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Ground Cover Solutions

Everyone's looking for low maintenance ideas for the garden and one of the best solutions that I've come across is to use ground covers.

They are ideal for a variety of situations such as an alternative to lawns, dry areas without easy access to water, and slopes.

Most ground covers are easy to care for. You don't have to mow or fertilize as frequently as a lawn and many of them are quite drought resistant.

You would be amazed at the range of plants that are suitable to use as a ground cover. Sometimes it is just a matter of imagining how a plant would look growing en masse or selecting those that are known to spread rapidly. Whatever your growing conditions and design requirements there is a plant suitable for you.

Tread Tolerant

Living is a key word in the phrase "outdoor living space." It's an area that's meant to be enjoyed and used, which means high foot traffic in certain places. High foot traffic leads to bare spots. When a path isn't appropriate, ground cover plants are the solution.

Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatus) With a potential spread of 18 inches, this evergreen ground cover will fill in a space quickly. Tiny leaves and pale blue flowers give the plant a delicate look. Blue Star Creeper holds up well to foo traffic.

Hardy in zones 5 10; 2 4-inches tall x 12 18-inch spread; full sun.

'Platts Black' Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalida) This is a very low growing plant that forms a carpet of tiny fern-like foliage. It's a natural for planting between stepping stones. 'Platts Black' foliage is a blend of dark bronze, green and eggplant purple.

Hardy in zones 5 9; 1 3-inches tall x 8 12-inch spread; full sun to partial shade.

'Pink Chintz' Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) Choose thyme as a drought tolerant replacement for lawns in small spaces. 'Pink Chintz' produces pink flowers in spring and will tolerate moderate foot traffic.

Hardy in zones 4 8; 3 inches tall x 12 inch spread; full sun.

Water Wise

Whether you are water conscious because of need or desire, drought tolerant plants play an important role when designing a water wise garden. These are plants that thrive in low moisture environments. You'd be surprised at the diverse selection of plants available even ground covers. Drought tolerant ground covers are excellent for filling in a space where moisture is at a premium.

'Angelina' Sedum (Sedum rupestre) The trailing habit of this succulent ground cover is particularly attractive in containers or tucked into cracks and crevices. It's also The chartreuse color is eye catching.

Hardy in zones 3 10; 3 6-inches tall x 12 14-inch spread; full sun.

'Moss Rose' Hens & Chicks (Sempervivum x 'Moss Rose') 'Moss Rose' produces rosettes of succulent, blue-gray leaves tinged with red. It's a lovely addition to dry areas with poor soil.

Hardy in zones 3 8; 4 6-inches tall x 4 6-inch spread; full sun.

'Goldie' Yarrow (Achillea tomentosa) If you love the look of a cottage garden, this ground cover version of the classic yarrow is for you. Soft green, downy foliage forms a dense mat year round and bright yellow flowers repeatedly from early summer to fall.

Hardy in zones 4 8; 6 8-inches tall x 12 18-inch spread; full sun.

Soil Saving

Do you have a place in your garden where water runoff or strong wind makes it impossible to grow anything? You've got an erosion issue and ground covers can help. Try a vining ground cover that will knit together and carpet the area. This will help hold the soil in place.

'Yellow Ripple' Ivy (Hedra helix) Ivy is a classic evergreen ground cover. This variety's foliage is gray-green with pale yellow edges. In winter the leaves take on a purple-red cast. 'Yellow Ripple' is a slow grower that will form a low growing, dense mat.

Hardy in zones 5 9; 6 10-inches tall x 12 24-inch spread; full sun to partial shade.

Golden Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') Golden moneywort cascades across the ground forming a mat of yellow leaves with deep gold blooms in summer. This is the more behaved cousin of green moneywort.

Hardy in zones 3 9; 1 3-inces tall x 18 24-inch spread; full sun to partial shade.

Wintercreeper Euonymus (Euonymus fortune 'Coloratus') This evergreen ground cover spreads rapidly and thrives with very little care. It's one of my favorites for multiple situations. The evergreen foliage turns purple in winter.

Hardy in zones 4 8; 6 12-inches tall x 4 foot spread; full sun to partial shade.

*Photos courtesy of The Berry Family of Nurseries.