Using Ground Cover Plants in the Landscape

Plants that grow densely and leave very little dirt open for weed seeds to invade serve several purposes.  You don’t have to mow this area. It may be an area where grass won’t grow and you have only bare soil. Ground covers can also be used in place of grass for an interesting, even unusual grass substitute or border around flower beds.


One quick spreading ground cover is ajuga. This attractive perennial plant can cover a large area in one season.  The plants put out runners and fill in a space up to 18 inches. In spring, it has pretty flower spikes in a lavender blue shade. There are different varieties with different leaf colors and this plant is deer resistant.  It will grow in sun or partial shade and can also be grown from seed.

Periwinkle (Vinca)

Another popular ground cover is Periwinkle, also called Vinca. This plant likes part shade, but doesn’t flower well in full shade. It spreads by runners which root wherever they touch soil and can blanket an area quickly. It’s great for checking soil erosion on slopes and for covering large blank spaces under trees.

Creeping Thyme

Creeping thyme thrives in poor soil and grows only 1 inch tall. It is deer resistant, and drought tolerant. Thyme likes a sunny spot with good drainage making it perfect for slopes or a lawn substitute. Creeping thyme has pink, lavender, blue, or white flowers and blooms in spring. After bloom, it has pleasing green leaves that blanket the ground.


If you’ve ever seen a sea of green leaves under a tree that look like green petaled flowers, it’s probably Pachysandra (Japanese Spurge). This plant spreads from underground rhizomes, but takes a little longer to fill in than other ground covers. Popular for use under trees, along borders, along paths or as driveway edging. It is one of the few plants that will grow under pine trees. White flowers show up in spring.

Other Ground Cover Plants

Look for these other popular ground covers at your local garden center:  Spotted Dead Nettle, Moss Rose (Portulaca), Liriope, Sweet Woodruff, Hardy Geranium, Lamb’s Ear, Creeping Sedum and Angelina.