Perennial ground covers are plants that;
- are reliably perennial – they live from year to year and
- grow relatively quickly to cover the ground.
Ground Covers Come With Warnings
The advantages of ground covers are that they cover bare ground and often grow where no other plant will survive.
This often makes them candidates for garden thug status. If a plant grows and covers the ground, it seldom makes a distinction between the area you want to be covered and the area it intends to cover.
It is up to you to enforce the limits with edging material or sharp shovels. In my opinion, plants that are primarily used for ground covers should never be allowed into good perennial gardens.
Aegopodium or goutweed/bishops weed is a perfect example. This rampant spreader will “eat” many nearby plants as it spreads by underground rhizome. It makes an excellent ground cover for wasteland areas, but if put into a good garden, it will simply smother shorter plants and invade the root areas of taller ones.
Here are the Myths of Ground Covers, where I describe some of this class of plants’ common questions and advertising myths.
Not for the marketing people in the nursery trade!
Here’s a list of plants that make decent ground covers. Most of them come with a warning about their ability to spread and the simple growing instruction of put in the ground, water, stand back!
A list of ground covers for shade. Please print it out and take it to the garden center with you.
Aegopodium or Growing Goutweed is a no-brainer, but this plant comes with a fast-growing potential thug warning.
Q&A: Do I really have to weed out goutweed?
- Ajuga or Bugleweed is an excellent flowering plant with a wide range of varieties for many uses.
- Asarum or Wild Ginger is a lovely evergreen ground cover that isn’t invasive.
- Campanula or bellflowers make delightful and long-blooming ground cover plants for sun or medium shade.
- Cornus canadensis
- Epimediums are one of those tough plants for shade – if you can’t grow this plant, you had better consider mulch or silk flowers.
- Hedera helix or English Ivy is one of the classic perennial ground covers, although it can escape and become a problem plant in warmer climates.
- Lamium or Dead Nettle is a beautiful ground cover – not invasive and flowering.
- Lamiastrum (don’t confuse with above plant)