Ground cover plants

10 Ground Cover Plants for Your Garden

Madeline Buiano is an associate editor at, sharing her knowledge on a range of topics—from gardening and cleaning to home and pets. She has five years of writing and editing experience in the digital publishing industry.

12 Ground Cover Plants That Will Fill in Negative Space and Suppress Weeds in Your Garden

Ground cover plants choke out weeds, control erosion, and protect the roots of neighboring plants.

Madeline Buiano is an associate editor at, sharing her knowledge on a range of topics—from gardening and cleaning to home and pets. She has five years of writing and editing experience in the digital publishing industry.

Hens and Chicks plants covering ground

Even if your property is covered with yards of healthy green grass, most outdoor spaces benefit from some dimension. Adding a bush here or a bed of flowers there adds personality and intrigue to your landscape. But if the thought of maintaining yet another thing in your garden fills you with dread, there’s an easy solution: ground cover plants. The low growing perennials are the perfect option if you want a space that looks full, but doesn’t require much maintenance.

Not only are ground cover varieties an ideal way to break up stretches of grass, they are also major problem solvers for other gardening woes. The perennials choke out weeds, control erosion on slopes, fill in areas where grass just won’t grow, and protect the roots of neighboring plants from extreme whether conditions. No matter your landscape needs, ground cover plants offer a quick fix—and their cool colors and attractive textures mean they look great, too.



A fast-growing and dense ground cover option, ajuga has deep green-and-chocolate-brown leaves that form an effective barrier against weeds. To plant ajuga, wait until your last frost; then, dig holes just deep enough for the root ball, making sure to leave about 8 inches of space between each perennial. Loosen the roots and then place the ball into the ground, packing in the soil as you go. Once planted, thoroughly water the site. Every third year, ajuga will need to be pruned, so it doesn’t grow invasively.

  • Zones: 4 to 11
  • Size: 11 inches tall x 15 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; rich, well-draining soil



Sedum encompasses a large group of plants, but the low-growing varieties work well as ground covers. The low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plant requires water at the time of planting and whenever the top 2 inches of soil are dry. To plant sedum, dig a hole just deep enough for the top of the root ball to be level with the soil’s surface then fill in the surroundings. The variety of sedum you’ve chosen will dictate how far away you plant each root ball, so consult the instructions on the plant care tag.

  • Zones: 3 to 11
  • Size: 16 to 18 inches tall x 24 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Full sun; well-draining soil

Creeping Raspberry

Creeping raspberry

A desirable option if you want a pest-free lawn, creeping raspberry can stand up to deer and light foot traffic. “Creeping raspberry forms a dense carpet [and has] long spreading branches covered with textured emerald green leaves,” says Kelly Funk, president of Park Seed. Plant each root ball about 4 to 6 feet apart, avoiding areas that don’t have proper irrigation or where the soil is frequently moist.

  • Zones: 6 to 9
  • Size: 9 to 12 inches tall x 5 feet wide
  • Growing Conditions: Part sun or part shade; well-draining soil



Ideal to plant on banks and slopes, lilyturf forms an impenetrable mat and flowers from summer to fall. The drought tolerant plant grows quickly under ideal growing conditions. Although it’s a plant that thrives in shaded locations, it can also withstand sunlight. The perennial should be watered regularly during its first growing season and then scaled back to once a week. To plant lilyturf, space each seedling about 1 foot apart so they have room to grow.

  • Zones: 5 to 10
  • Size: 8 to 12 inches tall x 8 to 12 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Full shade to part sun; well-draining soil

Creeping Mahonia

Creeping mahonia

This low-growing evergreen shrub is a favorite because it adds multi-season interest to your garden. In spring, its fragrant, golden yellow flowers bloom. During summer and fall, it produces blue-black fruit—and when winter arrives, you’re left with purple-green leaves. The plant should be watered frequently during its first year, but once established, watering is only needed during high temperatures or during times of drought. “Depending on how thick your desired coverage is, plant about 2 to 3 feet apart,” says Funk.

  • Zones: 5 to 8
  • Size: 12 to 24 inches tall x 12 to 36 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Full shade to part sun; moist, acidic soil

Creeping Thyme

Creeping thyme

Are you hoping to attract pollinators to your garden? Creeping thyme is one way to do so. It’s great for planting between walkway stones, as edging in a flower or vegetable garden, or cascading over rocks in a terraced garden. What’s more, during summer, it blossoms into stunning pink-and-purple flowers. The ground cover only requires water about once every 10 days. “Germination can be slow (up to one month), but once the seeds sprout, there’s no stopping them,” Funk says.

