An evergreen ground cover plant is beneficial to your garden in two ways, each of which has significant value even when found separately on plants!
- Evergreen foliage provides visual interest all year round.
- Ground covers offer a number of ways to lower yard maintenance. They fight erosion and suppress weeds. Grown on a slope in lieu of grass, they help you avoid mowing in a problem area that, at best, would be inconvenient to mow and, at worst, downright dangerous.
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Although it's more often seen with blue flowers, the Alba cultivar of Vinca minor offers white blooms. Because this flowering vine can take dry shade, it's a problem solver: Many plants don't like such conditions.
Unfortunately, it's invasive in some areas, so check around locally before buying it to avoid making a common landscaping mistake. But for landscapes where it's not invasive (or where having a strong ground cover for dry shade is important enough that you don't mind the extra maintenance in having to control it), creeping myrtle (USDA planting zones 4 to 8) can be a superb pick.
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Pachysandra terminalis (zones 4 to 8) is a classic broadleaf evergreen ground cover for shade and also tolerates dry shade. Whereas Vinca has both nice leaves and pretty flowers, Pachysandra is just a foliage plant. But its leaves are bigger, shinier, a brighter green, and fill in more densely, so the tradeoff can be worthwhile.
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In contrast with Vinca and Pachysandra, Phlox subulata is a ground cover for full sun. It prefers its soil to be kept evenly moist but tolerates dry soil. A semi-evergreen, it grows in zones 3 to 9. Its leaves are needle-like, but it's valued much more for its flowers, which form a thick mat of color.
Red, pink, white, blue, bicolored, rose, lavender and purple are all possible flower colors for this early-spring bloomer. For the best display, grow masses of the plants on a hillside, where they will double as erosion-control plants.
Plants will spread over time. If the excess is unwanted in the original planting area, divide them and spread the wealth to another spot in the yard.
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Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens (zones 6 to 9) is semi-evergreen with moderate water needs. Grow it in shade in the South, and in full sun in the North.
It's signature quality is its grass-like blades, whose dark color makes it one of the truly black plants.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Some types of creeping thyme (zones 5 to 8) are evergreen. The Thymus citriodorus Archer's Gold cultivar is one. This drought-tolerant plant is a perennial for full sun. Like most Mediterranean herbs, it thrives in dry, well-drained soil.
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Lamium maculatum Orchid Frost (zones 4 to 8) is another pretty ground cover for dry shade. It's a flowering ground cover (pink) that doubles as a foliage plant, thanks to its silvery leaves edged in green. Those leaves can be either evergreen or semi-evergreen, depending on conditions.
Various cultivars offer different features; for example:
- Aureum has white leaves with golden margins; flowers are pink.
- The leaves of Golden Anniversary are green in the middle and yellow at the margins (a white stripe in the center adds a third color); flowers are lavender.
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There are a number of plants in the Sedum genus, a group of plants considered "succulents." One of the most widely grown is Autumn Joy. If you're looking to grow something different from what your neighbors have, try Chocolate Drop, so called for its deliciously dark leaves.
Both Autumn Joy and Chocolate Drop are upright plants; if you want a trailing plant to use as a ground cover, grow Angelina sedum. Whereas Autumn Joy has nice pink flowers, Chocolate Drop and Angelina are more often grown as foliage plants. Most all sedums resist drought.
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The formation of flower buds on Helleborus orientalis (zones 4 to 9) is a sure sign of spring. This shade lover needs an average amount of water. Added benefits with Lenten rose are that it reseeds well and is vole-resistant.
The fact that its flowers nod down to the ground makes it hard to see them; if possible, grow this ground cover on a landscaping berm or other elevated area so that you don't have to kneel on the earth to appreciate their beauty. Or grow the Ivory Prince cultivar, which is the only kind with flowers that keep their heads up.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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With Teucrium chamaedrys (zones 5 to 9), we transition from perennials to subshrubs (plants with woody stems). Wall germander is a drought-tolerant, evergreen ground cover.
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The candytufts are also drought-tolerant subshrubs that flower best in full sun. They're evergreen in the South, semi-evergreen in the North. Species include:
- Iberis sempervirens (zones 4 to 8)
- Iberis saxatilis (zones 3 to 8)
- Iberis pruitii (zones 3 to 8)
Iberis sempervirens Purity is a good cultivar for moon gardens, as its flowers are a brilliant white.
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Juniperus horizontalis is classified as a shrub. But, because it has a creeping form, it bridges the gap between subshrubs and the great majority of shrubs.
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Euonymus fortunei Moonshadow is a broadleaf evergreen shrub for zones 5 to 8. Variegated leaves are the trademark of these ornamental shrubs. The bicolored pattern can be thought of as an inside-out version of the more popular Euonymus fortunei Emerald 'n' Gold (where the green is in the middle of the leaf and the brighter color on the edge).
The color will be best in full sun; water needs are moderate. These bushes become 2 feet tall x 4 feet wide; they're slow growers.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Juniperus squamata Blue Star isn't a creeping juniper, but it stays short (3 feet at maturity). It eventually becomes wider (5 feet at maturity) than it is tall. So it can be an effective evergreen ground cover if grown in a mass.
This slow-growing shrub for sun (zones 4 to 8) is valued for its blue, awl-shaped, evergreen needles. The bush displays some resistance to drought once established.
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English ivy (zones 4 to 9) was a popular evergreen ground cover for shade in the U.S. for a long time. Then gardeners began to catch on to the fact that this woody vine is invasive in many areas (ask your county extension to check if your area is one of them). Fortunately, if you really like this vine and need a tough plant to fill in a shady spot, there is a workaround: Since it is mainly the traditional types that are invasive, select from among the numerous new cultivars that are much less vigorous growers.
Many of the new types of English ivy can be grouped by how the leaf differs from the species plant. For example, some have:
- Smaller leaves
- Leaves with crinkled edges
- Variegated leaves
Hedera helix Glacier, for example, is a cultivar with variegated leaves.
These last two plants are so vigorous, that they can only be recommended under the condition that non-invasive cultivars are selected.
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The species plant, Ajuga reptans (zones 3 to 10), is another invasive plant, so be sure to explore cultivar options here. Many have attractive foliage, as well as blue flowers. As with English ivy, the variegated cultivars tend to be less invasive; Burgundy Glow is one.
The benefits of bugleweed include: