Great Britain has mild temperatures, even in winter months, but plants that grow across the island nation need to adapt to a climate that varies from wind, rain and exposure on the moors to harsh coastal conditions, as well as crowded urban environments where soil may lack nutrients.
Ground covers, which prevent erosion and stop runoff, insulate the roots of other plants from excessive heat. Ground covers also serve as a transitional planting between levels of growth in flower beds or to fill the space between taller flowers. Because of their rapid spread, many ground covers may be spaced more widely than flowers or bedding plants. Homeowners can save money by dividing and transplanting ground covers from established plants.
Ground covers vary in foliage shape, type and texture, including variegated options such as hebe (Hebe x franciscana 'Variegata') and evergreen varieties like glacier ivy (Hedera helix 'Glacier'), available for seasonal interest.
Ground covers offer a range of flower colors and sizes--for example, the pink flower spikes of sandy soil-loving alum root (Heuchera 'Fireworks' ). Many ground covers prove relatively or completely pest- and disease-free.
Ground covers reduce or eliminate the need for weeding because they force out less desirable plants. Ground covers adapt to many types of soil and to conditions where other plants struggle to grow, making them good filler for bare spots, high traffic locations and other troublesome areas.
Ground covers for Britain's chalk, clay, acid and alkaline soils include sea pink (Armeria maritima), which adapts well to coastal sites. Salt-tolerant species include dart's blanket (Euonymus fortunei). Bugle (Ajuga reptans) tolerates poor drainage, and many ground cover plants are adapted to the rain and cooler temperatures of Great Britain.
Not all ground covers perform as low-growing mats of foliage. Some ground cover varieties reach several feet in height, such as the meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis 'Aureovariegatus') and the evergreen shrub rock rose (Helianthemum 'Wisley Primrose'), which thrive in Britain.
Many species of the Sedum genus grow in Great Britain. Most sedums are succulents, storing water in their leaves. Sedum plants have become one of the most popular choices for the creation of environmentally friendly green roofs. The plants make a low-maintenance roof covering that can be installed quickly.