25 Low-Maintenance Ground Cover Plants for Sun and Shade

Keep weeds at bay with spreading plants in your garden

ground cover greenery

The Spruce / Autumn Wood 

Turf lawn grasses are by far the most popular ground cover plant in residential landscapes, but some places aren't really suitable for grass growth (like arid desert yards) and some people simply prefer more diverse or unique "lawnscaping."

The 25 low-maintenance ground cover plants in this list are vigorous (some more than others) but manageable, so they will fill in empty spaces without growing out-of-control. Plus, each is interesting enough to enhance your surroundings more than an ordinary carpet of grass.

14 Best Low-Maintenance Ground Covers

Kaley McKean


When selecting a ground cover for shady areas, make sure to choose shade-tolerant plants that naturally thrive with minimal sunlight. Several plants in this list happily grow in full or partial shade.

Flowering vs. Evergreen Ground Covers

Though many annual flowers can be used for ground coverings, it can be laborious to replant large swaths of coverings yearly. Low-growing, ground-hugging perennial plants are the best low-maintenance ground coverings. Most perennial ground coverings fall into these categories.

  • Flowering ground coverings: Brings visual interest with color to the yard in spring and summer. Some may be perennials, shrubs, or evergreens.
  • Evergreen ground coverings: Evergreen ground covering plants—whether perennials or low-growing shrubs—offer textural visual interest in your yard year-round. Some evergreens flower, others do not, or have insignificant blooms. Evergreens are the opposite of herbaceous perennials which die back to the ground in cold weather.
  • Shade-tolerant ground coverings: These plants thrive under a canopy of shade. They can be flowering, evergreen, or both.
Plant Name Flowering Evergreen Shade-tolerant
Basket-of-gold x x
Amethyst in Snow x x
Creeping phlox x
Angelina sedum x
Nepeta x
Creeping thyme x
Wall germander x x
Creeping juniper x
Rock cotoneaster x
Bunchberry x x x
Spotted deadnettle x x x
Sweet woodruff x x x
Liverleaf x x x
Interrupted fern x
Lenten rose x x x
Ice plant x x
Candytuft x x
Common periwinkle x x x
Bugleweed x x
Chinese lantern x (warm climates)
Hosta x x
Creeping liriope x x x
Pachysandra x x
English ivy x x
Lamb's Ear x (warm climates)

Best Ground Cover Plants

  • 01 of 25

    Basket-of-Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)

    Yellow alyssum in bloom.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    You can plant this drought-tolerant, low-maintenance ground cover at the edge of a rock garden or other space and more or less forget about it (except for occasional watering) during the summertime.

    The only real maintenance required is trimming it back after it has finished flowering, or whenever it becomes too scraggly for your tastes.

    Basket of Gold also goes by the name yellow alyssum, another reference to its adorable clusters of bright yellow flowers. When shopping for this plant, be sure to ask for Aurinia saxatilis or yellow alyssum, not sweet alyssum, which is an entirely different species.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, can be poor
  • 02 of 25

    Amethyst in Snow (Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow')

    Flower of Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow.'
    Chris Burrows/Getty Images

    When you buy Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow', you may be thinking of it as an upright perennial plant with attractive flowers. What plant labels typically fail to mention is that, under the right growing conditions, 'Amethyst in Snow' makes a flowering ground cover that will spread nicely. When grown as a ground cover, it is an easy-care plant that requires little maintenance.

    In ideal sunny conditions, Amethyst in Snow will spread quite quickly, but you can control it easily by pulling out stray shoots. If you prefer a similar but less aggressive variety, consider C. montana 'Amethyst Dream'.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, low-fertility
  • 03 of 25

    Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

    Creeping phlox ground cover plant with pink flowers clustered in sunlight

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Creeping phlox is a short plant often seen covering the side of a hill or retaining wall with colorful spring flowers. It is much less noticeable at other times of the year, but that doesn't detract from its role as a spring superstar.

