Growing Groundcovers

Growing Groundcovers

This spring, begin growing a blanket of low, spreading color that will weave its way across your garden -- through those patches of dry shade beneath trees, across that boggy spot where nothing grows, down that difficult-to-plant slope. No matter what your soil type or the condition of your garden, you can find a ground cover that will not only thrive, but flourish beautifully for years without mowing, reseeding, aerating, or any of those time-consuming exercises we all perform to keep our lawns looking their best.

Ground cover is more than just a pretty space. It prevents soil erosion, keeps the ground from drying out in hot spells or pooling in prolonged rain, and chokes out weeds. Even the humblest low-growing plant looks far better than pine bark or cedar chips for those bare patches that every garden endures as it grows and changes. And ground cover can become an anchor in a mixed border or bed, offering a color or texture that unifies the whole planting.

This page celebrates all our glorious ground covers, from the lush green carpeting varieties, to spreading or clumping groundcover grasses, to the bright dots of color so brilliant that even a small planting creates a big impact on the landscape . . . at prices that will let you carpet the yard for what you might have expected to spend on a single border!

So as you plant your exciting new perennials, shrubs, and trees this spring, remember to cover those "in-between spaces." Not only will ground covers minimize your weeding and mulching, but they'll also bring out the best in your other fine plants!

Growing a Carpet of Green

Japanese Spurge
Pachysandra terminalis. This fast-growing groundcover is ideal for shade in a southern landscape or sun in a northern setting. The evergreen, veined leaves are lightly toothed for interesting texture. Great in combination with Hostas. Space 4 to 10 inches apart. Z 4-9. 6-8"h, spreading.

Variegated Wintercreeper
Euonymus fortunei 'Gracillimus.' A smaller version of Purple Wintercreeper, its leaves are just half the size, and the plant fills in more slowly. These colorful white, green, and purple leaves are great for smaller areas in the garden. Space 3 to 6 inches apart. Z 5-9. 12"h, spreading.

English Ivy
Hedera helix 'English.' A workhorse for large areas, particularly slopes and borders, this English Ivy forms a no-maintenance, weed-choking groundcover you will love for many years to come. Dark evergreen leaves reach 2 to 3 inches wide. Space 4 to 8 inches apart. Z 5-10. 8-12"h, spreading.

Juniper Blue Pacific
Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific.' A very low-growing groundcover, this evergreen is useful in almost any landscape. The handsome blue-green foliage spreads to completely blanket the landscape, choking out weeds. Resistant to salt and tolerant of heat and drought, this is a fast grower that makes the landscape attractive in no time. Space 6 to 12 inches apart. Z 5-9. 6"h, spreading.

Beautiful Groundcover Grasses (This is Not Lawn Turf!)

Variegated Border Grass
Liriope muscari 'Variegata.' A popular variation on the standard Big Blue Liriope, this dependable border grass offers white-striped green foliage and lavender flower spikes. Use it as a groundcover or to edge a border or bed. Space 6 to 10 inches apart. Z 5-10. 10"h, clumping.

Big Blue Border Grass
Liriope muscari 'Big Blue.' The classic for border grass, this green-leafed Liriope is absolutely reliable and maintenance-free. The narrow, cascading blades of grass with a central cluster of lavender flower spikes are great planted in mass or as a border. Space 6 to 10 inches apart. Z 5-10. 12"h, clumping.

Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon japonica. A fast-growing, dark green groundcover that spreads rapidly via underground runners. White blooms give way to showy blue berries in fall. Space 3 to 10 inches apart. Z 6-10. 6"h, spreading.

Dwarf Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon japonica 'Nana.' Shorter than Mondo Grass and with a more formal, tighter look, this groundcover is superb for Japanese gardens and even for bonsai. Ideal for containers and small-space settings of all kinds. Space 3 to 10 inches apart. Z 6-10. 2"h, spreading.

Liriope Spicata
Liriope spicata. Spreading far more rapidly than other Liriope, this variety is perfect for banks and large beds. Pale flower spikes appear in summer, but its best attribute is the dense foliage cover. Space 6 to 10 inches apart. Z 4-10. 10"h, clumping.

Liriope Silver Dragon
Liriope spicata 'Silver Dragon.' A spreading Liriope with attractively variegated foliage - each long, slender leaf is striped with white. Space 6 to 10 inches apart. Z 6-10. 10"h, spreading.

Flowering and Colored-Leaf Groundcovers add Surprising Spots of Color

Ajuga Chocolate Chip
Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip.' A fast-growing, dense groundcover with vibrant chocolate-hued foliage. The tiny leaves are so packed together that they form an effective weed barrier, saving you time and labor in the garden. In late spring, 3-inch violet spikes rise above the foliage. Space 4 to 6 inches apart. Z 4-8. 1"h, spreading.

St. John's Wort
Hypericum calycinum. Also known as Aaron's Beard, this is an evergreen groundcover with 2-inch leaves. In spring, brilliant yellow blooms, about 3 inches across, cover the foliage. Ideal for large areas, and showy in any setting. Space 4 to 10 inches apart. Z 5-9. 10"h, spreading.

Mazus reptans
Mazus is a splendid ground cover for large areas. Dense, prostrate growth withstands heavy foot traffic, spreads rapidly in sun or shade and moist soil. Violet flowers appear in late spring; small leaves retain color into winter. Z 4-9. 2"h, spreading.


Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus'. This Euonymous is the perfect solution for large problem areas such as banks and slopes, or for poor soil where few other plants will thrive. It grows quickly and is evergreen, with trailing green-veined leaves that turn deep burgundy in fall. Space 4 to 8 inches apart. Z 5-8. 18"h, spreading.

Who Says Your Groundcover Has to be Green?

Purple Wintercreeper
Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus'. This is the perfect solution for large problem areas such as banks and slopes, or for poor soil where few other plants will thrive. It grows quickly and is evergreen, with trailing green-veined leaves that turn deep burgundy in fall. Space 4 to 8 inches apart. Z 5-8. 18"h, spreading.

Ajuga Chocolate Chip
Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip.' A fast-growing, dense groundcover with vibrant chocolate-hued foliage. The tiny leaves are so packed together that they form an effective weed barrier, saving you time and labor in the garden. In late spring, 3-inch violet spikes rise above the foliage. Space 4 to 6 inches apart. Z 4-8. 1"h, spreading.

St. John's Wort
Hypericum calycinum. Also known as Aaron's Beard, this is an evergreen groundcover with 2-inch leaves. In spring, brilliant yellow blooms, about 3 inches across, cover the foliage. Ideal for large areas, and showy in any setting. Space 4 to 10 inches apart. Z 5-9. 10"h, spreading.

Mazus reptans
Mazus is a splendid ground cover for large areas. Dense, prostrate growth withstands heavy foot traffic, spreads rapidly in sun or shade and moist soil. Violet flowers appear in late spring; small leaves retain color into winter. Z 4-9. 2"h, spreading.