  • Zones: 5 to 9
  • Size: 2 inches tall x 12 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Full sun; average dry, well-draining soil

Hens and Chicks

Hens and chicks

One of the most popular succulents for hot, dry gardens, this ground cover forms bright rosettes of foliage that spread freely by their offshoots. It should be watered lightly about once every few weeks as the plant is easily susceptible to root rot. To plant, till a spot in your yard with partial to full sunlight, then dig a 3 inch deep hole for the “hen”—the larger succulent of the bunch—and place the chicks directly into the top of your soil. “Sprinkle a thin coating of gravel over the top of the soil to keep the moisture in,” Funk says.

  • Zones: 3 to 8
  • Size: 3 to 6 inches tall x 6 to 12 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Partial to full sun; average dry, sandy, well-draining soil


Basket of gold alyssum

As low maintenance as it gets, this long-lived and super colorful ground cover forms adorable clusters of yellow blooms. The fuss-free plant should be watered occasionally during summer, but beyond that, the only real maintenance it requires is pruning when its blooms. Plant alyssum about 16 to 18 inches apart for a thick carpet of gold.

  • Zones: 5 to 9
  • Size: 6 to 12 inches tall x 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Full sun; well-draining soil

Red Barrenwort

Red barrenwort

Red barrenwort grows heart-shaped green leaves in the summer and then a subtle red tinge emerges in the spring and fall. “This is a favorite of mine as it tolerates dry soil once established and provides seasonal interest,” says Melinda Myers, gardening expert and host of the Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series. Although it should be watered regularly when initially planted, it can withstand low water situations once established. When planting the perennial, make sure its roots sit just below the soil’s surface or the plant may rot if planted too deep.

  • Zones: 4 to 8
  • Size: 12 inches tall x 24 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Partial to full shade; rich, well-draining soil

Coral Bells

Coral bells

Bring bees and hummingbirds to your garden with this colorful foliage that contains nectar for wildlife. Coral bells are known for their uniquely shaped leaves and bright pink to red flowers, which bloom in late spring and last through early summer. The ground cover should be watered generously during dry periods and spent flower stalks should be pruned regularly. Plant with the crown (where the leaves meet the stem) slightly above the soil surface. Coral bells are subject to frost heaving, which is when the plant gets pushed up as soil freezes over, says Meyers. If this happens, you may need to replant or tamp the ground cover back in place.

  • Zones: 4 to 9
  • Size: 6 to 16 inches tall x 12 to 36 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Partial to full shade; well-draining soil

Pennsylvania Sedge

Pennsylvania Sedge

While there are a handful of carex varieties, Pennsylvania sedge is one of the most popular. Often used as a substitute for lawn grasses, carex can be mowed or allowed to grow into a more meadow-like planting, Meyers says. Easy to care for because it is disease resistant, drought tolerant, and unappetizing to most pests, Pennsylvania sedge should be watered about once every two weeks. Seed germination is difficult with this variety, so it’s recommended to plug small container grown plants into the lawn, instead.

  • Zones: 3 to 8
  • Size: 12 inches tall x 12 inches wide
  • Growing Conditions: Partial shade; average, moist soil

Tidal Pool

Tidal pool

Densely mounding speedwell is a low-growing plant that masses tiny, bright blue flowers that bloom in mid to late spring. The drought, heat, and humidity tolerant plant should be watered regularly, or whenever the top 3 inches of soil are dry. Plant tidal pool about 1 to 2 feet apart to give it ample room to spread, Funk says.

  • Zones: 3 to 8
  • Mature size: 1 to 2 inches tall x 24 inches wide
  • Soil requirements: Full sun; well-draining soil

10 Ground Cover Plants for Your Garden

Ground cover plants

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A baffling problem for many gardeners is what to grow in areas that are challenging. Have a tough slope or area that is hard to mow safely? Want to fill in around taller plants with a living mulch or grow a “stepable carpet” around your walkway pavers? Here are 10 low-maintenance ground cover plants that add curb appeal!

What Are Groundcovers?

  • areas where grass just doesn’t grow well, especially in shady areas such as under a tree.
  • covering slopes or steep hillsides where it’s hard to mow but also where plants can help with erosion.
  • hot, dry areas which receive little irrigation (think sedum!).
  • areas that border patios, driveways, and lawns as well as between patio stones and stepping pavers
  • high-traffic areas that need something tougher than grass.

And don’t just think of ground covers as cover-ups! They can provide flowering color and interest to your landscape. They can be beneficial to pollinators, stabilize soil, and grow where other plants won’t grow, such as under a tree.

Read Next

It’s important to choose the right ground cover for your needs, plant ground cover correctly, and also make sure that you pick a ground cover that can’t get quickly out of control.

1. Bearberry

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is extremely tolerant of poor soil, bearberry will even will grow in pure sand and will grow in sun or shade. The six-inch-tall evergreen has small, glossy, dark-green leaves that turn bronze-ish-red in autumn.

In spring, the entire plant is covered with tiny white flowers tinged with pink. These mature to bright red berries that birds love. Spaced 12 inches apart, plants will form a thick carpet in two or three seasons. Bearberry is hardy to Zone 2.


