Ground Covers

Ground covers are low growing perennial plants that tend to spread and naturalize across large swaths of ground. Choosing a single ground cover variety creates harmony and unity while providing excellent weed control. Ground covers provide protection for top soil by preventing erosion. In addition to their usefulness and versatility, they also tend to be low maintenance, durable, and fast spreading.

Bugleweed- Ajuga reptans

Zone: 4-9

Light Requirements: Full sun and part shade

Soil Preference: Average, medium moisture, well drained soils

Pests and Disease: Crown rot can pose a problem in wet or humid conditions

Attributes: Ajuga forms mats through stolons, it spreads rapidly. Best foliage color occurs in part sun. Whorls of tiny blue-violet flowers, approximately 10″ long, float above dense foliage in spring.

Our Experience: We have had great success in certain applications and not in others. Improper moisture is probably to blame for certain areas struggling. However, when cultivated in proper conditions it’s highly successful and very attractive.

Snow in Summer- Cerastium tomentosum

Zone: 3-7

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Soil Preference: Dry, sandy, well drained soils

Pests and Disease: Root rot when in moist soils

Attributes: Cerastium is a short lived, mat forming perennial growing to 6”. It has evergreen narrow, gray-green 1” leaves and 8 to 12” clusters of white blooms emerging over the foliage in the early spring. Used as a groundcover for sunny areas, rock gardens and borders. Goes dormant during the hot summer months.

Our Experience: We utilize snow in summer, specifically, in our sculpture garden where it happily covers a sandy mound with white flowers from early spring until mid summer. While beautiful during the early months of the growing season, it does get ratty and unattractive during its dormancy as summer progresses. We’ve also had to replace our cerastium in patches regularly as its short lived.

Barrenwort- Epimedium

Zone: 4-8

Light Requirements: Part Shade

Soil Preference: Dry to medium well drained soils

Pests/disease: None serious

Attributes: Semi evergreen ground cover known for graceful heart shaped leaves and columbine like flowers. Epimedium is tough, long lived and a good spreading perennial. Grows 6-15” depending on hybrid.

Our Experience:  Epimedium adds texture, color and flowering interest to many of the shady garden areas here on the hill. It’s very low maintenance and many varieties persist even over the winter. Leave foliage over the winter months and prune to the ground in early spring so that new spring flowers aren’t hidden. Plant in an area with good drainage.

Coral Bells- Heuchera

Zone: 4-9

Light Requirements: Part Shade

Soil Preference: Medium moist well drained soils

Pests/disease: None Serious

Attributes: Long blooming, clump forming groundcover perennial whose heart shaped foliage and bell like flowers come in a variety of colors and persist throughout the growing season. Grows 6-12” depending on variety. Good for edging and massing.

Our Experience: We have heuchera in almost every garden on great hill. The plethora of varietal options gives you the ability to utilize this plant as a pop of color anywhere and at any time during the growing season. You could use a feathery green in the spring, a purple variety for contrast in the summer or orange to compliment your autumn palate. If this plant receives a little more sun than it would like, prune off any scorched leaves to reveal colorful foliage beneath. Do not prune back for the winter. In years of drastic winter temperature fluctuation, plants may frost. heave. Gently press plants back into the soil in early spring if this occurs and consider mulching for the winter once the ground freezes.

Spotted Dead Nettle- Lamium maculatum

Zone: 3-8

Light Requirements: Part shade to Shade

Soil Preference: Average, medium moisture, well drained soils

Pests and Disease: None Serious

Attributes: Lamium is a fast growing, spreading perennial groundcover in the mint family growing 6 to 9” with heart shaped trailing leaves that are either solid green or variegated white to silver. Flowers come in pink, white and purple hooded whorls appearing mid spring to early summer and then sporadically throughout the growing season.

Our Experience: Lamium is a groundcover present in many garden areas on Great Hill. It spreads readily and has a long flowering period. That said, it is also marginally invasive and should be used with caution. While it is virtually maintenance free and pest resistant, we find we have to pull and or cut large sections of lamium out of the garden seasonally where its spread to an area it wasn’t intended for.

Mazus- Mazus reptans

Zone: 5-8

Light Requirements: Full sun – Part shade

Soil Preference: medium to wet, average, well drained soil

Pests and Disease: No serious insect or disease problems

Attributes: Typically grows 2” tall and spreads by creeping stems that produce roots at the nodes. Leaves are bright green, and form a dense carpet of 1” long foliage that remains green for the growing season. Tiny purple flowers with two lips, yellow and white spots appear in clusters early in the season.

Our Experience: We transplanted Mazus that was in terrible condition, with not much hope of recovery. Within one season we were able to get the patch established and thriving. Since then we have to routinely cut it back, as it will voraciously grow over stones and into the surrounding turf. Not a terribly showy flower from a distance, but very beautiful up close.

