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Ground cover plants can dramatically change the way your garden looks and feels to give your garden a polished and complete look that is seen in parks and stately homes.

These plants are low-level foliage and flowers that spread at the base of borders to provide a carpeted effect that will fill any odd gaps, and they can also benefit hugely by suppressing weeds.

Some varieties are great to use as insulation for your soil, locking in moisture and keeping it warm during winter, in the same way that mulching does. They can even help with soil erosion, using their roots to hold everything together on steeper slopes during rainfall.

Generally, ground cover plants are planted at the front of borders creating a carpet that leads up to the path or lawn, with medium plants behind and larger shrubs and plants at the back.

This tiered approach to gardening is a great way to structure all your beds and borders, creating a picture-perfect finish that will wow your friends and family.

They can also be used at the base of singular trees or large shrubs, turning your larger plants into stunning features.

ground-cover-border

Here are some of the best ground cover plants and why they might work best in your garden.

Evergreen

Evergreen plants are a great no fuss choice, as they are often very undemanding and resilient, staying put during winter and providing your borders with structure all year round.

Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Carpet’ (flaky juniper)

Also coming in a more classic green (Juniperus Communis ‘Repanda’), this evergreen shrub is very low maintenance, requires no pruning and will form a very dense ground cover with a diameter of about 2 metres.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, North, West or East-facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Chalk, clay, sand, or loam

blue-carpet

Vinca major or Vinca minor (periwinkle)

This fast-growing ground cover plant is available in ‘major’ or ‘minor’ depending on leaf size. Both are extremely vigorous evergreens that will produce a lovely purple flower from spring through to autumn. This plant is very hardy and will survive in most conditions.

• Sun – Full sun, partial shade or full shade
• Position – North, East, South or West-facing
• Exposure – Sheltered or exposed
• Moisture – Well-drained, moist but well-drained or poorly drained
• Soil – Chalk, clay, sand or loam

Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge)

Japanese spurge has interesting foliage and peculiar white flowers that bloom in summer. It’s great for ground cover in shade, tolerating all soils as long as they are not very dry.

• Sun – Full shade or partial shade
• Position – North or East-facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained or moist but well-drained
• Soil – Chalk, loam, clay, or sand

pachysandra

Some other great evergreen ground cover options are Hedera helix (ivy), Mahonia aquifolium (oregon grape), Erica vagans (Cornish heath), Cotoneaster dammeri (bearberrry cotoneaster) and Euonymus fortunei (emerald gaiety).

Perennials

Perennials are great in established borders, and will pop up each year, providing reliable and often very attractive ground cover with some incredible foliage and flowers.

Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle)

Lady’s mantle is a lovely green plant with small hairs on its leaves. When rain falls, they hold the water in perfect, glistening drops for a dazzling effect. It grows well in most soils and is fully hardy.

• Sun – Full sun, partial shade, or full shade
• Position – South, East, West or North-facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Moist but well-drained
• Soil – Loam, chalk, sand or clay

Rosa [Flower Carpet Amber]

There is an amazing array of ground cover roses to choose from, but the peachy hues of this one is stunning through summer and autumn. As long as it is planted somewhere with plenty of sun, it will spread up to a metre wide and requires only light pruning.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South, West or East-facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained or moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, clay, chalk, or loam

rose-flower-carpet

Geranium x johnsonii ‘Johnson’s Blue’ (cranesbill)

These hardy geraniums are also available in other shades such as ‘Wargrave Pink’. They do grow upwards as well as out, so give them plenty of space and they will fill it nicely. They are a lovely option to use as underplanting of roses and shrubs.

• Sun – Full sun or partial shade
• Position – South, East, West or North-facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Moist but well-drained or well-drained
• Soil – Sand, loam, chalk or clay

A few more favourites of perennials for ground cover choices are Saponaria ocymoides (tumbling Ted), Pulmonaria officinalis (common lungwort), Ajuga reptans (bugle), and Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox).

Annuals

A good choice if you like to be creative and change things around from year to year, annual ground cover plants are less common but an especially stunning and unique addition to your borders.

Lobularia maritima (sweet alyssum)

Spreading to about half a metre, the low growing alyssum produces dense carpets of flowers in shades of white and lilac. A great choice for sunny spots with well-drained soil, it will also provide a sweet scent to your summer garden.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South or East-facing
• Exposure – Sheltered or exposed
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Loam or sand

Tropaeolum majus (garden nasturtium)

With delicate flowers and soft petal-like leaves you’d be forgiven for thinking this trailing plant was high maintenance. In fact, the nasturtium will quickly scramble up to two and a half metres over infertile soil, as long as it has plenty of sun. It is also a perfect plant for attracting bees, which adds to its summery charm.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South or West-facing
• Exposure – Exposed or sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained
• Soil – Sand, chalk, or loam

Petunia ‘Charlie’s Angels Charlie’

Trailing varieties of petunia such as this one work well as carpet ground cover and will spread thick and fast. Flowering a deep purple through summer and autumn, you’ll get the best out of it by finding a sunny, sheltered site with moist soil.

• Sun – Full sun
• Position – South or West-facing
• Exposure – Sheltered
• Moisture – Well-drained or moist but well-drained
• Soil – Sand, clay, chalk, or loam

petunia

A few more ideas for annual plants for ground cover are Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg flower), Lobelia erinus (trailing lobelia), Osteospermum ‘Blue Eyed Beauty’ (Cape daisy) and Petunia (Purple Velvet).

Top tips for ground cover:

  • If weed prevention is your main aim, try to find evergreen varieties of ground cover that are really dense.
  • Make sure you have fully eradicated all existing weeds before you plant, especially perennials such as dandelions, as these will be near impossible to remove once your ground cover is in.
  • Keep an eye out for new weeds sprouting up before your ground cover has had the chance to spread.

With these tips and top recommendations for ground cover plants you’ll be able to reduce the amount of weeding that needs to be done whilst sprucing up any lifeless looking borders.

For more garden planting ideas, check out my blog:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:

pots and planters
Pots and planters
flower power pinterest
Pinterest Board


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