Ground Covers: Foliage, Flowers and Berries
Creeping Junipers Can Tame and Beautify Steep Hills
What are you seeking in a ground cover? Evergreen foliage? What about tolerance to such negatives as drought, salt, pollution and deer pests? Creeping junipers can offer all this and more, as I explain in this introduction.
Creeping Phlox Plants
Have you ever seen a banking blanketed with spring color and wondered what ground cover it was? It could well have been creeping phlox. Its foliage isn't bad, either, but it's grown mainly for its spring flowers, which will be most unforgettable on bankings, where the angle helps the viewer appreciate them.
Vinca Minor Vines
Periwinkle flower (Vinca minor) has its detractors. This viny ground cover can, in fact, be somewhat invasive. But vinca is a popular choice for dry-shade areas. While primarily grown for their glossy foliage, in springtime the vines do bear blue flowers.
To perhaps an even greater degree than Vinca minor , bugleweed (Ajuga) is invasive. But for some people, its aggressive tendencies may make this ground cover that much more attractive, as it is tough and really "fills in" an area. Folks also enjoy the flower that bugleweed puts out, and some varieties are sought for their dark-colored leaves.
English Ivy Plants
English ivy is another invasive but popular ground cover. Are you sensing a pattern here? Obviously, an aggressive growth habit is a double-edged sword. Whether you end up growing these plants will depend on where you live (they're not equally invasive everywhere) and what your landscaping goals are.
Blue Rug Juniper Plants
Blue Rug juniper plants and their relatives are sturdy evergreen ground covers for sunny slopes. Using junipers controls erosion and weeds, and also eliminates your having to mow steep slopes. Mowing such slopes can be hazardous to your health, so, in a way, growing junipers can sometimes be seen as promoting safety.
Rock Cotoneaster Plants
Rock cotoneaster (or "rockspray") is a popular rockery plant. You can tell from their botanical name how they could be useful as ground covers: Cotoneaster horizontalis. Their orientation is, in fact, horizontal, while at the same time they give you more height than many other ground covers.
Like Vinca minor, Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) tolerates shade. Although it does flower, pachysandra's selling points are its foliage, toughness and adaptability. Add in its deer-resistant quality, and it is easy to see why pachysandra is so widely grown.
Perennial Ground Covers Used in Deer Control
The potential damage deer can cause must be taken into account when you are selecting a ground cover in deer country. My article presents some examples of plants that are not Bambi's first choices for snacks. Call this deer-control method "taking the path of least resistance." It's less expensive than relying on fences.
Winter Jasmine Plants
As a zone-5 gardener, growing winter jasmine (zones 6-10) in a microclimate is a pet project of mine. If given support, this plant will climb. Otherwise, it will root where the branches contact the soil and function as more of a ground cover. Winter jasmine puts out small yellow flowers and blooms in relatively cold weather.
A drought-tolerant ground cover, Angelina stonecrop flowers in yellow clusters, although it is the foliage color I value more. It works well in rock gardens, and I like its golden or (more often) chartreuse foliage in combinations with blue flowers.
Moss Ground Covers as an Alternative to Lawns
Is moss a good or bad thing to have in your landscaping? Well, it really depends on your perspective. Many battle it as a "weed" in their lawns. But have you considered using moss as an alternative to grass in areas that seem to favor the former over the latter? Maybe the very thing you're battling is the solution to your problem.
"Catmint" is a designation that includes but is not limited to catnip. The latter is what drives cats wild, but there are many kinds of catmints that gardeners grow simply because they look great in the perennial garden.
There are different kinds of liriope (also called "lilyturf"). I grow Liriope spicata in zone 5. In the South, you would be likely to encounter Liriope muscari, which is more vigorous and puts on a better show but is, alas, less hardy. Use either as a ground cover for dry shade.
Alternatives to Lawns: Ground Covers
Lawns are costly to maintain, in terms of both landscaping labor and money. Discover landscaping alternatives to the traditional grass lawn, including ground covers and clover. Clover is also used to improve the soil, and as a living mulch in gardens.
Moss Acres: Specializing in Moss Ground Covers
Many people spend tons of money trying to kill moss in their lawns, while others promote moss growth in areas too shady for grass. Moss Acres is a supplier specializing in live moss for shade gardening and landscape applications.