Flowering Ground Covers: Pictures and Growing Tips

  • 01 of 19

    Ground Phlox: Jewel of Spring

    Phlox flower
    Pezibear / Pixabay

    Why are flowering ground covers something of a Holy Grail for the landscaper? Well, they offer beauty and functionality, giving your yard color while simultaneously helping you fight weeds and practice erosion control. Seeking a solution for a problem area? These plants offer a solution that does not demand any compromise on display value.

    However, many flowering ground covers bloom for only a short period of time during the spring or summer. Consequently, the best choices will be the ones that...MORE provide foliage that attracts you, as well. The pictures of flowering ground covers that follow will help you in your plant selection. You can also install a supplemental planting of annuals for longer-lasting floral color or mix in some long-blooming perennials.

    Most flowering ground covers should be planted in a spot with full sun for best performance, but a few of the examples included in this photo gallery provide options for areas with partial shade

    We know that spring is truly underway when we see slopes covered with ground phlox (Phlox subulata) flowers.

    This type of phlox is known either as "creeping phlox" or "ground phlox" to distinguish it from the much taller perennial known as "garden phlox." Many ground covers boast, first and foremost, a usefulness in suppressing weeds or controlling soil erosion, including evergreen shrubs such as Blue Rug juniper and Blue Star juniper. But ground phlox plants are not only useful, they are also very colorful (in spring, at least). There are a number of colors from which to select when buying these creepers. Many people plant ground phlox in color combinations. Some especially like the pink and white combination, which may remind them of Good & Plenty candy. 

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  • 02 of 19

    Hosta: It's a Flowering Ground Cover, Too

    Hosta plants in bloom.
    Mark Turner / Getty Images

    Hosta is thought of mainly as a foliage plant.

    But some types of hosta can also provide an option for a flowering ground cover; thus the old name "plantain lily." Hosta plantaginea even bears fragrant flowers. Still, hosta does not win any prizes for its flowers: It is the leaves of hosta that people really love, coming as they do in a number of colors and sizes.

    There is one selling point to keep in mind with most (but not all) types of hosta, though, even if their flowers are not exactly...MORE exquisite: Hosta furnishes you with an option for a flowering ground cover that likes shade.

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  • 03 of 19

    Candytuft: Brilliant White

    Candytuft flowers.
    Hans / Pixabay

    The floral display of candytuft plant (Iberis sempervirens) is truly dazzling. The flowers are not only numerous, but also of a brilliant white color. You can prune it back after it is done blooming, to prevent it from becoming leggy.

    If, however, you are planting candytuft flowers as a flowering ground cover behind a retaining wall, legginess may be precisely what you need: Perhaps you would like them to spill dramatically over the wall. In that case, do not bother pruning them (although you may...MORE have to tidy them up a bit by removing older leaves).

    In other situations, though, pruning is recommended. For, once its spring flowers have come and gone, only the new foliage of candytuft will give this flowering ground cover any aesthetic value.

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  • 04 of 19

    Ice Plant: Long-Flowering Knockout

    Ice plant.
    Aimintang / Getty Images

    Long-flowering ground covers are a dream come true. Many of the plants discussed here do not bloom for an extended period of time. Purple or "hardy" ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) is an exception.

    Ice plant requires a soil with outstanding drainage to live up to its "hardy" label. And a surprising label it is, considering that this long-flowering ground cover hails from South Africa. While it is tempting to think it receives its name from that hardiness, "ice plant" is so...MORE called due to the way it looks: When the sunlight hits ice plant's foliage just right, the succulent leaves appear bejeweled with ice crystals.

    In spite of its hardiness, ice plant is not the type of flowering ground cover that a northern gardener should rely on for year-round erosion control. Instead, use ice plant to dress up an area for the summer, planting it in a place where you will be able to enjoy this long flowering ground cover to the fullest.

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  • 05 of 19

    Sweet Woodruff Works Under Trees

    Sweet woodruff plants in bloom.
    Michael Davis/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    The only characteristic keeping sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) from being an outstanding flowering ground cover is the fact that it dies back to the ground in winter (the roots do survive underground, though). So it offers no visual interest for the winter months.

    Sweet woodruff, a white flowering ground cover, can also spread beyond the space allotted to it in a garden. In the context of discussing ground covers, however, this trait is not all bad. On the contrary, plants that are not aggressiv...MOREe spreaders can be difficult to establish as ground covers. It can be especially tough to establish a flowering ground cover under a tree, but sweet woodruff performs very well under trees.

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  • 06 of 19

    Liriope Thrives in Partial Shade

    Liriope plants in bloom.
    Leoleobobeo / Pixabay

    Fortunately, for those with shady patches in need of a flowering ground cover, liriope can be grown in partial shade.

