10 Best Ground Covers for Full Sun

Lamb's ear ground cover in full sun

Lynne Brotchie/Getty Images

Like some of the best perennials for sun, there is a wide variety of ground covers that thrive in full sun. These plants feature vibrant flowers, cheerful berries, interesting leaves, a pleasing aroma, and evergreen foliage. They range in sizes and soil preferences, and some are even drought-tolerant. Here are 10 ground covers that are easy to grow in full sun.

Tip

Just because a plant can tolerate a lot of sun, it doesn't necessarily mean it likes dry soil. Follow the care tips for your particular species in terms of watering to keep it healthy.

  • 01 of 10

    Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

    Cotoneaster ground cover with bright red berries
    David Beaulieu

    Rockspray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) can reach a few feet tall, though you can train it through pruning to remain shorter. That might not sound like a ground cover to you. It is indeed a shrub, but it is called horizontalis for a reason. Rockspray cotoneaster exhibits a strong tendency to grow horizontally like a ground cover, rather than vertically, and it appreciates sunlight. Plus, its bright red berries are numerous enough to furnish considerable ornamental value to a landscape.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Pink flowers, red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, loamy, well-draining
  • 02 of 10

    'Six Hills Giant' Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)

    catmint flowering ground cover
    David Beaulieu

    This sun-loving and drought-tolerant variety of catmint makes for a great flowering ground cover. 'Six Hills Giant' has a mounding growth habit and bears numerous small flowers. If you cut it back after its first bloom, it should flower for most of the growing season. Its leaves fill the air with a lemony scent when they're brushed or bruised.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue, violet, or white flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 03 of 10

    Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)

    Lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) growing in a mass.

    Lynne Brotchie / Getty Images

    Like cotoneaster, lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) is not necessarily a short plant. If you count the flower spike, it can reach around 18 inches (46 centimeters) tall. But the flowers aren't all that special, and you might even opt to cut down the spikes to keep the plant at ground cover level. The main attraction is the plant's silvery leaves, which are fuzzy and velvety like the ears of a lamb.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Light purple flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 04 of 10

    Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)

    Creeping juniper

     

    MaYcaL / Getty Images

    Creeping juniper varieties, such as 'Blue Rug', share the shrub classification with cotoneaster. But "creeping" in the name indicates where this plant parts ways with cotoneaster. These are short, surface-hugging plants that are excellent for controlling soil erosion on sunny hillsides. They're also fairly low-maintenance. Prune the plant during the spring if you wish to keep it from spreading or if there is a diseased or dying section, and make sure the plant has evenly moist soil until it matures.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Dark green, yellow-green, or blue-green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average to sandy, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis)

    yellow alyssum

    David Beaulieu

    This perennial alyssum is one of those great bright yellow flowers (think daffodils) of the spring season, but its blue-gray leaves are also appealing. This is key because if you are using it as a ground cover for a sunny spot, it will continue to supply visual interest even after it's done blooming. Once the blooms fade, cut back the plant by about a third to promote more flowering. You also can cut it back if the plant gets too leggy.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Yellow flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry, average to sandy, well-draining
  • 06 of 10

    Silver Mound Artemisia (Artemisia schmidtiana)

    Silver Mound Artemisia

     

    Fanliso / Getty Images

    Silver mound artemisia is strictly a foliage plant. There is no flower spike to deal with when growing this ground cover that loves full sun. Where lamb's ears sport a coarse plant texture, silver mound has a fine texture. So depending on how you are working with plant textures in your landscape, this distinction could make the difference in your plant selection. To keep this plant looking its best, give it a slight pruning as summer begins. This helps to prevent the branches from falling away from the center and leaving a hole in the middle of the clump.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Silvery-green foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, well-draining
  • 07 of 10

    Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

    Snow-in-summer
    David Beaulieu

    Snow-in-summer ground cover looks like flowery snow drifts that can spill over stone walls and landscape. And unlike actual snow, full sun is what helps this plant thrive. The herbaceous perennial blooms profusely in early summer with pristine white flowers. It can be difficult to grow in high heat and humidity, but it's tolerant of drought and shallow, rocky soil.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, dry, well-draining
  • 08 of 10

    Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi)

    Ice plant

     

    GomezDavid / Getty Images

    People sometimes have trouble growing the ice plant. It is a succulent, but cold is typically not the problem. The issue is you have to provide it with sharp drainage. Still, this spreading, full-sun ground cover will make it worth your while if you solve its drainage, as it produces a dazzling display of flowers.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Red-purple, pink, scarlet, orange, or yellow flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Dry, neutral pH, well-draining
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Angelina Sedum (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina')

    Angelina sedum
    David Beaulieu

    Like the ice plant, Angelina sedum is a succulent. But unlike ice plants, Angelina sedum is not grown for its flowers. The plant does bloom, but the flower stalks are gangly. Many gardeners prefer to remove them after the flowers fade for aesthetic reasons. It is the foliage that counts with this ground cover. It is golden to chartreuse, turning more golden with increased sun.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Golden to chartreuse foliage with reddish tints in fall
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Average, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
  • 10 of 10

    Creeping Thyme (Thymus sp.)

    Red creeping thyme
    David Beaulieu

    For a fragrant, full-sun ground cover, choose creeping thyme. The best way to enjoy its refreshing smell is to walk on it. That's right: Far from suffering damage, this ground cover does not mind a reasonable amount of foot traffic. As a bonus, walking on it crushes the aromatic leaves just enough to waft some of their wonderful scent into the air. Along with lots of sun, creeping thyme generally prefers poor soil with sharp drainage. If the plant becomes woody, give it a substantial pruning to rejuvenate growth.

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