• Perennial ground cover plants provide a beautiful backdrop for your garden and offer practical benefits like weed suppression and erosion control.
  • Perennials are a sustainable choice for long-term beauty in your garden, as they grow stronger each year and require minimal maintenance.
  • Top perennial ground cover plants include Creeping Thyme, Ajuga, Sedum, Lamb's Ear, Periwinkle, Pachysandra, Dragon's Blood Sedum, Creeping Jenny, Sweet Woodruff, and Ivy.
  • Perennial ground covers are resilient and versatile, thriving in various hardiness zones and light conditions.
  • Once established, perennial ground covers are low-maintenance and require less attention than annuals or non-native species.
  • To care for your perennial ground covers, water deeply but infrequently, fertilize minimally, and manage aggressive spread through physical barriers.
  • Many perennial ground covers thrive in shaded areas, making them perfect for beautifying less sunny spots in your garden.
  • The best time to plant perennial ground covers is in the spring or fall for optimal growth and establishment.

When it comes to creating a lush tapestry for your garden bed, perennial ground cover plants are the unsung heroes. Not only do they provide a verdant backdrop that complements your showier blooms, but they also offer practical benefits such as weed suppression and soil erosion control. With the right selection, you can transform the borders of your space into a vibrant, living mosaic that requires minimal upkeep and delivers maximum impact.

Why Choose Perennials for Ground Cover?

Perennials are the backbone of any well-designed garden. Their ability to return year after year offers a sustainable solution for gardeners looking to invest in long-term beauty. Unlike annuals, which must be replanted each season, perennial ground covers grow stronger with each passing year, expanding to fill in spaces and creating a dense mat that wards off weeds. They are an excellent choice for anyone aiming to establish a low-maintenance yet attractive landscape.

The Top Perennial Ground Covers for Your Garden

Selecting the right ground cover plants can be a game-changer in how your garden performs aesthetically and functionally. Whether you're looking for foliage finery or floral splendor, there's an abundance of options that can cater to your specific needs. Here are some top picks:

Top 10 Ground Covers

  1. Creeping Thyme ground cover
    Creeping Thyme - A fragrant and colorful ground cover that thrives in sunny areas.
  2. Ajuga ground cover
    Ajuga - Also known as bugleweed, this plant offers rich foliage and spikes of blue flowers.
  3. Sedum ground cover
    Sedum - A drought-tolerant succulent that comes in various colors and textures.
  4. Lamb's Ear ground cover
    Lamb's Ear - Known for its soft, fuzzy leaves that add a unique texture to your garden.
  5. Periwinkle ground cover
    Periwinkle - Offers glossy leaves and star-shaped blue flowers, perfect for shady spots.
  6. Pachysandra ground cover
    Pachysandra - A low-maintenance option that provides dense, evergreen coverage.
  7. Dragon's Blood Sedum ground cover
    Dragon's Blood Sedum - Features eye-catching red leaves and is extremely easy to grow.
  8. Creeping Jenny ground cover
    Creeping Jenny - Known for its vibrant green and gold foliage, it spreads quickly to fill spaces.
  9. Sweet Woodruff ground cover
    Sweet Woodruff - A shade-loving plant with fragrant, white flowers and whorled leaves.
  10. Ivy ground cover
    Ivy - A classic ground cover that's versatile and can climb structures as well.

Beyond their beauty, these plants are champions of resilience and versatility. They thrive across various hardiness zones and can adapt to different light conditions, from full sun to shade. For detailed planting instructions and care tips, consider exploring our step-by-step guide on planting perennial ground cover plants.

Caring for Your Perennial Ground Covers

Maintaining your perennial ground covers is relatively straightforward once they're established. These steadfast plants typically require less attention than high-maintenance annuals or non-native species. However, there are still key practices you should follow to ensure their health and vigor.

For more specific advice tailored to individual species or unique garden conditions such as shade areas or dry soils, take advantage of resources like our guide on year-round ground cover plants for shade. By understanding the needs of each plant type, you'll be rewarded with a robust garden bed that stands the test of time.

