Low growing perennial plants range from quickly spreading, dense ground covers to upright, narrow plants. Each of them will find a suitable garden niche. These plants supply color beneath trees were few other things will grow, or make cheery accents planted in front of taller hedges or other perennials. They also work well as a container plants. These diminutive plants will return year after year to make those awkward spaces some of your garden's most appealing.
Bugleweed (Ajuga repentans), a mint family perennial, stands only 6 to 9 inches high and up to 1 foot wide. Hardy to minus 40 degrees F, it spreads quickly to form a ground cover of glossy, deep green leaves. Variegated-leaf cultivars are also available. In May and June, bugleweed's spikes of small, blue-purple flowers rise above the foliage. Large colonies of the plant make dramatic garden displays, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Unhappy in heavy soils or high humidity, bugleweed benefits from adequate air circulation. Use it as a shade ground cover where grass struggles. It also performs well on slopes. Foliage color is most impressive in full sun. Give bugleweed moist, humus-rich soil. Mow after blooming to keep the foliage tidy.
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), a buttercup family perennial, is hardy to minus 40 degrees F. Standing 15 to 18 inches high and up to 1 foot wide, the 'Corbett' Columbine cultivar has a basal clump of delicate deep green, lobed leaves that provide garden interest when the plant is not flowering. In April and May, 'Corbett's' multiple stems, each bear a pale yellow, five-spurred bloom. Flowers bring hummingbirds to the garden.
This cool-weather plant may die back in midsummer's heat. Use it, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden, in perennial borders or shade or woodland gardens. Plant it in full sun to partial shade. Continued watering after blooming ceases will prolong the foliage.
Siberian Larkspur 'Blue Butterfly'
Another buttercup family member, Siberian larkspur (Delphinium grandiflorum) grows from 1 foot to 18 inches high with an equal spread. Hardy to minus 40 degrees F, the "Blue Butterfly' cultivar reaches 15 inches high. In June and July, its dense branches have blooms clusters of bright blue, spurred blossoms. 'Blue Butterfly', according to the Missouri Botanical Garden, withstands high summer temperatures better than most delphiniums. It suffers, however, from blight, leaf spot and powdery mildew. Treat it frequently with fungicide and insecticide to thwart those problems, as well as snails and slugs.
Use groups of the plant in the perennial border. Give it an afternoon-shaded, wind-sheltered sunny spot. It likes rich, averagely moist well-drained soil. Feed it regularly. Cutting back old flower spikes may result in late summer or autumn re-blooming.