    Care requirements for creeping phlox are few. Water it during dry spells and give it a haircut at the end of its blossoming period. It does spread under the right conditions, but it is fairly easy to pull it out and keep it from taking over areas where it does not belong.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, tolerates clay
  • 04 of 25

    Angelina Sedum (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina')

    Angelina sedum ground cover plant with yellow succulent foliage

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    As with yellow alyssum, Angelina sedum can be regarded as a "Goldilocks" ground cover. Much like the fictional character, it has golden hair (flowers) that spread enough to be effective in covering a certain amount of space, but the plant is not so vigorous a spreader to create a nuisance.

    Angelina Sedum is easy to propagate by rooting, so you can quickly fill an area with its succulent foliage. On the other hand, keeping it in check requires occasionally cutting back the stems, which can actually self-root if they fall off naturally.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, neutral
    Continue to 5 of 25 below.
  • 05 of 25

    Nepeta (Nepeta x faassenii)

    Nepeta ground cover plant with purple and pink on tall stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Nepeta x faassenia, commonly called nepeta, nepeta catmint, or Faassen's catmint, is one of several perennial catmint plants. This one is a horticultural hybrid developed by crossing Nepata racemosa with N. nepetella. It is, therefore, a sterile plant that will not come true from seeds.

    The nepeta genus includes roughly 250 species. Many are perennials, some are annuals, and some make good ground covers, though they can be overly aggressive in favorable locations.

    Nepeta x faassenii is one such species that makes for a good ground cover, since it is one of the best ground coverings to stop weeds. The 'Six Hills Giant' cultivar is a good choice for covering large areas. While it is not a spreader, it is large enough to take up space as the spring and summer months advance. Growing as high as 36 inches, it blooms all summer long with purple flowers.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained
  • 06 of 25

    Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)

    Creeping thyme ground cover plant with tiny pink flowers clustered together closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Creeping thyme (also known as mother of thyme or wild thyme) is a creeping, woody-stemmed perennial that is a favorite plant to use for a low-maintenance ground cover serving as a filler between garden stepping stones.

    Growing only about 3 inches tall, this plant spreads over time, crowding out weeds and thus reducing maintenance further.

    The leaves are fragrant, and deep pink flowers bloom from June through July. This is not the form of thyme used in cooking, but its fragrance will attract bees and other pollinators.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, red, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Low-fertility, well-drained, alkaline
  • 07 of 25

    Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)

    Wall germander ground cover plant with thin woody stems, small leaves and tiny pink flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    If you are looking for something unusual, consider wall germander, a broadleaf woody-stemmed evergreen that is often massed or used as a low hedge along retaining walls or in knot gardens.

    This sun-lover grows to a maximum height of about 12 inches with a 24-inch spread, and it blooms with lavender to pink flowers in July.

    It should be pinched back frequently to keep the plants bushy and "shrubby."

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Neutral to alkaline, well-drained, tolerates poor soil
  • 08 of 25

    Creeping Juniper (Juniper horizontalis)

    Wilton's Carpet creeping juniper growing between plastic on a hill.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    The creeping juniper is a sprawling, creeping needled evergreen shrub that grows to a maximum height of about 18 inches and with a spread that can go as much as 8 feet. It can be excellent for covering large areas of difficult terrain, such as slopes where growing grass would be difficult or impossible.

    A variety of cultivars are available, including Juniperus horizontalis 'Blue Rug.'

    To plant creeping juniper on a grassy slope, get rid of the grass, then lay down landscape fabric along the slope. Poke holes in the fabric and plant the junipers, then cover the fabric with ​mulch. If the hill is big, remove the grass in stages so as not to take unnecessary chances with erosion.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Medium to dry, sandy, well-drained
    Continue to 9 of 25 below.
  • 09 of 25

    Rock Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

    Rock cotoneaster ground cover shrub branch with small leaves and bright red berries

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Rock cotoneaster is a deciduous shrub. While many shrubs give you flowers, the prettiest thing about Cotoneaster horizontalis is its colorful, red berries. This shrub also offers some fall-foliage value. This is a large plant with a horizontal growth habit (thus its species name).

