Looking for the answer as to what
will grow where you have tried a lawn or what to plant on a shaded slope too steep to mow?
The solution is to go with ground covers to help solve common landscaping problems. Ground
covers can frame a flower garden, cover a bank, and even prevent soil erosion. Many ground
covers bear flowers, which are a lovely addition to a blanket of leaf foliage. They hug
and hold the soil, come in dozens of hardy varieties for deep shade to full sun in rich or
poor soil. Fast to spread and fill in quickly, ground covers are low maintenance and quite
resistant to diseases and pests. With different textures and shapes, ground covers present
an attractive alternative for solving a landscaping problem and can create interest where
only a lawn now exists.
In Sun or Shade on Slopes
Purple winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei 'colorata') roots well,
spreads rapidly to form dense 6" mat, and this trailing vine is excellent for erosion
control. Leaves turn burgundy in fall and winter. Zones 5-10.
Creeping lilyturf (Liriope spicata) bears pale lavender flower
spikes on grassy, fountain-like foliage; it reaches 12" high. Tolerates drought and
most soils. Zones 4-10.
Most sandwort or Irish moss (Arenaria verna) resembles moss when
not blooming. Tiny white flowers appear above mat; shallow roots needs moist, well-drained
soil. Zones 2-10.
In Full Sun
Carpet Bugle (Ajuga reptans) is an outstanding low grower planted
as self-contained edging around entryways or patios; prefers enriched, moist soil. In
spring, lilac flower spikes rise to 4"; leaves turn burgundy-bronze in the fall.
Green Ajuga sends forth-blue spikes in spring. Zones 4-9.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) likes well-drained soil; plant
phlox for vibrant carpets of pink, white violet, or red flowers in early spring. This
hardy spreader is excellent in front of a perennial border, planted on a slope, or
cascading over a wall. Zones 3-9.
Evergreen Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) grows to a foot tall
with small white flower clusters and shiny, dark green foliage; makes a handsome cover in
small, well-drained areas. Along a walkway, my candytuft blooms in the spring. Zones 3-9.
Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) spreads its creeping stems
quickly to set a hardy cover for a large area with a sea of mini-white flowers in summer.
Plant does best in well-drained soil, including desert, mountain, or coastal regions; can
reach to 24", and if it appears scraggly, cut back. Zones 2-10.
In Damp Shade
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) requires rich, moist, well-drained
soil. Growth for beautiful, deep green, kidney-shaped foliage, its blooms in spring are
violet-brown hidden under glossy leaves. Listed as a wildflower, too, it grows to 8"
and can be dried and used as flavoring. Zones 4-10.
Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobular) is a fragrant cover
with lavy leaflets that thrives in moist soil high in peat or leaf mold. Our surrounding
woods shade the ferns where they mature to 20" in a natural setting. Zones 3-8.
Lungwort (Pulmonaria) with a height of 12" is good under
shrubs or along a shaded path. Blue lungwort (P. angustifolia) blooms in clusters of pink,
trumpet-shaped flowers then changing to blue. Different cultivars have white, yellow, and
salmon flowers. Zones 3-8.
In Dry Shade
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria) is one of my favorite
old-fashioned, perfumed plants. Planted along a walkway or under shrubs, its waxy, white
bells weep gracefully. The sweet lily likes rich, well-drained soil. Zones 2-8.
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) has fragrant, spoke-like leaves,
tiny, white flower clusters, and likes acid soil. My plants form a lovely spring border
about 8" high in a perennial garden. Zones 4-10.
Plantain Lily (Hosta) is a clump-forming, landscaping mainstay
with heights from 8" to 2' and makes an excellent border plant and complements
shade-tolerant daylilies (Hemerocallis). Zones 3-9 for Hosta; 3-10 for Hemerocallis.
You might need salt-tolerant ground covers, like Virginia Creeper
(Parthenocissus) that requires full sun and is zoned 3-9, or for full sun or partial
shade, Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon) is hardy in zones 7-10. Moist, poorly drained sites can be
planted with Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) or Variegated Japanese Sweetflag (Acorus
gramineus), a good bog plant for zones 6-9.
Consult the Growise experts for additional information on
planting and maintaining ground covers. Grow the right ground cover, and your garden will
not grow wrong.