    Liriope spicata plant is treated as an ornamental grass by some, even though it is actually a type of lily. The common name, "lilyturf" embodies this confusion: Is the plant a lily or a grass? Do not question it, just take advantage of lilyturf's identity crisis, enjoying both its blooms and its attractive, grass-like leaves.

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  • 07 of 19

    Basket-of-Gold Gives Rich Color

    Yellow alyssum plant growing out of stone wall.
    Lydie Gigerichova/Getty Images

    One common name for Aurinia saxatilis is "yellow alyssum".

    But do not confuse this flowering ground cover with the annual that goes by the name, "sweet alyssum." Yellow alyssum is a perennial. To avoid confusion, perhaps a better common name for this perennial ground cover is "basket-of-gold" (or simply use the scientific plant name).

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  • 08 of 19

    Vinca Is Vigorous

    Vinca plant in flower.
    Domeckopol / Pixabay

    Whether you love it or despise it, there is one thing you can say for Vinca minor: It is a vigorous grower.

    This vine is a flowering ground cover that will thrive in shade. And while some of the plants included in this gallery of flowering ground covers only just barely qualify as such (since their blooms are relatively insignificant, compared to their foliage), there is no denying that vinca bears an attractive flower.

    So why would anyone despise this plant? Vinca is a victim of its own success....MORE It spreads so well as a ground cover that some people find it too aggressive (indeed, it can be an invasive plant).

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  • 09 of 19

    Thyme: Fragrant Creeper

    Creeping thyme in bloom.
    Hsvrs / Getty Images

    Some types of thyme ground cover (Thymus) flower profusely, albeit minutely.

    An example is so-called "red" thyme, although its flower color is really more of a pink or lavender. A bonus in using thyme ground cover is that it is one of the fragrant plants, although the intensity of smell will depend upon variety (the smell comes from the leaves, not the blooms).

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  • 10 of 19

    Cotoneaster: Tall Ground Cover

    Berries of Cotoneaster x suecicus 'Coral-Beauty.'
    Cotoneaster x suecicus 'Coral-Beauty' is just one of many types of cotoneaster. Gillian Plummer/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

    Creeping thyme (preceding picture) is one of the shortest ground covers; meanwhile, some types of cotoneaster are among the tallest.

    Rockspray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) is a shrub, but its horizontal growing habit invites use as a tall ground cover of sorts. It does not stay nearly as short as another "horizontal" plant, Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii'. Nevertheless, cotoneaster can be useful when you wish to "cover ground" by employing a mixed planting,...MORE wherein heights are staggered. In fact, this practice can produce a much more interesting planting than one in which a single type of ground cover is planted throughout. If the idea appeals to you, remember to grow the cotoneaster in the back row, so that it does not shade the shorter ground covers.

    While cotoneaster does flower in the spring, it is not grown primarily for its flowers. But attractive berries succeed the flowers, and it is for these berries that cotoneaster is mainly grown. Also, the leaves are colorful in fall.

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  • 11 of 19

    Yellow Archangel or Arch-Devil?

    Yellow archangel (image) is invasive. But it has yellow flowers and bicolored leaves.
    David Beaulieu

    Yellow archangel is a type of dead nettle (or "deadnettle") that has yellow flowers.

    The plant is a perennial ground cover. There are four features to admire about yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon):

    1. It bears attractive flowers.
    2. The leaves of yellow archangel are variegated.
    3. It thrives in partial shade.
    4. Yellow archangel is a moderately drought-tolerant perennial.

    If your goal is a low-maintenance yard, yellow archangel's drought tolerance once established could be a major selling...MORE point.

    Unfortunately, these fine features will be negated for some by its aggressiveness. Yellow archangel, which can be grown in planting zones 4 to 9, has wound up on many an invasive plants list in the U.S. It is not native to North America; rather, it hails from Europe and Western Asia.

    Such aggressiveness is a double-edged sword in landscaping. On the one hand, we do want a ground cover to spread across a patch of bare ground, thereby aiding us in our weed-control efforts. On the other hand, we become annoyed when a plant spreads to a place in the landscape where we do not wish it to grow. There is no pleasing us sometimes.

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  • 12 of 19

    Dragon's Blood: Foliage Plant

    Dragon's blood plant
    Brian Carter / Getty Images

    Dragon's Blood stonecrop (Sedum spurium 'Dragon's Blood') is related to Autumn Joy.