    It grows best where it has plenty of space to spread out. Wherever its branches make contact with the soil, it will put down roots, creating new plants.

    Rock cotoneaster is considered a full-shun shrub but benefits from some afternoon shade. When planted in full sun it usually needs extra watering, at least until the plant is well established.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, loamy
  • 10 of 25

    Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

    Bunchberry ground cover shrub with six light green leaves and four-petaled white blossom

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Bunchberry is a shade-loving deciduous shrub native to northern portions of North America. Its native habitat is wooded areas, so it is perfect for a shady woodland garden. If those conditions describe your landscape, then you may want to check out this wonderful little relative of the dogwood trees.

    This shrub flowers from May to July with white flowers, and grows to a maximum height of about 9 inches. It has excellent resistance to damage by deer and rabbits.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 6
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained, acid
  • 11 of 25

    Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)

    Spotted deadnettle ground cover plant with silver-green leaves and small pink flowers in sunlight

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Consult with your local extension office before growing spotted deadnettle because it is invasive in some areas. But in regions where spotted dead nettle is not invasive, it acts as an effective ground cover for deeply shaded areas. Its ornamental value is twofold: it bears splendid blossoms in various colors (depending on the variety), and it displays eye-catching silver leaves, which provide color long after the flowers have faded.

    Note: This plant is considered invasive across much of the northeast, some areas of the northern Midwest, and parts of the Pacific Northwest. There may be restrictions on planting it in these areas.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, red-purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full shade to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, acid
  • 12 of 25

    Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

    Sweet woodruff ground cover plant with small lance-shaped leaves with tiny white flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    If you are looking for a low-maintenance ground cover, sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a good pick, but only under certain conditions. This aromatic herb can be an invasive plant when grown in moist soil, where it sometimes spreads out of control.

    However, sweet woodruff can be a good ground cover choice for dry shade, such as in areas under big trees. It can even thrive in the acidic conditions under large pine trees. It grows to a maximum height of about 12 inches with an 18-inch spread, and it flowers with white blossoms in spring.

    This plant thrives in wet soils, which is why planting it in dry soil and denying it water helps keep it in check. You will have to experiment to arrive at the right balance between giving it enough water to keep it alive and giving it so much that it becomes invasive.

    Sweet woodruff foliage can be dried and used in wreaths, potpourri, and other craft creations.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium to wet, well-drained, loamy, acid
    Continue to 13 of 25 below.
  • 13 of 25

    Liverleaf (Anemone americana)

    Pink Hepatica in bloom.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu 

    Liverleaf (Anemone americana, formerly classified as Hepatica americana) is a perennial wildflower native to North America. It is evergreen, but some of the leaves may turn brown during winter. Growing to a height of about 6 inches with a spread of 9 inches, it has waxy green leaves that should be removed as they turn brown. In summer, the leaves take on burgundy mottling on the way to becoming totally burgundy (hence the name liverleaf).

    Liverleaf's spring floral display makes this small perennial special. It is perfect for a small space, like a little garden along a north-facing wall. It spreads by reseeding, but it never will spread enough to become a problem.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, lavender
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained, humusy
  • 14 of 25

    Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana)

    Interrupted fern ground cover plant with feathery rhizomes

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Interrupted fern, like bunchberry and liverleaf, is a North American native that can serve as a low-maintenance ground cover for shade. It spreads via rhizomes, a trait that can be a double-edged sword.

