Barren areas of the yard or garden are just areas for which the gardener hasn't yet found the right plant. With a bit of thoughtful planning and research, the proper ground cover can be found to fill the area, large or small, with a plant that spreads by itself and forms a dense enough mat to keep out the weeds and prevent erosion. Rates of growth will differ according to area climates and soil.
Sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum, grows well in areas of dense shade, especially when the soil is moist but well drained. Growing 6 to 10 inches high, sweet woodruff offers up a carpet of white flowers in the spring, and the fine-textured leaves smell like mowed hay.
A good ground cover under dense trees, the periwinkle, Vinca minor, has shiny evergreen leaves and forms a trailing ground cover. The periwinkle blooms in the spring with blue flowers and will cover areas both in deep shade and sun.
Full Sun Areas
Cushion spurge, Euphorbia polychrome, grows up to 18 inches high in a compact mound. Plant cushion spurge about 10 to 12 inches apart in full sun, although it will tolerate light shade. This drought-resistant perennial has yellow flowers in the spring and will add fall color to a hard-to-grow area when the leaves turn red as autumn weather turns cooler.
A wide variety of sedum, Sedum sp., are available in many leaf textures and colors. Sedum flowers come in hues of yellow and red. Sedum is a good choice for areas where soil is not easily amended, because it does not need fertile soil. A drought-tolerant succulent, sedum does best in rocky, well-drained soils. Depending on the variety, it will grow from 3 to 24 inches tall.
English ivy, Hedera helix, is an aggressive ground cover that grows to a height of only 3 to 4 inches but will climb if given the opportunity. There are many varieties of English ivy with glossy, variegated leaves. English ivy grows well in either sun or shade.
Moist soils will help the golden creeping Charlie, Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea', spread quickly in moderate shade to full sun. The yellow leaves make it a striking creeper amongst other groundcovers. Creeping Charlie grows from 1 to 3 inches high.
Quick-growing groundcover plants are usually labeled as aggressive. Be careful when planting these in small areas, as they can quickly outgrow their designated space and take over adjoining spaces. Barriers can also be used to contain root runners, while deadheading will eliminate self seeding.