"A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them." – Liberty Hyde Bailey

Incorporating perennial ground covers into your garden is not just about aesthetics; it's about creating a sustainable ecosystem in your own backyard. As you watch these hardy varieties spread their roots and flourish with minimal intervention, you'll appreciate the wisdom in choosing plants that work harmoniously with natureβ€”a sentiment echoed by horticultural experts worldwide.

Perennial Ground Cover Care FAQs

How often should I water perennial ground covers?
The watering needs for perennial ground covers vary depending on the species and your climate. However, a general rule is to water them deeply but infrequently to encourage deep root growth. During the first growing season, aim to keep the soil consistently moist. Once established, most ground covers are quite drought-tolerant and may only need extra watering during prolonged dry spells.
Do perennial ground covers need fertilizing?
Most perennial ground covers are not heavy feeders and can thrive with minimal fertilization. If your soil is particularly poor, you can apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring. Be cautious not to over-fertilize, as this can promote weak, leggy growth and reduce the plant's hardiness.
How do I control the spread of aggressive perennial ground covers?
Aggressive ground covers can be managed by setting physical barriers in the soil, such as edging materials, to contain their spread. Regularly trimming the edges of the planting area can also help. If the plant has become too invasive, you may need to remove sections of it to keep it under control.
Can I plant perennial ground covers in shaded areas?
Yes, many perennial ground covers thrive in shade. It's important to choose species that are adapted to low-light conditions, such as Ajuga reptans or Pachysandra terminalis. These plants can provide lush, green coverage in areas where other plants might struggle.
When is the best time to plant perennial ground covers?
The best time to plant perennial ground covers is in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler, and the plants are less likely to suffer from heat stress. Fall plantings have the advantage of allowing the plants to establish roots before winter, leading to a stronger start in the spring.

To see real-life examples of how these perennials can enhance a garden's boundary while simplifying maintenance routines, don't miss our collection of inspiring flower bed ideas. And remember, as you select plants for your space, consider how they will interact with existing elements in your gardenβ€”companion planting can be incredibly beneficial.

Stay tuned as we continue to delve deeper into the world of perennialsβ€”where beauty meets practicality head-on in the realm of gardening excellence.

Thriving with Thyme: A Ground Cover Champion

Thyme is not just a culinary delight; it's a ground cover maestro. With its ability to withstand foot traffic and its aromatic foliage, thyme transforms garden beds into fragrant, low-maintenance tapestries. There are several varieties to choose from, each bringing its own unique charm to the table. Woolly thyme, with its soft, silvery foliage, and creeping lemon thyme, which releases a citrusy scent when trodden upon, are particularly delightful. For those seeking a pop of color, red creeping thyme bursts into a sea of crimson blooms in early summer.

Sedum: The Hardy Succulent for Tough Spots

When it comes to hot, dry areas where other plants struggle to survive, sedum is your stalwart ally. This succulent family boasts an impressive array of species that thrive in challenging conditions. 'Dragon's Blood' sedum offers dramatic red foliage that deepens in color with more sun exposure. Meanwhile, 'Angelina' sedum provides year-round interest with its golden-yellow leaves. Not only do these ground covers require minimal watering once established, but they also attract pollinators with their star-shaped flowers. To learn more about incorporating these resilient beauties into your garden bed, visit our guide on perennial ground cover plants for attractive landscapes.

Sedum Varieties Comparison

Bugleweed: The Shade-Loving Carpet

In the dappled light beneath trees or along the north side of buildings where sun lovers falter, bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) thrives. Its glossy leaves and spiky blue flowers make it an eye-catching addition to any shade garden. Bugleweed spreads readily but can be easily managed by trimming back its borders. It's an ideal candidate for those tricky spots where grass won't grow but you still desire green coverage. For more information on shade-loving ground covers like bugleweed and others that can create an enchanting understory in your garden bed, check out our article on year-round ground cover plants for shade.

