, rooted "runner plants" can be dug from established plantings and also replanted somewhere else.

Crownvetch (Coronilla varia)

Crownvetch is a perennial legume supplied frequently to cover dry, steep, rocky slopes. The plant grows 1 to 2 feet tall and also bears little pink flowers from July to September. The plant spreads by underground stems and one plant can cover a room approximately 6 feet in diameter. It toleprices shade however thrives in complete sun. The foliage dies to the ground by December.

Crownvetch is the majority of valued for its ability to proccasion soil erosion. It is regularly provided for this purpose on highmeans slopes. The plant is suited for extending large locations and also is also vigorous for small sections of the landscape.

The plant is propagated either from crowns or by seeding. Crowns planted 2 feet acomponent will certainly carry out coverage in about 2 years. One crown per square foot is recommended for quick cover. Seeding need to be at the price of 1/2 pound per 1,000 square feet. The seed need to be inoculated to present bacteria for nitrogen fixation. The seed can be svery own without seedbed preparation right into weedy, grassy locations if essential.

Both crowns and seed may be planted any kind of time during the year.

English ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy is an evergreen creeping vine developing a thick mat of dark green foliage 6 to 8 inches tall. The plant grows ideal in shade or semi-shaded areas. It is a lot of helpful on north- and east-facing financial institutions, under trees wbelow grass will not grow or as an underplanting in between shrubs. If exposed to complete sunlight or sweeping winds, the foliage "burns" in the winter. Although it can be planted 1 foot acomponent for cover in one year, it is more economical to transplant growing plants from pots or flats in the spring at a spacing of 18 to 24 inches. Vines may thrive about 3 feet the first season. When supplied beside structures or wall surfaces, English ivy will climb, clinging by implies of aerial rootlets. This may be an asset or fault relying on the instance and also personal preference.

Wright here winters are severe, ivy cultivars provided for ground cover should be the hardiest obtainable. Examples of the hardiest ranges incorporate ‘Baltica’, ‘Bulgaria’ and ‘Thorndale’.

Periwinkle, Myrtle or Vinca (Vinca minor)

Periwinkle or myrtle is an excellent evergreen ground cover through dark green foliage and purple, blue or white flowers relying on the array. It blooms in April and also occasionally again in the autumn. The plant grows around 6 inches tall, spanalysis in all directions by sending out lengthy trailing and rooting shoots which make new plants.

It likes shade but will certainly thrive satisfactorily in full sun. The foliage shade is richer green in partial shade, however more flowers are developed in the sunlight.

This ground cover is most commonly used for underplanting trees and also shrubs, on shaded slopes or on the north side of structures.

Rooted cuttings or establimelted plants are usually spaced from 12 to 18 inches acomponent. At a 6-inch spacing, a finish cover will be developed in one year. Plant in the spring in areas through major winters.

Spring-flowering bulbs interplanted through periwinkle will lfinish color and also interemainder to the ground cover planting. Daffodils are particularly well suited because they bloom via vinca and carry out not call for frequent department.

Purple wintercreeper (Euonymus fotunei var. coloratus)

Purple wintercreeper is an evergreen plant that is reliable for extending fairly huge areas, financial institutions, slopes and also shaded areas under trees. The plant produces glossy green leaves that rotate purple in the fall. It sends out prostprice stems, which root where they contact moist soil. It will certainly cling to vertical wall surfaces and also surfaces it contacts. When establimelted, this ground cover creates a loose, rather ircontinuous netoccupational of stems to a height of 8 to 12 inches. Its deep rooting habit provides it a good soil binder.

Although an aggressive grower, purple wintercreeper hardly ever blooms in the landscape and is taken into consideration to be non-fruiting. Hence, unlike the species, it much less likely to become invasive. Be conscious that a pest known as euonymus scale regularly assaults purple wintercreeper and also might require regulate actions.

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Some pruning of upbest prospering shoots helps to save the ground cover lower and also even more compact. The plant grows well in sun or shade. As noted previously, the species (E. fortunei) is taken into consideration an invasive plant my many claims and also must not be used in the landscape.