Best Ground Covers for Your Yard

Ground covers are the unsung heroes of your yard and garden. They fill in bare areas where grass won’t grow, provide us with low-maintenance areas, and give us green leaves in the winter months. They can also offer carpets of blooms that attract pollinators and bring us joy.

7 Reasons to Use Ground Cover Plants

  1. They provide visual interest when plants and grass are dormant.
  2. Different ground covers thrive in partial shade, full shade, or even full sun. 
  3. Low maintenance ground covers minimize the need to mow and help prevent erosion.
  4. Drought-tolerant plants reduce the need for irrigation.
  5. When planted under trees and in flower beds, they act as a living mulch, retaining moist soil and resisting weeds.
  6. Ground covers provide food and shelter to pollinators and wildlife, helping to increase the biodiversity of your yard.
  7. They hold up to foot traffic better than turfgrass, and in rock gardens, they add year-round green foliage.

The mastermind behind Epic Gardening, Kevin Espíritu, is a huge fan of ground covers as a lawn replacement. “If you have children or pets who are likely to play in your yard, you can do a blended yard,” he says, adding, “Be mindful of both your average high temps and your low temps, and pick plants that can handle both.”

Now that you’re convinced, take a look at some of the best ground covers for sun or shade in all climates.

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

The bugleweed version of ajuga. Credit: Flackjacket2010, CC2.0

Bugleweed comes in dozens of varieties ranging from green to bronze, purple, and sometimes even variegated. This ornamental ground cover stands up to heavy foot traffic and is hardy to minus 40 degrees. It can thrive in full sun to part shade and presents blue-purple flowers from late spring to early summer.

Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

This fast-growing ground cover spends months producing white flowers and is hardy all the way down to -30 degrees. Candytuft is drought-tolerant and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It’s the perfect choice for sunny slopes and rock gardens.

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

This perennial ground cover with chartreuse leaves is a favorite for its hardiness and attractive foliage. Creeping Jenny enjoys full sun but can tolerate part shade as long as the soil is moist. With a fountain-like growth pattern, she’s a favorite for raised flower beds and planters.

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

Creeping phlox

Deer resistant and cold hardy to minus 40 degrees, creeping phlox bursts into glorious bloom in spring. Best with full sun to part shade, this 6-inch-tall superstar performs well on slopes and retaining walls.

Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)

Adding stunning beauty to shaded areas, deadnettle has silvery, variegated leaves, and is hardy to minus 15 degrees. This deciduous plant offers cheerful pink flowers in late spring but dies back in winter. The only precaution to take when planting deadnettle is to make sure you’re not in an area where it’s considered invasive.

Flowering Thyme (Thymus spp.) 

The thyme family offers dozens of varieties of this hardy ground cover, most of which can handle temps down to minus 20 degrees. Only 3 inches tall, most varieties don’t attract deer or rabbits. Plant in full sun and enjoy a show of pink flowers in summer. and an herb for cooking all year.

Ice Plants (Delosperma cooperi)

Trailing ice plant, Tanaka Juuyo, CC2.0

This succulent, evergreen thrives in warm climates and can’t tolerate foot traffic or temperatures below minus 10 degrees. But on sunny, well-drained slopes, it provides beautiful texture and neon-bright, flowers from mid-summer to early fall. For high-visibility blooms and solid erosion control, ice plants are hard to beat.

Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

This drought-tolerant evergreen prefers part to full shade and is hardy to minus 30 degrees. The glossy, dark green leaves create a 12-inch tall mat of foliage that produces spiky white blossoms in late spring.

Liriope (Liriope spicata)

This grasslike ground cover, also known as lilyturf, thrives in sun and shade (but needs moist soil) and is hardy to minus 15 degrees. Both clumping and creeping varieties erupt into spikes of purple, white, or blue flowers in late summer. Liriope makes an attractive garden edging and is good for erosion control or under trees as a substitute for grass.

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

Periwinkle. Credit: Kenneth Allen, CC by-SA 2.0

One of the most popular evergreen ground covers, periwinkle, prefers moist soil in partly shaded areas. Hardy to minus 20 degrees, periwinkle is a vigorous, vining plant that may need to be cut back every so often to keep it under control.

Whether your goal is to cover the bare spots beneath trees or to fill the negative space in your flower beds, there’s a ground cover out there for the job. Choose wisely, and your groundcover will reward you for years to come.

Top image credit: “Ajuga reptans Chocolate Chip,” David J. Stang, CC by-SA 4.0

author avatar

Written by Joey Farruggio

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

More Resources