Thompson & Morgan

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Ground cover plants

Plants for ground cover


Ground cover plants are useful in the garden for covering bare patches of soil beneath trees or shrubs or for covering steep banks where access is difficult. Their roots also help to stabilise soil on steep slopes. Ground cover plants brighten up otherwise dull areas and will suppress weeds, making them ideal for a low-maintenance garden. We’ve put together a list of some of the best ground cover plants, which are fast-growing and make an effective dense covering.


Before planting ground cover

Before planting your ground cover plants it is very important to remove weeds thoroughly, particularly perennial weeds such as dandelions, ground elder and couch grass. It will be twice as hard to remove these persistent weeds once your desired plants start growing! You can achieve this simply by hand weeding, although large areas would be easier to clear with a systemic weed killer which is taken down to the roots of the weed. Alternatively, if you can wait until the next season before planting you can lay black polythene over the soil to kill the weeds. Before planting improve the soil by adding plenty of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost.


Ground cover plants for sun

From annual to evergreen ground cover plants, there are plenty of options for a sunny spot in the garden. Plants growing in full sun benefit from mulching in their first year to help retain moisture at their roots. If the weather is very hot and dry make sure you water your new plants regularly to help them establish. It’s also essential to keep on top of weeds so there is no competition for nutrients and water.


PlantPlant typeFlowering PeriodExtra features
Acaena saccaticupula (New Zealand Burr)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
AubrietaPerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
(Perennial Alyssum) PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Campanula (Bellflower)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Centaurea montanaPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-summer)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Cotoneaster cashmiriensisPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
DelospermaPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Dianthus deltoides (Maiden Pink)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Erica carnea (Heather)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Winter FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Geranium x oxonianumPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Gypsophila repens (Creeping Gypsophila)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
Hebe pinguifolia 'Pagei'PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Helianthemum (Rock Rose)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Lemon BalmPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - ScentedHerb
Lily 'Colour Carpet'PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Scented
MintPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - ScentedHerb
Oenothera (Evening Primrose)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
OreganoPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringHerb
OsteospermumPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Persicaria affinisPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Evergreen
PhloxPerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Scented
Rose (ground cover types)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
Saponaria (Tumbling Ted)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
SedumPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Stachys byzantine (Lambs' Ears)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
ThymePerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - ScentedHerb
AlyssumAnnualInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Scented
Gourds, Squashes and PumpkinsAnnualInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
NasturtiumAnnualInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Petunia (trailing varieties)AnnualInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
Poached Egg PlantAnnualInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
Sweet pea 'Snoopea'AnnualInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Scented


Ground cover plants for shade

From foliage to flowers there are plenty of colourful ground cover plants to light up a shady spot in your garden. Even vigorous plants may grow more slowly in heavier shade so don’t be too concerned if they are taking their time to spread. You may need to be more vigilant in weeding whilst these plants become established as the soil will be bare for some time. Once they do establish however, they will form an impenetrable mat.


PlantPlant typeFlowering PeriodExtra features
Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Bergenia (Elephant's Ears)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian Bugloss)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring Flowering 
CyclamenPerennialInteresting Features - Spring Flowering 
Dicentra Formosa (Wild Bleeding Heart)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Duchesnea indica (Indian Strawberry)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Epimedium x warleyense (Barrenwort)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
Galax urceolata (Beetleweed)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Scented
Geranium wallichianum 'Buxton's Blue'PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers 
HeucheraPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
HostaPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Hypericum calycinum (Rose of Sharon)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
IvyPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Lily-of-the-valleyPerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Scented
Lonicera pileata (Box-leaved Honeysuckle)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Periwinkle (Vinca)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Polypodium vulgare (Common Polypody)Perennial Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Prunella grandifloraPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Pulmonaria saccharata (Lungwort)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Winter FloweringInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Symphytum 'Goldsmith' (Comfrey)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Tiarella cordifolia (Foam Flower)PerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
Tolmiea menziesii (Piggy Back Plant)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
TradescantiaPerennialInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Evergreen
Vancouveria hexandra (Inside-out Flower)PerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer Flowering 
Winter AconitePerennialInteresting Features - Spring FloweringInteresting Features - Summer FloweringInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage