19 Best Flowering Ground Covers

Yellow alyssum plant growing out of stone wall.

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Flowering ground covers are considered something of a holy grail for landscapers. They offer both beauty and function, giving a yard color while simultaneously helping to fight weeds and control erosion. If you are seeking a solution for a problem area, a ground cover can get the job done without compromising display value.

Many flowering ground covers bloom for only a short period during the spring or summer. Consequently, the best examples have nice foliage in addition to flowers, so they look good throughout the growing season. Here are 19 flowering ground covers that can add appeal to any landscape.

Tip

If you want to blanket a large area with a ground cover, the initial cost often is higher than sowing grass seed. But ground cover usually is cheaper in the long run, as it requires little maintenance.

  • 01 of 19

    Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

    Phlox flowering ground cover

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    You know spring is truly underway when you see slopes covered with ground phlox (Phlox subulata) flowers. Also known as creeping phlox, this variety is distinguishable from the much taller perennial known as garden phlox. There are several colors to choose from, and many gardeners opt to plant combinations of colors. This plant requires minimal care—just a moderate amount of water, trimming to maintain neat growth, and fertilizing in late winter or early spring.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, white, blue, rose, lavender, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-draining
  • 02 of 19

    Hosta (Hosta sp.)

    Hosta plants in bloom

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    Hosta is thought of mainly as a foliage plant, but some types can also provide an option for a flowering ground cover. Hosta plantaginea even bears fragrant flowers. Still, hosta does not win any prizes for its flowers. It is the leaves that people really love, coming in various colors and sizes. The plant is fairly shade-tolerant, hardy, and long-living. It does prefer lots of water and good drainage. Remove dead foliage in the fall to prevent decay in the planting bed.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, organic, slightly acidic
  • 03 of 19

    Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

    Candytuft flowers

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    The candytuft plant (Iberis sempervirens) is truly dazzling, with its numerous brilliant white flowers. Prune it back after it is done blooming to prevent it from becoming leggy. On the other hand, if you are planting candytuft behind a retaining wall, legginess might be desirable, as the foliage can spill dramatically over the wall. In that case, you still might have to tidy up the plant by removing older portions.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, red, lilac
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Gravelly, well-draining, slightly alkaline
  • 04 of 19

    Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi)

    Ice plant with bright, purplish blooms

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    The long-flowering ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) requires soil with outstanding drainage to live up to its hardy label. The plant gets its common name from the way sunlight hits its leaves and makes them look like they are bejeweled with ice crystals. In spite of its hardiness, this is not the ground cover a northern gardener should rely on for year-round erosion control. Instead, use the ice plant to dress up an area for the summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Purple, pink, yellow, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry, well-draining, neutral pH
    Continue to 5 of 19 below.
  • 05 of 19

    Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

    Sweet woodruff plants in bloom

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    Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) features white flowers and can spread beyond the space allotted to it in a garden. This is usually a beneficial trait, as plants that aren't ​aggressive spreaders can be difficult to establish as ground covers. If necessary, you can control its spreading with a lawnmower set at a high blade height. Moreover, it can be tough to plant a ground cover under a tree, but sweet woodruff performs very well there. The only trait keeping sweet woodruff from being an outstanding flowering ground cover is the fact that it dies back in the winter (though the roots do survive).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, loamy, moist, well-draining
  • 06 of 19

    Liriope (Liriope spicata)

    Liriope plants in bloom

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    For those with shady patches in need of a flowering ground cover, liriope (Liriope spicata) can be grown in partial shade. Also known as the lilyturf plant, some gardeners treat it as an ornamental grass, even though it is actually a type of lily. Its common name embodies this confusion. Take advantage of lilyturf's identity crisis, and enjoy both its blooms and its attractive, grass-like leaves. It can grow in many conditions as long as it has adequate drainage.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Lavender, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral
  • 07 of 19

    Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis)

    Yellow alyssum plant growing out of a 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, another common name for it is basket-of-gold. The plant grows to about a foot tall and features clusters of small yellow flowers offset against blue-gray leaves. After its flowers fade, cut back the plant by about a third to promote further blooming and reduce legginess.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average to sandy, well-draining
  • 08 of 19

    Common Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

    Vinca minor

     

    Vesela Boycheva / Getty Images

    Whether you love it or despise it, there is one thing to say for common periwinkle (Vinca minor): It is a vigorous grower. This vine thrives in shade, and there is no denying that vinca bears an attractive flower. Its flowers, which are commonly blue but also can be purple or white, bloom in the spring and might appear again in summer. The plant typically reaches just a few inches off the ground, though its vines can stretch to 18 inches long. So why would anyone despise this plant? Vinca is a victim of its own success. It spreads so well as a ground cover that some people find it ​invasive. So remove its runners from areas where you don't want the plant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue, lavender, purple, white
    • Sun Exposure: Part sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Normal, sandy, or clay
    Continue to 9 of 19 below.
  • 09 of 19

    Thyme (Thymus)

    Creeping thyme with pinkish-purple blooms

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    Some types of thyme (Thymus) ground cover flower profusely, albeit minutely. An example is the ​so-called "red" thyme, though its flower color is really more of a pink or lavender. Thyme generally doesn't mind poor soil, though it prefers good drainage. If the plant becomes woody, give it a substantial pruning to rejuvenate growth. A bonus of using thyme ground cover is its fragrance. The smell comes from the leaves, not the blooms, and its intensity depends on the variety.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, purple, red, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-draining, neutral to slightly alkaline
  • 10 of 19

    Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

    Berries of cotoneaster plant

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    Rockspray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) is a shrub, but its horizontal growing habit invites use as a tall ground cover. It can be useful when you wish to cover ground with plants of varying heights for greater visual interest. Until your plant is established, give it plenty of water and some afternoon shade. Once it's mature, it should be fairly low maintenance, and pruning isn't necessary unless you want to contain its spread. Although cotoneaster does flower in the spring, it is not grown primarily for its flowers but rather for its attractive berries that succeed the flowers. Its leaves are also quite colorful in the fall.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Pink, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, loamy, well-draining
  • 11 of 19

    Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon)

    Yellow archangel flowers
    David Beaulieu

    Yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) is a type of dead nettle that has yellow flowers. The plant is a perennial ground cover. There are four features to admire about yellow archangel: It bears attractive flowers; its leaves are variegated; it thrives in partial shade; and it's moderately drought-tolerant. If your goal is a low-maintenance yard, yellow archangel could be a good fit. Prune established plants if they become leggy for a more compact look.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, well-draining
  • 12 of 19

    Dragon's Blood (Sedum spurium 'Dragon's Blood')

    Dragon's blood plant

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    Dragon's Blood stonecrop (Sedum spurium 'Dragon's Blood') hugs the ground. Its stems, leaves, and flowers can be red, depending on the variety and conditions. Although this plant is a flowering ground cover, don't grow it unless you also appreciate its stems and foliage. Its small flowers don't last long enough to qualify as an outstanding feature. But its stems and leaves can look quite nice in rock gardens. Take care not to overwater your plant, as this can kill it. Provide it with sharp drainage and average to lean soil, and it should thrive.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Deep red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, sandy, or rocky and well-draining
    Continue to 13 of 19 below.
  • 13 of 19

    Angelina Sedum (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina')

    Angelina sedum against a backdrop of red mulch
    David Beaulieu

    Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina') is a stonecrop plant that produces a yellow flower. Although its flower isn't unattractive, many gardeners find something awkward about the way it hovers so far above the ground-hugging plant. But don't let that stop you from growing this sedum. If you agree the plant's floral display is not its best asset, just cut off the flowers and bring them inside to display in a vase. Angelina sedum's foliage is chartreuse for most of the year, with hints of pink (or even red) in the winter. The plant is easy to grow and can be pruned whenever you feel it has gotten too large.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Part sun to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Clay, loamy, or sandy and well-draining
  • 14 of 19

    Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

    Ajuga plant

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    If you decipher the botanical name of bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), you'll learn that reptans (Latin for "creeping") is a warning. This is one plant you might have difficulty controlling, as it has a tendency to be an aggressive spreader. Bugleweed is capable of growing fast and choking out everything in its path, so consider yourself warned if you choose this plant for your landscape. Plant bugleweed in fertile, well-draining soil where air circulation is good to prevent diseases and pests. Only water it whenever the soil dries out about 1 to 2 inches down.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Blue, violet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Organic, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 15 of 19

    Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

    Pachysandra ground cover in bloom

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    Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) can tolerate dry shade, making it ideal to plant under trees where there is usually a lot of competition for water. As a bonus, this ground cover is also deer-resistant, and it doesn't have any serious problems with insects or diseases. The plant grows around 6 inches tall and blankets the ground in small white flowers in the spring. Thin out the plant and remove any debris, such as fallen leaves, as needed to promote air circulation.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-draining
  • 16 of 19

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris)

    Climbing hydrangea vines covering a fence

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    There are few large, vigorous, hardy ground covers that are both good bloomers and shade-tolerant. The climbing hydrangea vine (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) is among that select group. These hydrangea vines are true climbers, but they also can function as excellent ground cover plants and are preferred for moderately shady areas. Fertilize your plant in the spring before the leaves begin to bud, and prune it in the summer to keep growth under control. The plant likes consistently moist soil and might need extra watering in hot weather.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White, blue, pink, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, evenly moist, slightly acidic
    Continue to 17 of 19 below.
  • 17 of 19

    Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)

    Closeup of dew on lamb's ear leaves

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    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's silver-green leaves are soft and fuzzy to the touch like the ear of a lamb. The plant grows rapidly but can be controlled with edging. It is fairly drought-tolerant, though some leaves might turn brown in extended dry spells. But avoid overhead watering, as the leaves can rot when they become too wet.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Light purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Poor, well-draining, slightly acidic
  • 18 of 19

    Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

    snow-in-summer plant showing two white flowers

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    Cerastium tomentosum, commonly known as snow-in-summer, is a full-sun ground cover with two desirable traits: It displays attractive white blooms (as its common name suggests), and it has silvery leaves. But snow-in-summer has one downfall: It is a short-lived perennial, especially in warm regions. To keep this plant healthy, good drainage is essential. Trim off faded blooms and old foliage, and snow-in-summer will look nice all summer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, dry, well-draining
  • 19 of 19

    Wild Violet (Viola sororia)

    flowers of wild violets

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    Whether wild violets (Viola sororia) are valued as flowering ground covers or despised as weeds is really a matter of opinion. You might consider them in the latter category if your aim is to grow a well-manicured lawn. But lovers of wildflowers are fond of the plant. Group several wild violets to create the best display. It's a low-growing plant with small flowers, so a stray violet will not make much of an impact. The plant is fairly low maintenance and best left undisturbed to spread. Provide it with consistent moisture, especially when planted in full sun.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Purple, blue, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Humusy, moist, well-draining