The 15 Best Groundcover Plants for Your Garden
Groundcovers may not get quite as much attention as the flowers in your garden, but they’re priceless as problem-solvers. If you’ve got an area where grass won’t grow on a hillside or underneath trees, a groundcover is the answer. They also attract pollinators and choke out weeds— and really, who wants to spend all your time weeding anyhow? Once they’re established, groundcovers are low-maintenance plants that look good year after year with little help from you. If you chose one that’s perennial, make sure it will survive winters in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). And pay attention to conditions in your yard. If a plant needs full sun, that’s six or more hours; part sun is half that. Don’t forget to water well after planting and during dry spells, especially as your plant is establishing its root system the first year.
Here are a few of our favorite groundcover plants for any garden:
1. Creeping Thyme
You might not think of an herb as a groundcover, but this plant creates a dense mat of low-growing foliage, topped by pretty white, pink or purple flowers in late spring. This perennial spreads rapidly and doesn’t mind poor soils. Pollinators adore creeping thyme, and you can snip off leaves for dinner! Thyme needs full sun.
2. Irish Moss
This delicate plant actually is tougher than it looks. Its beautiful, pale green color is topped by teeny white flowers in spring. Make sure this perennial gets plenty of water to thrive. Irish moss needs part to full sun.
3. Sweet Alyssum
Sweet alyssum has tiny white flowers from planting until frost. This annual often is planted in window boxes for its draping effect, but it makes a reliable groundcover, too, if you want lots of color in a hurry. (Psst: Bees and other pollinators love this honey-scented plant!) Sweet alyssum takes part to full sun.
Ferns come in many different colors, heights and forms. Planted in groupings, which spread rapidly, they make an elegant groundcover for moist, shady areas.
5. Lamb’s Ear
Infinitely touchable, the velvety, fuzzy foliage of this plant is aptly named (c’mon, just look at it). Lamb’s Ear is a sturdy plant that spreads slowly year after year, and it has tall spikes of pink flowers in mid-summer. Give this plant full sun, though it can handle a little shade.
6. Dead Nettle
Sure, it’s not the nicest name, but this low-growing perennial has pretty silver-splashed leaves and white, pink or purple flowers that appear in spring and early summer. Dead nettle, also called lamium, pretty much thrives on neglect once established. Give it part sun, though it likes shade best.
This old standby has been used in landscaping for decades because it’s low-maintenance and not picky about soils. It isn’t one of the fastest-spreading groundcovers, but it’s evergreen, which is a nice bonus. Pachysandra prefers shade but will take some sun once established.
This unobtrusive, low-growing groundcover has waxy oval leaves punctuated by tiny red berries. Bearberry, also called kinnikinnick, is extremely cold-hardy and thrives in rocky soils. These plants are slow spreaders but can be a real problem-solver in the right conditions.
This evergreen low-growing succulent, also called ice plant, has dramatic flowers in bright shades of pink, coral, orange and bright yellow. It’s fabulous on hillsides, where it spreads quickly. Ice plant doesn’t mind heat and drought. Don’t confuse this with another plant, also is called ice plant, which actually is a totally different and invasive species with the botanical name, Carpobrotus. Give delosperma full sun.
Finely textured green blades make this plant an awesome alternative to grass. Sedge comes in many different varieties, but its shallow roots help bind topsoil so it’s a great tool for erosion control. It may need watered during dry spells. Give sedge part sun.
11. Variegated Bishop’s Weed
The green and white foliage makes a splash in the garden with this fast-growing perennial. White flowers about a foot tall appear in summer. This plant can be invasive, so be very careful to plant it somewhere it can’t get out of control, such as between the sidewalk and the house. Or snip off the flowers to prevent spreading. Bishop’s weed is one of the few plants that grows equally well in sun or shade.
Many different varieties of sedum work well as groundcovers, and many have small flowers, too. But it’s mostly grown for its colorful, fleshy foliage, which helps it survive dry spells. Give sedum full sun.
This lesser-known perennial has cute little mounds of grassy foliage. Teeny ball-shaped blooms in pink or red pop up in late spring to early summer. Thrift, also called armeria, likes part to full sun.
14. Blue Star Creeper
This charming perennial forms a dense mat of greenery with blue blooms all summer long. It’ll make your garden look straight out of a cottagecore fever dream when placed between stepping stones or in rock gardens. Give blue star creeper part to full sun, but make sure it has afternoon shade in warmer climates.
Glossy leaves of green or bronze make this an interesting perennial that tolerates most soil types. Spikes of blue, white, purple or pink flowers appear in summer. This fast-spreader can handle sun or shade.