10 Best Low-Maintenance Ground Cover Plants
These hardworking landscape plants make gorgeous ground covers, whether you want to fill in gaps or replace turf grass completely.
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Ajuga Ground Cover
Ajuga, also known as carpet bugleweed, is a gorgeous ground cover plant. This perennial grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9.
“You’ll get very glossy leaves in shades of chocolate-brown, bronze and deep green,” says Jen Stark, master gardener and founder of Happy DIY Home. “And it sends up small spikes of white, pink, purple or blue flowers in the summer.”
Ajuga can handle sun or partial shade, and Stark says that it does well in almost any soil type. It needs good soil drainage and moderate water.
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Clover lawns have regained popularity in recent years. They are an easy breezy option for homeowners who want a green lawn without the hassle of turf grass. Clover doesn’t need to be mowed. And according to Erinn Witz, co-founder and writer at SeedsandSpades.com, it needs little to no watering or fertilizing once it’s established. There are varieties suited for full sun and shade.
“Some clover varieties, namely Dutch clover, produce small, attractive flowers,” says Witz. “These flowers have a pleasant scent, and they’re a favorite for friendly pollinators like bees and butterflies. Also, rabbits love to eat clover, and having a ready supply may help keep them from munching on your garden or landscape plants.”
Here’s another flowering ground cover plant. Lilyturf grows in tufts of grass-like leaves, with delightful purple flowers. “It is a very durable plant,” says Gena Lorainne of Fantastic Gardeners. “You just need to cut any dead growth in the spring, and it will generate fresh growth each season.”
Lilyturf works as ground cover or as an attractive addition to flower beds. Lorainne recommends it for “sloped sites and garden beds as it forms clumps.”
Chamomile is perhaps most well-known for its use in teas, but it’s also one of the best ground cover plants. This low-growing plant produces whimsical white and yellow blooms. Since chamomile does not stand up to heavy foot traffic, it is a good choice for small, untrodden areas, such as the space beside a garden path. Plus, it adds to your edible landscape.
Moss seems to pop up naturally in the shady areas where grass won’t grow. “So,” asks Witz, “why not put that shade-loving nature to good use as a ground cover?” It’s an excellent idea.
Moss isn’t picky; it can thrive in most soil types and requires no mowing. Plus, Witz says that its soft, spongy surface holds up to moderate foot traffic. The only trouble is its aversion to sun. If your yard has shady, grass-free spots, moss is an easy alternative ground cover.
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Creeping thyme is “one of the hardiest non-edible, aromatic ground cover plants for dry, well-draining areas that receive heavy sun and little to moderate water,” says Mark Gutierrez, co-owner of Gutierrez & Sons Tree Service.
This landscaping powerhouse comes in several varieties to suit any space. Two types, Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineus’ and Thymus praecox ‘Albiflorus,’ will “maintain a flatter finish than other varieties of creeping thyme,” Gutierrez says. These low-growing varieties are ideal ground covers. Creeping thyme sprouts delicate purple, red or white flowers.
Creeping Jenny, also called moneywort, is a vibrant shade of yellow-green. This trailing plant makes a lovely ground cover plant, but it also does well in containers. It grows just two to four inches high and produces pretty yellow flowers. Creeping Jenny is suitable for yards with partial shade.
Dead-nettle is one of the easiest landscaping plants to grow. It’s a bit taller than some ground cover plants on this list, but its bright flowers and durability make it a top contender.
“This perennial plant offers natural protection from rabbits and deer and has a lengthy blossom time: from early spring to early summer,” says Lorainne. Depending on the variety, dead-nettle grows pink, white or purple flowers.
If you live in a warm, dry area, sedum is the way to go. “Any low-growing sedum varieties make ground cover that is very easy to take care of,” Stark says. “It has fleshy leaves that hold moisture to help it survive short drought periods.”
If you live in a cooler area, there are many cold weather-hardy varieties of this ground cover succulent. This plant comes in a broad array of colors, and some varieties even flower. Because of this, sedum is one of the most versatile ground cover plants.
To add a little color to your landscape, try planting pink knotweed. According to Gutierrez, it’s “a rugged evergreen option for ground cover in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 9.” It grows particularly well in flat areas.
Pink knotweed’s leaves alone are brilliantly colored. The view gets even better when, as Gutierrez says, “pom-pom-like pink flowers bloom beginning in the spring.”