Creeping plants, or "creepers," are generally considered to be small vining plants that grow close to the ground and often make good ground covers. They are also referred to as procumbent plants.
Some of the fastest-growing creeping plants include creeping Jenny, evening primrose, periwinkle, wintercreeper, English ivy, sweet woodruff, blue star creeper, and bugleweed. It’s important to check whether you have any local restrictions against planting these creepers, as they are considered invasive in some areas due to their prolific growth.
In cases where the vines are long enough, you can train creepers to grow up a support structure by attaching the stems to the structure with twine or another material. In this sense, creepers differ from "climbers," which are vines that tend to attach to structures on their own. Some plants with "creeper" in their name are vigorous climbers, including Virginia creeper and Canary creeper.
|Creepers vs. Climbers|
|Grow low to the ground||Often produce long vines|
|Can form good ground cover with spreading vines||Climb via twining, clinging tendrils, and more|
|Need human intervention to grow vertically on a support structure||Generally capable of attaching themselves to a support structure|
Examples of Creeping Plants
Many highly prized creeping plants are flowering ground covers. But some ground covers are grown for their leaves as much as for their blossoms.
For example, creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) is a ground-hugging shrub valued for its evergreen foliage and ability to curb erosion. Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina') does flower, but most people don't grow it for the blooms. What gardeners adore about Angelina are its golden-chartreuse leaves. Similarly, spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) is valued almost equally for its flowers and its variegated leaves.
If you want creepers with showy flowers for your landscape, take a look at these plants:
- Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
- Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
- Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
- Creeping myrtle (Vinca minor)
- Dragon's blood sedum (Phedimus spurius 'Dragon's Blood')
- Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
Invasive or Problematic Creepers
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) is a common example of an invasive plant in certain parts of North America, meaning it can be difficult to control its spread. Bishop’s weed, chameleon plant, and creeping myrtle are other examples that have been deemed invasive in certain areas. To keep invasive creepers within bounds, consider growing them in hanging baskets.
Moreover, many creepers are not necessarily desirable plants to grow. Some are considered common lawn weeds. These include:
- Creeping Charlie (but the variegated Glechoma hederacea 'Variegata' is sold for landscaping use)
- Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
- Bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
- Clover (Trifolium spp.)
Opinions do vary widely, of course. For instance, many people would push back and say that clover is a desirable plant as a good alternative to turf grass because it attracts beneficial pollinators to the garden.
The most general use for a creeping plant is as a ground cover. Those that bloom heavily not only serve practical purposes (erosion control, weed suppression) but also add great beauty to the landscape. Creeping phlox, in particular, can furnish dynamic color displays. Many gardeners love the look of it cascading down a slope when blooming in the spring.
Creeping thyme and creeping speedwell (Veronica peduncularis), which bears small blue flowers are two of the shortest flowering creeper growing only one inch tall. These plants are ideal for use around garden stepping stones or in other areas with foot traffic because occasional foot traffic won't damage them.
Because they stay low to the ground, other uses for creeping plants include:
- As edging plants
- In the front row of a flower border because they won't hide the plants behind them
- In rock garden environments