Pachysandra- Pachysandra terminalis

Zone: 5-9

Light Requirements: Part Shade- Full Shade

Soil Preference: medium moisture, organically rich, well drained soil

Pests and Disease: Leaf blight can occur, and be potentially serious and may necessitate treatment. Potential for scale and mites. Generally, no serious insect or disease threat.

Attributes: Tiny whorls of oval leaves ranging from 2-4” long at the end of stems that grow 8-12” long. They spread  by rhizome to create lush dark green carpets of foliage. Tiny white flowers are not showy, but are attractive and appear in early spring

Our Experience: One of our principal ground covers for underneath large statement trees in the landscape. Hardy, virtually no maintenance. A fantastic aesthetic unifier.

Plumbago- Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Zone: 5-9

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade

Soil Preference: Average, medium moisture, well drained soils

Pests and Disease: None Serious

Attributes: Plumbago is a mat forming perennial groundcover growing 6 to 10” with oval, shiny green leaves (2”) that turn a bronzy red in the fall. Flowers are borne in 5 petaled blue clusters up to ¾” each and appear from summer until the first frost. Used to under plant shrubs and bulbs, as an edger or as a rock garden plant.

Our Experience: We’ve experimented with plumbago as a groundcover for perennial borders, interplanted with spring bulbs and under various shrubs and trees. Its ideal for bulb underplanting as it leafs out late, just as bulb foliage starts fading. With that said, we’ve had limited success with this plant. It has been very slow to spread and has died back in many of the garden areas we’ve planted it. We aren’t yet sure if it’s a soil or placement issue, or if deer/ rabbit damage is keeping it from flourishing.

Groundcover Sedum- Sedum spp.

Zone: 4-9

Light Requirements: full sun

Soil Preference: moderate to low fertility, dry to medium moisture

Pests and Disease: No serious insect or disease risk

Attributes: mat forming, carpet-like evergreen succulent. Typically grows 3-12″ in height but will spread along the ground for more than 20”.

Our Experience: We have had success with ‘John Creech’, ‘Angelina’, ‘Coral Reef’ and others. Almost invasive, and can tolerate poor soils with little care. Originally spread well beyond the trial bed we planted it in, however its very easily removed. Excellent naturalizer, creeps to fill a space.

Thyme- Thymus praecox

Zone: 5-8

Light Requirements:Full Sun

Soil Preference: Dry to Medium well drained soils

Pests and Disease: No serious insect or disease problems

Attributes: Tiny round, fuzzy, blue green, aromatic leaves cluster to form a flat mat 2-6” in height. Clusters of tiny white- purple flowers appear in summer.

Our Experience: Very versatile and hearty plant. We have used thyme in multiple applications including mass plantings and also between stepping stones in walkways. We have had no issue with pests or disease.

Speedwell- Veronica ‘Waterperry’

Zone: 4-8

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Soil Preference: Average, medium, well drained soils

Pests and Disease: Root rot when in wet soils

Attributes: Veronica ‘Waterperry’ is a creeping, mound forming perennial ground cover growing to 5” tall. Leaves are tiny, green and round growing to ½” and flowers are lavender- blue appearing April to May. Used in rock gardens, borders, for edging or foundations.

Our Experience: Waterperry veronica is a ground cover present in many perennial borders on Great Hill. Tiny blue flowers in the early spring are highly ornamental. While categorized as deer and rodent resistant, we have found that rabbits will graze on waterperry without hesitation.

Vinca- Vinca minor

Zone: 4-8

Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade; can tolerate full shade

Soil Preference: Prefers moist, humusy soils. Will do well in average, dry to medium well drained soils.

Pests and Disease:No serious insect or disease threat. Can be prone to blight which can destroy large patches and spread to adjacent beds.

Attributes: Smooth Ovate evergreen foliage on trialing stems. Roots form at the nodes allowing vinca to spread and form dense mats, sometimes mounding up to 6” tall. Lavender blue flowers approximately one inch across appear on leaf axils initially in spring, but will bloom intermittently throughout the season.

Our Experience: We have had great success cultivating and transplanting Vinca. Very reliable performer. The blue flowers are understated yet striking. We have Vinca growing in a number of gardens on the property and is one of our go-to ground covers.

Barren Strawberry- Waldsteinia

Name: Waldsteinia

Common Name: Barren Strawberry

Zone: 4-8

Light Requirements: Sun to Part shade

Soil Preference: Average medium well drained soils

Pests/disease: None serious

Attributes: A mat forming semi evergreen groundcover with canary yellow flowers emerging in the spring and trifoliate, wedge shaped leaves that resemble strawberry foliage. Grows 4-8.”

Our Experience: Waldsteinia is most often found in woodland areas on great hill. It will perform in the sun but often gets partially scorched leaves when over exposed/allowed to dry out. Its shiny foliage, yellow flowers and maintenance free nature make it an ideal ground cover for partially wooded areas, rock walls and borders. Foliage turns bronze in the fall.