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What to Choose?

When it comes to ground covers, the choices can be somewhat limited. When you think of groundcover, the image that often comes to mind is English ivy, with its low to the ground, evergreen leaves. But ivy can be awfully hard to keep in check. And in our region of the country, it has aggressively spread into the surrounding woodlands.

So what are the other options? There are a few, all with their own pluses and minuses. The lists below will give you an overview of the available options. Click on the name of the plants to see a slide shoe where available.

This list sticks to what is affordable and easily available in the nursery trade. Please note: some of these plants are more susceptible to deer damage that others. An asterisk indicates which are the most susceptible.

‘Instant’ Groundcovers

‘Instant’ groundcovers are plants that are available as small plants in trays of 18 or more. They work best for planting large areas. Usually, they are planted 6-12″ o.c. and will fill in fairly quickly. All of the ‘instant’ groundcovers listed below are evergreen.

Pictured below: a lush planting of pachysandra.

 Sun to Part Shade

Clumping Liriope* (Liriope muscarii)
Spreading Liriope* (Liriope spicata) Can be invasive.
Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Dwarf Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Compactus’)
Ajuga (Ajuga reptans)

 Part Sun to Shade

Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor) Can be invasive.
Vinca (Vinca major) Can be invasive.
English Ivy (Hedera helix) Can be very invasive.

Perennial Groundcovers

Perennial groundcovers include many varieties of perennial plants. Many have flowers and most die back in the fall. They can be planted 12-18″ to fill in quickly, but they can also be planted 18-24″ on center if cost is an issue.

Pictured below: the colorful leaves of coralbells.

 Sun to Part Shade

Daylily* (Hemerocallis spp.)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Creeping Thyme (Thymus spp.)
Ice Plant (Delosperma spp.)

 Part Sun to Shade

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.)
Coral bells (Heuchera spp.)
Hosta* (Hosta spp.)
Sedge (Carex spp.)
Lenten Rose, Hellebore (Helleborus spp.)
Ferns (several genera)
Strawberry Geranium (Saxifragia stolonifera)

Bushy Groundcovers

Bushy groundcovers are dwarf varieties of shrubs that creep or spread, but they can also be non-spreading plants that are spaced closely together. Some are flowering, and they can be either deciduous or evergreen.

Pictured below: a mass planting of dwarf abelia.

Sun to Part Shade

Juniper
Soft Touch Holly
Wintercreeper
Dward Abelia
Carpet Rose
Dwarf Japanese Plum Yew
Cotoneaster
Deutzia ‘Nikko’
Dwarf Indian Hawthorn
Dwarf Nandina
St. John’s Wort

 Part Sun to Shade

Skimmia
Dwarf Gardenia (Gardenia spp.)