2. Hen-and-Chicks

Hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum) are great tucked between pavers and stones that line your pathways but you probably don’t want to walk on them, especially barefoot! They thrive in hot dry places where nothing else will grow and make a fine living mulch for a xeriscape garden. Zones 3-8.

Ground cover plants

Hens and chicks multiply fast and will soon tightly fill in a bare spot making it hard for weeds to gain a foothold.

3. Sedums

Sedum comes in many shapes and sizes but the low growing ones are perfect groundcovers for those hot dry slopes where nothing else grows. These spreading, mat-forming types of sedums resist drought by storing water in their fleshy stems and roots.

Practically bullet-proof, they are able to withstand any amount of abuse you throw at them and their blossoms will attract a multitude of bees and other beneficials. Zones 3-10. Two good choices, both hardy to Zone 4, are two-inch-tall ‘John Creech’ two-row sedum (Sedum spurium cv.), with pink flowers in June, and the six-inch-tall ‘Fuldaglut’ two-row sedum, with reddish or purple foliage and rose-red flowers from July through September.

Ground cover plants

4. Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) works well in hot spots or sandy spots with full sun and maintains thick foliage all year-round as well as pretty blooms in the early spring. In full sun, phlox provides a thick mass of carpet-like foliage which is completely covered with an abundance of blooms. See our guide on growing phlox.

Ground cover plants

New phlox planted in the landscape.

5. Foamflower

One of the best native plants to use as a shade groundcover, Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) has 8- to 10-inch spikes of fluffy white flowers in spring and evergreen foliage that adds visual texture to a woodland path and an added layer of interest between taller plants in your shade garden. Tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions from dry to moist but well-drained soils, this undemanding plant performs reliably in the garden. Zones 3-9.

Ground cover plants

6. Creeping Thyme


Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) is sun-loving perennial herb with small lavender flowers that bloom in the summer and an evergreen mat of low-growing foliage.

7. Blue Fescue Grasses


Ornamental grasses such as blue fescue (Festuca glauca) work well in dry, hot spots and also add beautiful texture to the landscape.Image: Blue Fescue

8. Creeping Junipers

This ground cover is suitable for parched areas. A popular choice is blue rug juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’), a tough-as-nails ground hugger that is only 4 to 6 inches tall. Its intense silver-blue needles take on pleasing purple tones in winter. Although a single plant may eventually grow to 8 feet in diameter, the recommended spacing is 2 to 3 feet for quick coverage. Blue rug juniper is hardy to Zone 3.


Image: Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’

9. Sweet Woodruff

With bright green fragrant leaves, sweet woodruff (Galium odorata) bears clusters of white flowers in spring. It is an excellent low growing groundcover for shady spots and under trees and stays green until the snow hits. And that sprinkling of tiny white flowers is just sublime. Mine grow under a forsythia outside my living room window where I can keep an eye out for their early blossoms. Zones 3-9.

Ground cover plants

Photo credit: fotomarekka/Shutterstock

10. Lamium (Deadnettle)

Wonderful as ground cover in a shady area, Spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) can cover large areas quickly, prevailing in the most unforgiving of conditions. It’s deer-resistant and can tolerate drought, heat, and cold. This low-maintenance plant thrives year-round! Pink or white flowers bloom in spring and summer.

Ground cover plants

Photo credit: nnattalli/Shutterstock

Planting Ground Cover

Remember that coverage isn’t instantaneous. You don’t want to squeeze ground cover plants together; most grow and cover their soil surface by year three. Pay special attention to the spacing on the plant tags; this will help you calculate how many plants you need. As a general rule, you wan to space plants so that the distance between each one is generally equal to their maximum width. Here is a good guideline to gauge how many plants you need from the National Gardening Association:

  • 100 plants spaced 6 inches apart cover about 20 square feet
  • 12 inches apart, they’ll cover 85 square feet; and
  • 18 inches apart, they’ll cover 200 square feet

Before you plant most ground cover plants, ensure that all weeds and grass has been eliminated. There are a number of ways to remove weeds (hoes and tillers) or, if you have time, you can wet the area and cover with clear plastic for 4 to 6 weeks to solarize the soil.

Scatter composted manure over the planting site and even the planting surface Then place your plants on top of the soil in zigzag rows. When ready to plant, dig holes to the same depth as, and two to three times wider than the plants’ root balls. Remember to place the plant in the hole so that it’s at the same soil level as it was in the pot. Firm the soil and water in. Cover in organic mulch about 2 inches thick, but about 6 inches away from the plant stems.

We hope this helps! If you’re having trouble growing grass or other plants in your yard, have you discovered clover? Gardeners are returning to recognizing the benefits of clover in lawn grass mixtures—or even as a replacement for grass. Learn more about the clover comeback.

If you are interested in replacing your lawn or part of your lawn, discover ground covers which are grass alternatives!