Managing Bugleweed in Your Perennial Garden: A Guide

How do I control the spread of bugleweed in my garden?
Controlling bugleweed, also known as Ajuga, involves regular maintenance. To prevent it from overtaking your garden, you should set boundaries for the plant. This can be done by installing physical barriers like edging materials that go several inches into the soil. Additionally, routinely trimming back the runners can keep the plant in check. If bugleweed has already spread too far, you may need to dig out the unwanted sections, ensuring you remove the root system to prevent regrowth.
Is bugleweed invasive, and should I be concerned?
Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) can be considered invasive in some regions due to its aggressive growth habits. It's important to be aware of your local ecosystem and whether bugleweed is listed as an invasive species. If it is, you might want to consider alternative ground covers. In areas where it's not invasive, with proper management, bugleweed can be a beautiful and beneficial addition to your garden.
Can bugleweed thrive in shady areas?
Yes, bugleweed is an excellent ground cover for shady areas. It's known for its ability to grow well in partial to full shade, making it a great choice for gardeners looking to beautify less sunny spots. However, it's worth noting that while bugleweed tolerates shade, it will produce more flowers and vibrant foliage when it receives a few hours of sunlight each day.
What are some companion plants that pair well with bugleweed?
When choosing companion plants for bugleweed, consider species that enjoy similar growing conditions, such as partial shade and well-drained soil. Ferns, hostas, and hellebores can complement bugleweed nicely. For contrasting foliage, consider pairing it with variegated plants or those with different leaf textures. Remember to choose companions that won't be overwhelmed by bugleweed's growth.
How do I deal with pests or diseases affecting bugleweed?
Bugleweed is generally resistant to pests and diseases, but it can occasionally suffer from crown rot if the soil is too moist. Ensure good drainage and avoid overwatering to prevent this issue. If pests do appear, such as aphids, they can often be managed with a strong water spray or insecticidal soap. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using any pest control products.

While we've covered some exceptional ground cover perennials thus far, let's not forget about the importance of integrating these plants into your existing landscape seamlessly. The key is understanding each plant's growth pattern and how it interacts with neighboring plants and the environment.

Cultivating Harmony: Integrating Ground Covers Into Your Garden

To achieve a cohesive look in your perennial garden bed, consider the texture and color of your chosen ground covers alongside other perennials and shrubs already present. For instance, the silver foliage of lamb's ear contrasts beautifully against dark green hostas or ferns while providing tactile interest.

If you're looking for inspiration on how to blend various ground covers for aesthetic appeal and functionality, our guide on creating a perennial garden in your front yard can offer valuable insights.

Garden Pairings

  1. Creeper Phlox with Shasta Daisies
    Creeper Phlox & Shasta Daisies - A carpet of vibrant phlox complements the upright, sunny faces of Shasta daisies.
  2. Ajuga ground cover with Hostas
    Ajuga & Hostas - The glossy, dense foliage of ajuga sets the stage for the broad, variegated leaves of hostas.
  3. Sedum ground cover with Ornamental Grasses
    Sedum & Ornamental Grasses - Succulent sedum varieties create a textural contrast with wispy ornamental grasses.
  4. Lamb's Ear ground cover with Lavender
    Lamb's Ear & Lavender - Soft, silvery lamb's ear foliage pairs beautifully with the purple spires of lavender.
  5. Pachysandra ground cover with Ferns
    Pachysandra & Ferns - The lush, evergreen pachysandra complements the delicate fronds of garden ferns.
  6. Thyme ground cover with Roses
    Thyme & Roses - Fragrant thyme creeps around the base of elegant rose bushes, offering a sensory delight.
  7. Periwinkle ground cover with Hydrangeas
    Periwinkle & Hydrangeas - The glossy leaves and blue flowers of periwinkle echo the large blooms of hydrangeas.
  8. Creeping Jenny ground cover with Daylilies
    Creeping Jenny & Daylilies - The golden tendrils of creeping Jenny highlight the bold colors of daylilies.
  9. Stonecrop ground cover with Coneflowers
    Stonecrop & Coneflowers - Drought-tolerant stonecrop thrives alongside the sturdy stems of coneflowers.
  10. Bugleweed ground cover with Peonies
    Bugleweed & Peonies - The deep green of bugleweed forms a perfect understory to the lush blooms of peonies.

