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cranesbill groundcover

Ground Cover for All Conditions

Ground Cover for All Conditions

As the name implies, ground covers can be used anywhere that bare soil needs to be covered. Most often they replace areas of lawn where grass simply won’t grow. They can be used on slopes where erosion is a problem and they can replace grass grown on a slope when mowing is difficult and hazardous. Moreover, they can be used with small gardens in compacted soil and shade for city dwellers. Beyond these very practical reasons, ground covers are being used more and more because of their colour and offer much more interesting texture than grass alone.

How to Choose a Ground Cover

First you need to carefully evaluate the area where you want to grow a ground cover. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it sunny or shady? If shady, is it partial or full shade?
  • How tall do you want it to grow?
  • How fast do you want it to spread?
  • Do you want one that’s deciduous or evergreen?
  • Do you want it to flower?

Ground Cover for Shade


  • Periwinkleperiwinkle groundcover
  • Wintercreeper
  • Japanese Spurge
  • English Ivy
  • Wintergreen

These will look good all year round.


  • Goutweed
  • Hosta
  • Wild Ginger
  • Ferns
  • Foamflower
  • Bugleweed
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Sweet Woodruff



  • Lamium
  • Lamiastrum
  • Barrenwort

Be cautious with Goutweed or Violets. They are intensely invasive and are hard to contain.

Ground Cover for Sun

  • Low spreading Junipers
  • Bearberry
  • Coral Beauty Cotoneaster
  • Vancouver Gold Broom
  • Heaths & Heathers that need acidic soil
  • Paxistima & Mountain Cranberry provide evergreen interest
  • Rockspray Cotoneaster and Stephanandra have an attractive arching form
  • Sun Rose, Creeping Phlox, Snow-in-Summer, Serbian Bellflower, Cranesbill, and low Stonecrops are all flowering perennials
  • Lamb’s Ears and Silver Brocade Artemisia are also perennials with distinctive silvery-grey foliage.

Ground Cover For Dry Conditions

  • Evergreen choices include low spreading Junipers & Bearberry
  • Perennials include Woolly Yarrow, St. John’s Wort, Low Growing Potentilla, New Zealand Burr, Fleece Flower, Hens & Chicks, low Stonecrops, and Goutweed. Crown Vetch can spread like a weed so give it lots of room.

Ground Cover For Moist Conditions

  • Bog Rosemary is Evergreen
  • Creeping Jenny, Foamflower, and Chameleon plants are perennials.

Ground Cover For Small Areas

  • Creeping Thyme, Scotch and Irish Moss, Corsican Mint, Hens & Chicks, Woolly Yarrow, Carpathian Bellflower, Pussytoes, Ice Plant, and Creeping Mazus are slow growing perennials.

Ground Cover For Large Areas

  • English Ivy and Hall’s Honeysuckle are evergreen vines that spread quickly.


  • Virginia Creeper is also fast but deciduous.
  • Crown Vetch, Goutweed, and Ribbon Grass are all perennial, deciduous, and grow rapidly.

Ground Cover For Colourful Foliage

  • Try perennial Bronze Beauty or Burgundy Glow Bugleweed, Yellow Creeping Jenny, or Chameleon Plant.

How to Grow Ground Cover

All plant material benefits from the addition of organic matter like peat moss, manure, and/or compost to the soil before planting.

  • Space your ground cover plants according to the tag instructions.
  • For larger installations, purchase your ground cover in flats of 50 or 100 plants and tear them apart gently at planting time.
  • Keep new plantings moist while they are establishing themselves and spread cedar mulch between plants to maintain moisture and discourage weeds.
  • If the large planting of a low ground cover looks flat and boring, consider interspersing clumps of spring-flowering Daffodils, Ferns, or Hostas. This will give a bit of height, contrasting colour, and a variation of leaf shape and size.
  • Plant several different ground covers. Each mass should be separately contained with an edging so they don’t grow into each other.
  • Ground covers like to spread.They need the containment of an edging like black plastic to keep them in check.