Here we guide you through 20 of the best ground cover plants that are sure to beautify your garden.
Looking for a striking, low-maintenance addition to your garden? Ground cover plants might be exactly what you are looking for. They are simple plants that grow quickly and, as the name implies, form a blanket of green leaves and beautiful flowers that protect the soil and suppress weeds. Since most species are hardy and easy to care for, ground cover plants are ideal for simple, elegant gardens. Here, we look at 20 of the most eye-catching.
- Twenty of the best ground cover plants for your garden
- 1. Common soapwort
- 2. Shrubby milkwort
- 3. Phlox
- 4. Lampranthus
- 5. Speedwell
- 6. Woolly hedgenettle
- 7. Dwarf periwinkle
- 8. Woodruff
- 9. Armeria
- 10. Stonecrop
- 11. Felt hornwort
- 12. Bellflower
- 13. Pennywort
- 14. Evening primrose
- 15.Wild thyme
- 16. Dead-nettle
- 17. Bloody crane’s bill
- 18. Fairy wings
- 19. Canadian dwarf cornel
- 20. Houseleek
Twenty of the best ground cover plants for your garden
Ground cover plants balance beauty with simplicity. These plants are sure to enhance your garden without demanding lots of care.
1. Common soapwort
Perhaps the name “soapwort” (Saponaria officinalis) is not the best name for this gorgeous ground cover plant. From May to September, this perennial blooms with delicate pink and white flower clusters. At night, soapwort, otherwise known as bouncing Bet, emits a floral scent that is bound to keep your garden buzzing with an array of insects. Soapwort is undemanding, fast-growing, and resilient. This simple ground cover plant works in almost any garden. But be warned: it can spread very quickly, and will grow into areas of the garden that you may not want covered at all!
2. Shrubby milkwort
With bright purple and yellow flowers, shrubby milkwort (Polygala chamaebuxus) is hard to miss. Though shrubby milkwort only blooms in the summer, this 20cm tall shrub is an evergreen, so it will not lose its leaves in autumn and will keep your garden beds green even in winter. The only thing that bothers this otherwise easy-going perennial is waterlogging. Make sure that your shrubby milkwort is planted in a sunny location that does not run the risk of flooding.
If you want to transform your rock garden into a sea of flowers, creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is the perfect choice. From April to July, this plant forms a carpet of countless, star-shaped flowers, which, depending on the variety, may be white, blue, purple, or red. Though Phlox is fine in areas of partial shade, it thrives under direct sunlight. Annual pruning will not damage this plant, although it may take some time to grow back.
With its large flowers and bright colours, lampranthus (Lampranthus) is a wonderful addition to any garden. Its large blossoms open only during midday in summer, but this succulent is robust and needs little care. However, it doesn’t tolerate harsh winters, so you may need to move a portion of the succulent indoors during colder months. Alternatively, save a clipping and start a new lampranthus bed in the spring.
More than 450 species belong to the Speedwell or Veronica genus, which is characterised by its low maintenance and deep blue flowers. Speedwell can vary a lot in height. Some species grow up to 2m tall, while others reach only 20cm. That being said, not every species of Speedwell is suitable as ground cover. If you are making a purchase, double-check that your chosen variety is a ground cover variety. Rock speedwell (Veronica prostrata) and creeping speedwell (Veronica peduncularis) are wonderful choices.
6. Woolly hedgenettle
The woolly hedgenettle (Stachys byzantina) is famous for its woolly hair-like filaments, which have often been compared to bunny or donkey ears. The leaves look as though they are covered in light grey dust, and its delicate, subtle flowers pop with purple. The woolly hedgenettle is an evergreen and prefers sunny locations. It reacts very sensitively to waterlogging.
7. Dwarf periwinkle
The name speaks for itself. Dwarf periwinkle (Vinca minor) only grows to a height of 10 to 30cm. Its leaves remain dark green throughout the year, but from April to September the plant bears small periwinkle flowers, which transform this otherwise understated plant into dazzling ground cover. Dwarf periwinkle is easy to maintain and thrives in just about any location.
Woodruff (Galium odoratum) is well-known for its sweet fragrance, but also makes for an excellent ground cover plant, especially in shady beds. This forest plant grows quickly and will cover the ground with tiny white flowers that fill the air with a sweet aroma. Woodruff is impressively robust and easy to care for. Though it has a sweet taste, it is best not to cook it willy-nilly. Overdosing on woodruff can quickly lead to dizziness, headaches, and even liver damage.