    The success of many invasive plants is due to this means of spreading. But this plant with pretty foliage—and funny name—rarely becomes a problem for those who grow it in areas where it is already native.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, medium to wet, acid
  • 15 of 25

    Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus)

    Hellebore plants with purple flowers and green stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Though Lenten rose is not a rose (it's part of the buttercup family), its little buds are early season bloomers when it flowers at ground level in the late winter. The beauty of this easy-care perennial ground cover is that it's deer-resistant which means flowers may be trampled, but not typically eaten.

    Plant Lenten rose ground cover in the early fall or late spring but away from the path of bitter winter winds. The only maintenance you'll need to do is remove tattered leaves damaged from a bad winter. Divide this plant in the spring for additional and long-living ground cover that can last for a couple of decades. Note that Lenten rose is toxic to animals.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, light rose-purple
    • Sun Exposure: Partial to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, loamy
  • 16 of 25

    Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi)

    purple ice plant in a garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Ice plant is a perennial succulent ground cover with fleshy leaves and colorful flowers. It gets its name because light reflects off its hairy growths and sparkles on the landscape.

    Ice plant is a fast and easy-growing ground covering, but pick the right species for your climate. For example, choose Delosperma brunnthaleri, a hardy ground cover that grows around 2 inches tall and 2 feet wide with yellow flowers and ideal for zones 4 to 9. Select Delosperma floribundum 'Starburst', a mat-forming cultivar with pink flowers and white centers for zones 6 to 8. Ice plants need plenty of sun to thrive.

    • USDA Growing Zones:  Varies, 4 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, purple, yellow, orange
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-drained
    Continue to 17 of 25 below.
  • 17 of 25

    Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

    candytuft flowers

    The Spruce / Kara Riley

    Candytuft is a ground-hugging, clumping, and flowering perennial that dies back each winter and rebounds each spring and early summer. It's also a beautiful ground cover to consider for moon gardens, but just beware the flowers are less than fragrant.

    Plant it in full sun during the spring in cooler climates and in shadier areas during the fall in warmer regions. This is a slow-growing and long-lasting ground cover that simply needs pruning every so often to prevent it from growing leggy.

    • USDA Growing Zones:  3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, lilac, red
    • Sun Exposure: Full and partial
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 18 of 25

    Common Periwinkle (Vinca Minor)

    vinca minor

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Vinca minor (commonly known as periwinkle) is a very popular ground cover because it's drought-tolerant, pest-free, inexpensive, and easy to grow in just about any type of soil. This perennial creeper is a great ground cover that will quickly carpet your landscape with pretty and small flowers. It's also used for ground cover to stop erosion because its tough roots hold soil in place. As lovely a ground cover as it seems, it's also considered invasive and is toxic to pets.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Blue, lavender, purple, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full, partial, shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, sandy, clay
  • 19 of 25

    Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)


    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Though bugleweed's deer-resistant flower spikes can't be missed (they can grow 6 to 9 inches tall) this fast-growing perennial is a ground cover that has an aggressive creeping habit. Plant bugleweed in the late spring or early summer and it will quickly spread runners (stolons) that can form a dense mat to fill large and shady areas, especially where you need erosion control. However, keep it away from turf grass to avoid damage. Pruning it back can help keep rambunctious runners under control or set your mower to high and shear it back after it flowers in the summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Blue, violet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained
  • 20 of 25

    Chinese Lantern

    Chinese lantern plant with orange papery seed pod hanging closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Though Chinese lantern is also considered invasive, it is a novel and colorful perennial ground cover with autumn interest because of its bright orange-red shaped seed pods that turn into papery husks. This is a highly invasive plant but it's also popular for growing on huge swaths of areas that need ground cover and won't encroach on another's property. It's also toxic to humans and pets.

    Plant in the late spring. Avoid planting Chinese lantern in garden beds and near turf grass. If you have bare acreage behind your home that does not lead to another property, Chinese lantern can be a great ground cover and filler.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure:  Full, partial
    • Soil Needs:  Moist, well-drained
    Continue to 21 of 25 below.
  • 21 of 25

    Hosta (Hosta spp.)


