My garden looked beautiful in the spring a few years ago, but something was missing. I had gorgeous flowers and shrubs, but the space in between them seemed a little bland. That's when I decided to add an evergreen ground cover and the garden came to life!
A ground cover is a low growing plant that creeps along the ground in a spreading pattern. It's often planted among taller plants and provides cover or a decorative function.
I prefer evergreen groundcover so that when the flowers die off, there's a pretty blanket of light and dark green left behind. Some evergreen ground covers flower and some don't, but they all add texture to the garden.
There are also practical reasons for using ground cover in addition to the aesthetics and natural beauty they provide. It's often drought-friendly and maintenance-free. It helps suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil, as well.
Ground cover plants can also be used where you have a slope that is difficult to mow or maintain, and can help prevent erosion. You can also use ground covers in shady areas where grass or other plants will struggle since some ground covers thrive in shade.
Ground Cover Types
Ground covers come in a few growing types. One variety of plant can have different types of growth.
Clumpers spread and increase in size each spring. They do this by extending their reach above the ground. You generally don't need to divide clumpers, because they spread evenly on their own.
Creepers spread via underground stems or creep along the ground, rooting into the surface as they grow. You'll need to divide creepers if they start to grow outside of their area. I prefer creepers if I'm landscaping a large space or sloped areas.
17 Varieties of Evergreen Ground Cover
There are many varieties of evergreen ground cover to choose from, but these my all-time favorites.
1. Sedum (Sedum)
Sedum is, by far, my favorite and most used ground cover plant. It's an ornamental succulent that thrives in full sun. It needs well-draining soil. The leaves are deep green, and it has bright yellow flowers. I've used sedum in level gardens, but it works well in terraced gardens where you want it to grow down a wall. Sedum roots itself wherever it touches the ground. There is s sedum suitable for most zones.
2. Globe Ice Plant (Ruschia punctulata)
Globe Ice Plant is cold tolerant and is best for cooler areas. It has beautiful purple flowers and deep evergreen leaves. It grows tightly and is good for those wanting a formal look. Globe ice plant suits drier areas with little humidity.
3. Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
Some people think this plant is a little old fashioned, but it suits many gardens., especially xeriscaping. Hens and chicks looks good in tight spaces like in between paving stones. I love it as a ground cover because it creates a unique texture in the garden.
4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
Phlox is a full sun evergreen ground cover. It will tolerate dry soil, but prefers lots of moisture. It grows well in zones 3-9. Phlox spreads fast, so it's perfect on a bare slope. If you use this in your garden, you can split the extra growth and replant.
5. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Candytuft handles drought and grows well in zones 3-8. It's evergreen in the south and semi-evergreen in the north.
6. Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra terminalis)
A beautiful broad-leafed evergreen that suits zones 4-8. This ground cover doesn't flower, but the shiny green foliage grows thick and bright.
7. Creeping Myrtle (Vinca minor)
This plant has glossy green leaves and spreads rapidly. In the spring, it has lovely star-shaped, violet flowers. It will take root wherever the stems touch the ground, so it's easy to propagate. It can handle dry to moist soil and full sun to deep shade.
8. Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
Creeping thyme is a low-growing, hardy perennial that needs little maintenance to thrive. You can eat the leaves and flowers as you can with other thyme varieties. It's deer resistant and attracts pollinators. It does well in a variety of soils and light conditions.
9. Angelina Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina')
This pretty plant has yellow needle-like foilage and spreads quickly. In the winter, the leaves turn orange. Good in zones 3-11 and can handle drought.
10. Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
Wall germander is a medicinal and culinary herb that features pretty, evergreen foliage. It gets about a foot tall and will spread much further than that. It's drought-tolerant and deer-resistant. It can even handle a little bit of salt in the soil, so it's perfect for people who leave near the ocean. Good in zones 5-9, full to part sun, and a variety of soils.
11. Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata)
This plant got its name thanks to its star-like cluster of needles. It's a member of the cypress family that grows about a foot tall and 3-feet wide. It prefers full sun, sandy soil, and grows in zones 4-8.
12. Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus)
Lenten rose isn't a rose at all, but rather part of the buttercup family. It blooms in the early spring (around Lent, which is where it gets its name) for 8-10 weeks. Lenten rose needs part to full shade, and rich, moist soil. It grows in zones 4-9.
13. Mazus (Mazus reptans)
Mazus is a fast grower that doesn't become invasive, so it's perfect if you need something to quickly fill a space. It's perfect in rock gardens or between pavers. Mazus prefers part shade and loamy soil. It grows in zones 5-8.
14. Spotted Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum)
These shade-lovers will add color to a dark corner of the garden all year round. They grow 3-12 inches tall and up to 3-feet wide. The attractive variegated foliage comes in a variety of shades. Grows in zones 4-8.
15. Euonymus (Euonymus)
This evergreen plant will give you lots of fall color. It comes in a variety of different colors, sizes and growth habits, so make sure you're selecting a ground cover and not a shrub when planting. It can grow in full sun to heavy shade and can handle any well-draining soil.
16. English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Ivy is a beautiful, glossy evergreen that spreads quickly – maybe too fast. It can rapidly become invasive in some areas, so make sure you can keep it under control before planting it in your yard. Prefers part to full shade with fertile, moist soil. That said, it's hardy and can grow in full sun and dry, depleted soil. Hardy in zones 4-9.
17. Bugleweed (Ajuga)
Bugleweed is also known as ajuga. It spreads low and compact along the ground. It is another plant that can become invasive, so be cautious where you plant it. Prefers full to part shade and moist, well-drained soil. Grows in zones 3-10.
Growing Evergreen Ground Cover
Once you pick your ground cover, here's how to get it in the ground.
Preparing the Ground
Remove all weeds and any growth you don't want competing with your new ground cover. Add a 6-inch layer of well-rotted organic matter and dig it in.
How Many Plants do You Need?
Once you've decided on the type of cover you want and the specific plant, you need to consider how many to buy.
Measure the area and cross-reference this with the fully grown size of the plant. Work out how many full-siz e plants you need to fill this space.
Space plants closely to cover an area quickly. Creepers can be placed close or far apart because eventually, they will join. It all depends on whether you are happy to wait a few seasons or if you want the ground covered quickly.
Clumpers need to be planted with their mature size in mind. If the plant is 15 inches when mature, plant the center of each plant 12 to 15 inches apart from each other.
Caring for Ground Cover
Once the plants are in the ground, you should ensure that weeds don't establish themselves in amongst the ground cover. Be vigilant with this because if you've chosen a tight clumping ground cover, the weeds are protected by the tightness and nearly impossible to remove completely.
Add a layer of well-rotted organic matter and mulch to suppress weeds.
Feed your new ground cover consistently for the first few months to get it established. Use liquid fertilizer and remove all weeds as they appear.
A Few More Tips
- Ask before you buy a ground cover listed as ‘rapid growing.' These types are often aggressive growers and may end up being an overgrown nightmare.
- Don't think about ground cover as a filler. You can also make it the highlight.
- If you intend to use evergreen ground cover in an area where you walk, ensure you buy one hardy enough for this purpose.
- Soil preferences and sun requirements are just as important to evergreen ground covers as any other plant, so choose to suit your garden.
Evergreen ground cover can change the look of your garden for the better and give you color even when everything else is dormant. It can help prevent erosion and fill in shady areas. Let us know what your favorite type is.