Plants belonging to the Armeria genus are very distinct. Though these evergreens appear more like ornamental grass in the winter, in mid-spring globular flower clusters will begin to bloom white, pink, or deep lavender, at heights up to 20cm. Despite its height, Armeria is surprisingly sturdy and wind resistant, which can make this herbaceous perennial well suited to gardens by the sea.
Stonecrop (Sedum) has beautiful flower ‘umbrellas’, as well as remarkable leaf rosettes that range from silver-green to copper-red. With almost 500 varieties, stonecrop has a lot of diversity on offer. However, only the smaller varieties, such as the white stonecrop (Sedum album), are suitable to grow as a ground cover.
11. Felt hornwort
Felt hornwort (Cerastium tomentosum) is a versatile plant and can work either as an ornamental or as ground cover, where it grows best under the sun. Felt hornwort has distinct grey, felt leaves, and in May, forms large, radiant, white star-shaped blossoms. These flowers have earned the plant its nickname: Snow-in-Summer.
Bellflowers (Campanula) are popular plants with dramatic, deep blue blossom. Many species are ideal ground cover plants, and there is plenty of variety. The Serbian bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana) prefers shade, the earleaf bellflower (Campanula cochleariifolia) is especially resilient during winter and the Carpathian bellflower (Campanula carpartia) has blue, violet and white flowers. Before planting bellflower in your garden, it is best to research what your variety will need to thrive.
With its quick growth and low maintenance, pennywort (Lysimachia nummularia) is a beloved ground cover plant. Its round, light green leaves contrast with delicate golden flowers, making the pennywort a decorative addition to any outdoor space. Pennywort is particularly suitable around ponds because it thrives on damp soil.
14. Evening primrose
Beautiful day and night, pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) is one of the more floral ground covers. From June to September, this plant will be covered in pink blooms. Keep in mind, that harsh winters can cause this plant major damage – if temperatures drop too low, parts of the plant will freeze to death.
If you are looking for a ground cover plant that appeals to all the senses, wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) may be perfect. Wild thyme blooms in small pink to purple flowers, its scent and taste mimic that of garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and it makes for an excellent herb. Wild thyme is also easy to maintain and evergreen, so it will keep your garden green throughout the year.
Sun or shade, dead-nettle (Lamium) is suitable for almost any location. It is hardy, persistent and easy to care for. From a horticulturist’s perspective, the dead-nettle is particularly interesting because of its versatility. There are around 50 species of dead-nettle; from deciduous, evergreen, annual or perennial varieties, every one has violet flowers and leaves that look like stinging nettle – hence the name dead-nettle.
17. Bloody crane’s bill
Bloody crane’s bill (Geranium sanguineum) is one of the most popular perennials in hobby gardens. And no surprise. From May to September, the most popular variety will be covered with striking, red flowers. This perennial requires little care and thrives in sunny locations.
18. Fairy wings
A jewel in the garden, fairy wings (Epimedium), or barrenwort, is radiant, with beautiful foliage and stunning flowers. Fairy wings can be divided into two groups: evergreens and deciduous species. Both evergreens and deciduous fairy wings work well as ground cover. Evergreen fairy wings are robust and grow vigorously, whereas deciduous varieties are more sensitive to waterlogging, but display more flowers. Overall, regardless of variety, fairy wings prefer gardens with a lot of shade.
19. Canadian dwarf cornel
Most people regard dogwoods (Cornus) as ornamental trees and not ground cover. Canadian dwarf cornel (Cornus canadensis), however, is an exception. This perennial ground cover plant, also referred to as the creeping dogwood, is only a few centimetres tall and perfect for shady gardens. From July to August, the plant displays pink or white flowers. In late summer, the Canadian dwarf cornel bears eye-catching, non-toxic red berries.
Heat, cold, drought? Nothing the hardy houseleek (Sempervivum) hasn’t seen before. These extremely durable perennials thrive where other plants struggle to survive. And they do it in style. This ground cover plant comes in almost 3000 varieties with interesting rosette shapes, beautiful leaf colours, and prominent flowers that offer all kinds of variations. Houseleek is an evergreen, but it will need sunlight to maintain its characteristic shape and flowers.
Many ground covers are not only easy to care for, but are also considered particularly bee-friendly. In our article you will find bee-friendly ground covers for every location.