    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Hostas are some of the happiest and hardiest perennial ground coverings you can grow. They thrive in or out of sunlight, and they seem to multiply on their own thanks to their rhizomatous roots. Planted along sloped pieces of land, it can neaten up the area while providing ground covering.

    Though pruning is not necessary, hostas will yellow and die back so trimming dead foliage can look better, especially in a small area.

    There are almost endless varieties of hostas that will fit your needs, many with variegated leaves and spikey short-lived and unremarkable flowers. Miniature hostas will grow less than 9 inches tall, small hostas grow to a foot or more, and giant hostas can grow over 30 inches tall. If you prefer a small hosta, opt for 'Blue Mouse Ears' that grows 6 to 12 inches high with round, heart-shaped blue-green leaves. Hostas are definitely not deer-resistant but they are toxic to other animals.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, purple, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Shade, partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, well-drained
  • 22 of 25

    Creeping Liriope (Liriope spicata)


    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

    Creeping liriope plants make low-maintenance, tough, and drought-tolerant ground covers with spikey flowers and grass-like foliage. But they are not grasses, and are instead herbaceous flowering perennial plants in the asparagus family. They're also popular ground covers used to stop soil erosion.

    Plant liriope any time for quick growth and spreading. Just like other plants with the word "creeping" in the name, liriope can be considered aggressive and invasive in parts of the United States, from Virginia through to Mississippi. However, creeping ground coverings tend to spread the fastest.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Lavender, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, sandy
  • 23 of 25

    Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

    Japanese Pachysandra

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    Pachysandra is one of the most widely used ground covers in the country thanks to its extreme durability while it grows under challenging conditions such as too much shade and drought. It also doesn't die back in the winter. Instead, it keeps its leathery dark green leaves in nearly the same condition year round. Another bonus is that it is common and considered one of the cheapest ground covering plants.

    This is a deer- and rabbit-resistant ground cover that is ideal for large swaths of landscape. Pachysandra are aggressive and fast-spreading coverings that grow underground with runners. Though this is considered a flowering ground cover, it's tiny white flowers are quite insignificant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Partial, full shade
    • Soil Needs: Any type that's well-draining
  • 24 of 25

    English Ivy (Hedera helix)

    English Ivy

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    English ivy is considered an evergreen perennial covering, period. It can climb walls and grow across landscapes as unstoppable ground cover. Ivy is invasive and toxic to humans and animals but the charm it can lend to a yard can't be beat.

    Plant ivy in the spring and you won't need to maintain it at all. However, it will grow out of its boundaries so trimming it back can help if you want to keep the yard neat. Otherwise, no pruning is needed, and if you're using it only for ground covering, watch that it does not grab hold of a tree bark or the siding of your house because its roots will dig in, making it hard to remove without damaging the surface.

    • USDA Growing Zones:  4 to 13
    • Sun Exposure: Part to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, moist
    Continue to 25 of 25 below.
  • 25 of 25

    Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)

    lamb's ear

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Lamb's ear creates a soft and silvery dense ground covering mat in a sunny area of your property. It's low-maintenance because this drought-tolerant perennial grows beautifully in a xeriscape or rock garden. Plant this deer- and rabbit-resistant herb in the spring and its fuzzy leaves will cover large areas by autumn.

    The only issue to watch for is rotting leaves. Remove any obviously rotting plants, but it grows so fast you likely won't even have to replace the plant. The plant dies back to the ground in the winter and comes out in the spring, but giving it a good shearing before winter will help keep the plants healthy.

    A favorite type is 'Silver Carpet' as it spreads easily, rarely flowers, and stays short at 4 to 6 inches tall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4a to 9a
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, evenly moist to dry soil
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lenten rose. ASPCA.

  2. Periwinkle. ASPCA Animal Control Center.

  3. Physalis. NC State University Cooperative Extension.

  4. Hosta. ASPCA.

  5. Hedera helix. North Carolina State Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox.