Groundcovers seem to get a bad rap as boring plants or ho-hum afterthoughts. Actually they are quite useful as fillers in bare spots, and can provide color and a great backdrop for perennials, annuals and shrubs in garden beds. Groundcovers make excellent living mulch and are much more interesting than an expanse of regular mulch.
Some groundcovers dazzle with a carpet of lovely flowers and others offer impressive foliage and a kaleidoscope of fall colors. You can even allow several different types of groundcovers to weave themselves together for an interesting effect. For instance creeping sedums pair well with ajuga. I have ‘Cherry Tart’ Sedum partnered with ‘Dixie Chip’ Ajuga…beautiful mix of textures and hues!
My Ten Favorite Perennial Groundcovers For Zone 5 & 6:
Ice Plant (Delosperma) – An award-winning perennial that pumps out oodles of salmon and gold flowers in early to mid-summer and grows quickly and vigorously in well-drained sunny areas of the garden. ‘Mesa Verde’ is carefree and drought tolerant once established. The succulent plants grow 3-6 inches tall. I also love ‘Gold Nugget’ and ‘Lavender Ice’.
Pachysandra – Provides neat, compact, evergreen growth wherever there is heavy shade. Ideal in deep shade where grass won’t grow in the garden or under trees. When I was growing up, my Mom made good use of this in a shady spot in our backyard. Plant about 12 inches apart for a fast growing, 6-7 inch ground cover. Hardy, vigorous, easily grown…even in poor soil.
Low-Growing Sedums – ‘Dazzleberry’ is a standout low growing groundcover with colorful foliage and flowers. This variety of Sedum provides three seasons of color. As summer progresses, the foliage changes from bluish-grey to a dramatic deep purple. In autumn, clusters of large, 8-inch crimson flowers arrive to brighten the landscape. Sedum is a sun loving, drought-tolerant plant that requires no special care.
‘Lime Zinger’ sedum is another eye-catching type with foliage consisting of tightly packed, lime green rosettes edged with a red border. ‘Cherry Tart’ is a hardy groundcover with long-lasting red foliage color. It also looks charming as a container plant. Pink flowers develop in the fall.
Houttuynia – This is one cool groundcover! I have the ‘Chameleon’ variety and simply couldn’t resist its many bright colors. The Houttuynia has exotic leaves which are a mix of a bright blend of greens, bronze, reds and yellows. It even has white flowers in early summer. Easy to grow and thrives almost anywhere.
Prunella – ‘Freelander Blue’ Prunella is perfect for the gardener who wants a plant that will bloom all summer long. This prolific bloomer starts blooming in late spring and continues until mid autumn and is smothered with intense violet blue flowers. Perfect used as a groundcover or border specimen. Plant in full sun to partial shade and attract butterflies! Drought resistant like sedum.
Thymus – Also known as ‘Walk-On-Me Plant’ or ‘Mother of Thyme’. This little darling grows only 3″ tall. Plant around stepping stones or for a decorative, dense-growing ground cover. Walk on it and the whole area will be filled with the aromatic smell of fresh thyme! It grows well in partial shade to full sun and in hard-to-plant areas. It spreads rapidly with small evergreen leaves and clusters.
Vinca minors – I have Vinca Minor ‘Illumination’ in my side yard where the green-edged golden leaves of this unique periwinkle variety light up the shady areas. Blooms with attractive sapphire blue flowers early to mid-summer and does well planted in full sun or partial shade.
Vinca minor also goes by the names Trailing Myrtle, Dwarf Periwinkle, and Creeping Myrtle. One of the most popular and widely used ground covers. Vinca minors are effective on slopes or banks to stabilize soils and prevent erosion …
Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegata’ – A problem-solving groundcover! Fast growing, versatile, and beautiful — even grows under maple trees! “Snow-On-The-Mountain” has lovely green and white variegated leaves that will grow in any soil or location. This hardy groundcover can covers banks, bare spots, and under tree areas where nothing else will grow …
Sagina subulata (Irish Moss) – The Sagina Irish Moss, ‘Sagina subulata’, is one of the most popular groundcovers around. The lush, deep green foliage stays compact and produces tiny white flower which appear late spring into early summer. Very soft and low-growing, it spreads rapidly to form a mossy carpet that looks especially nice against gray stepping stones! Only gets to a height of 1-2”. Performs best in full sun and in moist, well-drained soil. Great at tolerating moderate foot traffic …
Aurinia – Dense clusters of tiny fragrant yellow flowers appear in spring on this vigorous, easy to grow groundcover. After blooming is finished, enjoy the silvery colored, evergreen leaves. ‘Mountain Gold’ Aurinia is stunning at the edge of beds or borders or let them cascade over rocks, walls, or slopes. The common name “Basket of Gold” is a perfect fit for this luscious flowering perennial. Deer and drought resistant …
The Benefits of Groundcovers
When many people think of groundcovers, aggressive-spreading plants often come to mind. While these types are very useful in large areas (think pachysandra and periwinkle), there are also many terrific slow-growing groundcovers that make a wonderful statement in your garden by adding pretty flowers and colorful foliage around your taller perennials, annuals, and shrubs.
Groundcovers spread horizontally, making them effective lawn alternatives, weed suppressors, and living mulch!