Great Groundcovers

Groundcovers solve a number of garden problems, from covering bare spots to preventing erosion to covering an area that is too steep to mow. While most are grown for their foliage, many have colorful blooms during part of the year. Back in 2012, we highlighted four favorite groundcovers: Thyme, wild ginger, ajuga and sweet woodruff. But those are just the beginning of great groudcovers available for the North.

Here are four more favorites for shady and sunny spots.

Creeping phlox looks gorgeous in a rock garden.

Creeping phlox looks gorgeous in a rock garden.

Creeping phlox. This time of year, the creeping phlox is stunning. One of my neighbors has planted a hillside rock garden with this plant and its bright purple waves of color are a springtime treat. Creeping phlox likes sun and grows well in rock gardens. It does not require much effort -- a bit of fertilizer in the spring, if you like, and perhaps some water during very dry periods. Otherwise, just let it go and enjoy the spring show.

Pachysandra.  Pachysandra is one of the plants that grows well under walnut trees, which produce a substance called juglone, which is toxic to many plants. This shade-loving plant is popular under all types of trees, providing a shiny, green carpet. In the right site (avoid full sun), pachysandra requires very little care. New plants need adequate water to get established and you may want to pinch them back to encourage bushiness. Once you have a healthy patch established, you can enjoy the groundcover with little effort.

Lamium brightens a shade garden.

Lamium brightens a shade garden.

Spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’) will easily cover an area 2 to 3 feet wide. Its heart-shaped leaves are silvery white with a green edge and will brighten any area under trees or shrubs. The plant is about 6 inches tall and has white flowers for a long period in spring and early summer. It’s deer resistant and grows well in clay soil. After a few years in the same place, you may see a hole in the center of the clump, but deadnettle can be divided easily in spring. If it wanders into spots where it is not welcome, just pull it out. In addition to White Nancy, other popular deadnettle varieties include Purple Dragon and  Golden Spotted deadnettle.

Sedum adds texture to this border.

Sedum adds texture to this border.

Sedum. Popular in rock gardens, sedum is a groundcover with lots of texture. It is extremely hardy and comes in a variety of colors, from the blue-gray foliage of Sedum cauticola ‘Lidakense’ to the chartruese to gold of Sedum ‘Angelina’. Many sedums grow well in lean soils, which is why they are so often used in rock gardens and on green roofs.

Which are your favorite groundcovers?

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  1. Eileen on May 19, 2020 at 12:22 am

    Great ideas!

  2. Christie on July 28, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    I am looking any of those ground cover plants but mot sure where to find them . Any ideas?

    • Mary Lahr Schier on July 28, 2020 at 2:07 pm

      I think most independent garden centers would have these plants in spring — they may have some now, too, though many garden centers have sold out of plants because of the interest in gardening this year. Good luck!

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