Ground Cover plants cover large parts of the landscape or fill in oddly shaped corners. They’re also good for preventing erosion because most ground cover plants have robust root systems that spread. Most ground covers rarely grow taller than 12 inches, so they look neat and attractive beneath a tree or surrounding large shrubs.
When choosing ground-cover plants, it’s important to remember that some ground-cover plants can be pretty invasive. Their roots can sometimes strangle other plants in the same flower bed once they grow thickly. So, it’s best to keep ground covers confined to their area where they can spread happiness and not interfere with other plants. If they start to get too close to the roots of shrubs, it’s a good idea to move them back.
Because shade areas present a challenge for the gardener, and grass usually won’t grow in the shade, ground covers are an excellent choice to plant beneath trees or in large shady areas. Many shade-loving ground cover plants are straightforward to plant and low maintenance. Many are also drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, and resistant to pests and diseases.
Creeping Myrtle (Vinca minor) The bright, cheery violet-blue flowers of creeping myrtle, also known as vinca or periwinkle, makes it an attractive choice for ground cover beneath a tree or covering a large shady area. Periwinkle is also a name given to a Crayola crayon, added to their palette in 1958, inspired by the distinctive color of these beloved flowers. The shiny leaves remain evergreen even in winter, with new leaf growth appearing in spring. Vinca tends to get very thick and tangled root systems over time, so it’s not a good idea to plant them in a flower bed with other perennials.
Some cultivars produce white flowers, as well as a deep magenta. Not fussy about soil, this plant thrives in many different growing conditions and is drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, and low maintenance. There is a vinca cultivar suited to slightly warmer zones that is more commonly referred to as periwinkle. This cultivar has larger flowers of the same vivid blue-violet color and leaves that grow on a trailing vine. Due to the shiny evergreen leaves, the flower trade sometimes uses this variety for container plantings. To pide vinca, use a sharp-edged spade to cut through the thick roots.
English Ivy (Hedera helix) English ivy has deep green glossy heart-shaped leaves that grow on vigorous vines. This evergreen perennial is also classified as a woody wine due to its thick stem that grows woody with maturity. New growth is a medium green, while mature leaves are a deep forest green. While English ivy looks excellent in a shade bed, it spreads aggressively, so it’s best to plant it in a bed with sturdy edges. It is also a parasitic plant that will grow upwards and strangle trees, so if planted beneath a tree, it must be cut back every season to prevent runaway growth. The leaves can be toxic to livestock, so it’s essential to consider this when deciding where they will be planted.
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) The tiny bell-shaped white flowers are famous for their distinctive delicate floral scent. One small vase of a few flower stems will perfume a whole room with its soft fragrance. This scent has been duplicated in many commercial perfumes, such as Muguet des Bois, a famous fragrance line introduced by Coty in 1941. Lily of the valley is a good ground cover for shady woodland gardens. It tends to droop a bit towards the end of the growing season, and the leaves can even turn brown if it gets too much sun, but it does well in a damp shady area. It can be trimmed with a mower or weed trimmer or left alone. It tends to be invasive in flower beds, so this is another shady ground cover best planted in its area.
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) This perennial evergreen ground cover produces small white flowers in spring, followed by tiny dark red berries in summer. The berries are appealing to ground-feeding birds and other wildlife. It is a native plant that is technically an herbaceous shrub, but because it has a low-lying growth habit, it is.
considered a ground cover. Usually, this plant will not grow more than 12 inches tall. Partridgeberry does best in a slightly acidic moist soil, such as that found in a woodland setting. This plant is often confused with wintergreen because of its similar appearance and tendency to grow near one another. Still, the difference in scent and taste of the berries reveals the difference.
Bugle Weed (Ajuga) This flowering ground cover lends vibrant color to shade beds and partial-shade areas from late spring to early summer. The leaves are rounded, thick, and glossy, usually dark green, sometimes showing touches of burgundy or purple. The delicate spikes are covered with tiny flowers that grow no taller than 6-8 inches. These flowers come in various colors depending on the cultivar, from white to pink, and shades of violet and deep blue.
Bugleweed does tend to spread through lawns, but some gardeners like its decorative look and don’t mind it reseeding in the garden and filling in where it may. The spent flowers can be deadheaded, and the plants may rebloom in late summer.
Violets (Viola odorata) Violets are well-loved for their sweet scent and the vibrant color they bring to the garden in early spring. Violet-scented perfumes and powders were widespread during the Victorian age, and their popularity continued through the 1930s. The Parma variety was used to flavor candy. These perennials have glossy heart-shaped leaves, which increase in size after their flowers have died back for the season. Violets spread via tubers and can become quite invasive in the garden, but many people like how they spread in the lawn and can be easily mowed after the flowering period. Violets can be simply pulled up by their
entire root system to try and keep them under control. They come in various color variations: purple, lavender, deep blue, magenta, pink, white, and bi-colors.
Perennial Geranium (Geranium maculatum) There are many perennial geraniums with colors that range from deep blue to pale pink. This variety has small compact foliage and produces a profusion of rich magenta-purple flowers that bloom in late spring and persist through mid-summer. This excellent ground cover flowers best in partial shade to partial sun conditions. The root system spreads quickly via small rhizomes and is relatively easy to pide. Unlike some ground covers, Geranium maculatum can co-exist well in flower beds, as its roots are not invasive, and the flowers meander gently among others. Deadheading the spent flowers will keep the plant neat and encourage reblooming in late summer.
Wintercreeper (Euonymus) This evergreen vine has glossy, showy leaves. It works as a climbing vine on fences or a trellis and performs well as a ground cover. The woody vines will get quite thick over time and require cutting back to control spread. Wintercreeper does best in its area as its strong growth tends to crowd out other plants.