15 Best Evergreen Ground Cover Plants

Perennials and Shrubs That Offer Color All Year Round

Pruit's candytuft in bloom.

Anna Yu/Getty Images

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!

Plants suited to use as ground covers that also bear evergreen leaves must then be considered some of the best plants for landscaping. This list of the best evergreen ground covers includes a variety of options for gardeners, from perennials all the way up to shrubs.

Always match a plant's growing needs to its location when selecting plants. For example, some evergreen ground covers like full sun and are suited to xeriscaping, while others will tolerate shade or want more water.

  • 01 of 15

    Creeping Myrtle

    Vinca minor blooming in white.

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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.

  • 02 of 15

    Japanese Spurge

    Pachysandra growing in a mass.

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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.

    Both Vinca and Pachysandra are deer-resistant and well-suited to xeriscaping in the shade.

  • 03 of 15

    Creeping Phlox

    Creeping phlox spread across a flat expanse.

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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.

  • 04 of 15

    Black Mondo Grass

    Black mondo grass covered by red maple leaves.

    Georgianna Lane/Getty Images

    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.

    Its signature quality is its grass-like blades, whose dark color makes it one of the truly black plants.

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Creeping Thyme

    Red creeping thyme.
    David Beaulieu

    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.

    Creeping thyme has fragrant leaves; the smell is released when you step on it, so tuck it between garden stepping stones to enjoy both the sight of a green carpet and the smell of an herbal fragrance as you stroll through your garden.

  • 06 of 15

    Spotted Dead Nettle

    Lamium maculatum Silver Shield with pink flowers.

    Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    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.
  • 07 of 15

    Angelina Stonecrop

    Angelina sedum ground cover sprinkled with fallen autumn leaves from tre.

    Leonora (Ellie) Enking/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    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.

  • 08 of 15

    Lenten Rose

    Light-pink flower of a Lenten rose plant.

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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.
  • 09 of 15

    Wall Germander

    Germander planted with Alternanthea ficoidea to form a design.
    K M/Flickr/(CC BY 2.0)

    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.

    This plant is a great choice as an edging plant along walkways in sunny areas because it's a low-maintenance ground cover. Other species of Teucrium make excellent topiary plants.

  • 10 of 15

    Candytuft

    Pruit's candytuft in bloom.

    Anna Yu/Getty Images

    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.

  • 11 of 15

    Creeping Juniper

    Creeping juniper ground cover.

    tc397/Getty Images

    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.

    Creeping junipers resist drought once established. They perform best in full sun. Not only are they low-maintenance shrubs, but they also can save you work by holding back the soil on erosion-prone hillsides, thanks to their sturdy root systems.

  • 12 of 15

    Moonshadow Euonymus

    The shrub, Moonshadow euonymus.
    David Beaulieu

    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).

    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.
  • 13 of 15

    Blue Star Juniper

    Blue Star juniper.
    David Beaulieu

    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.

  • 14 of 15

    English Ivy

    Hedera helix 'glacier' (variegated ivy) against a backdrop of cotoneaster berries.

    Mark Winwood/Getty Images

    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.

    Note

    These last two plants are so vigorous, that they can only be recommended under the condition that non-invasive cultivars are selected.

  • 15 of 15

    Bugleweed

    Ajuga with purple on leaves.

    Nathan Kibler/Getty Images

    The species plant, Ajuga reptans (zones 3 to 10), is another invasive, 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:

    • Its mat-forming habit, which is great for controlling weeds
    • The fact that deer pests don't like it
    • The beauty of the variegated types