    Both exhibit the succulent stems and leaves characteristic of the stonecrops. Dragon's Blood stonecrop, however, unlike Autumn Joy, hugs the ground. Stems, leaves, and flowers can be red, depending on the variety of Dragon's Blood that you plant and the conditions in which you grow it.

    Although this plant is listed as a flowering ground cover, do not go out of your way to grow it unless you...MORE think you will appreciate its stems and foliage. Its flowers do not last long enough (and are not large enough) to qualify as an outstanding feature for this ground cover. But its stems and foliage can look quite nice in rock gardens, for example.

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  • 13 of 19

    Angelina Sedum: Skip the Flowers

    Angelina sedum against a backdrop of red mulch.
    David Beaulieu

    Unlike the sedum (stonecrop) in the prior picture, Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina') produces a yellow flower.

    While Angelina sedum's flower head is not, in itself, unattractive, many gardeners find something awkward about the way it hovers so far above this ground-hugging plant. But do not let that stop you from growing Angelina sedum. If you agree that the plant's floral display is not its best asset, just cut them off, bring them inside, and display them in a vase....MORE Angelina sedum is grown for its succulent foliage, which is chartreuse most of the year, with hints of pink (or even red) in winter.

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  • 14 of 19

    Ajuga: Fast Grower or Nuisance?

    Ajuga plant
    Jo Whitworth / Getty Images

    Do you think people use botanical names just to show off? If you study the botanical name of bugleweed, you may end up changing your mind.

    Bugleweed's botanical name is Ajuga reptans. Whenever you see reptans (Latin for "creeping") in a botanical name, consider it a warning that you may have difficulty controlling the plant, as it may be an aggressive spreader (a euphemism for which is "fast growing ground cover"). Of course, sometimes you want that in a ground cover, which is...MORE why bugleweed has been included in this photo gallery. However, some fast growing ground covers spread at the speed of light, choking out everything in their path, and bugleweed is one of these.

    Consider yourself warned. Growing this plant in the landscape is not always advisable.

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  • 15 of 19

    Pachysandra: Shade Lover

    Pachysandra ground cover in bloom.
    Dference / Pixabay

    A shade ground cover, Pachysandra terminalis can also tolerate dry shade.

    Why is the added distinction, "dry shade" important? Plants that tolerate dry shade, such as pachysandra, can be used under trees, which is an area very problematic for many plants.

    As a bonus, this shade ground cover is also a deer-resistant plant, which is probably why you will see a lot of pachysandra if you drive through Connecticut (U.S.), where deer pests run rampant.

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  • 16 of 19

    Climbing Hydrangea Is a Ground Cover, Too

    Climbing hydrangea vines covering a fence.
    Photos Lamontagne/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    There are relatively few large, vigorous, hardy ground cover plants that are both good bloomers and shade-tolerant. Climbing hydrangea vines are one of them.

    Unlike many of the plants we have discussed so far, these hydrangea vines are true climbers. But that does not mean that they can't function as ground cover plants, as well. 

    Climbing hydrangea vines (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) are a very popular choice when gardeners need a big plant that will tolerate shade. In fact, in hot...MORE climates, these hydrangea vines actually prefer a location with at least partial shade. Elsewhere, they will do just as well in more sunny areas. These ground cover plants will bloom more profusely if they receive sufficient sunlight.

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  • 17 of 19

    Lamb's Ear: Adore the Fuzz

    Closeup of dew on lamb's ear leaves.
    Georgia Glynn Smith/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Although it does send up a flower stalk (and a tall one, at that), lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) is grown more for its foliage than for its flowers.

    Lamb's ear bears silver foliage. The leaves are soft and fuzzy to the touch.

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  • 18 of 19

    I Prefer My Snow in Summer, Not Winter

    Closeup of snow-in-summer plant showing two flowers.
    Chris Burrows/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Cerastium tomentosum, better known as "snow-in-summer," is a full sun ground cover featuring two desirable traits.

    Cerastium tomentosum is a flowering ground cover with white blooms (as its common name suggests). In addition, as was true of the ground cover in the prior picture, Cerastium tomentosum displays silvery leaves. Snow-in-summer has one downfall: Although a perennial, it is short-lived.

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  • 19 of 19

    Wildflower Lovers Love Wild Violets

    Closeup of flowers of Viola sororia.
    Sunniva Harte/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    Whether wild violets (Viola sororia) are valued flowering ground covers or despised common lawn weeds is really a matter of opinion. You will consider them the latter if your aim is to grow a well-manicured lawn. Understandably, though, lovers of wildflowers are fond of the plants. If you fall into the latter camp, be sure to mass a large number of these plants together to create the best possible display. They are small plants with small flowers, so a stray wild violet growing here or there...MORE does not make much of an impact.