Maintenance is another crucial aspect when cultivating perennial ground covers. While they are generally low-maintenance once established, some may need periodic trimming or division to prevent them from overtaking other perennials or encroaching onto walkways.

"The beauty of a perennial garden lies not just in its seasonal blooms but also in its structure and form provided by well-chosen ground covers." - Andrew Roberts

To ensure your ground cover stays healthy without becoming invasive, refer to our step-by-step guide on planting perennial ground cover plants. It will walk you through everything from soil preparation to long-term care techniques.

Planting and Caring for Perennial Ground Covers: A Visual Guide

a selection of perennial ground cover plants for different climate zones
Choosing the Right Perennials
Select ground cover perennials that thrive in your climate zone and match your garden's sun exposure. Consider the mature size, bloom time, and foliage color to ensure a cohesive look.
preparing a garden bed with compost for planting
Preparing the Garden Bed
Clear the area of weeds and debris. Loosen the soil with a garden fork to a depth of about 12 inches and mix in a 2-inch layer of compost to improve fertility and drainage.
spacing perennial ground cover plants appropriately in a garden bed
Spacing Your Plants
Arrange the perennials on the soil surface before planting. Follow the spacing guidelines for each species to allow for growth and air circulation, which reduces the risk of disease.
planting perennial ground cover plants in a garden bed
Planting the Perennials
Dig holes twice the width of the root ball and the same depth. Place the plants in the holes, fill with soil, and gently firm down. Water thoroughly to settle the roots.
applying mulch around newly planted perennial ground covers
Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch around the plants, leaving some space around the stems. Mulch helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
watering perennial ground cover plants in a garden
Keep the soil consistently moist, especially during the first growing season. Water deeply once a week, or more often during hot, dry periods to encourage deep root growth.
fertilizing perennial ground cover plants in early spring
Feed your perennials with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring. This will promote healthy growth and abundant blooms throughout the season.
pruning and deadheading perennial ground cover plants
Pruning and Deadheading
Trim back any overgrown foliage in early spring. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage reblooming and prevent self-seeding, if desired.
dividing perennial ground cover plants for propagation
Dividing Perennials
Every 3-4 years, divide perennials in early spring or fall to maintain vigor and control their spread. Replant the divisions to expand your ground cover or share with friends.
inspecting perennial ground cover plants for pests and diseases
Monitoring for Pests and Diseases
Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests or diseases. Treat problems early with appropriate organic or chemical controls, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Incorporating these living carpets into your garden beds isn't just about aesthetics; it's about creating an ecosystem that supports wildlife too. Many ground covers offer shelter for beneficial insects and provide food sources for birds.

Supporting Wildlife with Ground Covers

By choosing flowering varieties such as phlox or creeping thyme that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, you contribute positively to local biodiversity. To discover more about how your choice of perennials can impact wildlife visit our resource page on easy low-maintenance perennials that beautify gardens and support wildlife.

Which wildlife-friendly ground cover will blossom in your garden?

Help us know which perennial ground cover is the people's choice for inviting a buzz of activity to their garden beds!


Gardening enthusiasts often overlook the potential of perennial ground covers due to their subtle nature compared to showier blooms; however, their impact is profound when given a chance to shine.

Their ability to fill spaces with varied textures and hues throughout multiple seasons makes them indispensable components of any well-designed garden bed. Whether you're starting anew or enhancing an existing space, embracing these tenacious yet graceful plants will undoubtedly elevate your gardening game.

Andrew Roberts
Horticulture, botany, birdwatching, photography

Andrew is a seasoned horticulturist, holding a degree in botany. He has dedicated his career to working in a broad array of botanical gardens and nurseries, amassing a wide range of expertise in perennial plants. When he's not engrossed in his plants, Andrew is an avid birdwatcher and photographer.

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