When searching for a ground cover plant to add texture, depth or simply cover bare spots in your lawn or garden, consider your local climate and your garden's needs. Different types of ground covers will serve different purposes. Also note that some ground covers can become invasive under favorable conditions. Check sun, soil and hardiness zone before choosing a plant.
Choosing a ground cover plant with a woody stem is wise if you want it to do well in drier soils or stand up to cold temperatures. Some woody ground covers are: dwarf plumbago, Herman's pride dead nettle, white Nancy spotted dead nettle, fragrant sumac, Japanese fleece flower, sandcherry, sea foam rose, cotoneasters, Hall's honeysuckle, Hancock coralberry and rosemary.
Herbaceous ground covers are more tender than woody-stemmed plants, but they do well in moister soils and can be planted in sun or shade, depending on the plant. Often-used herbaceous ground covers include: lungwort, lamb's ear, barren strawberry, catmint, Greek yarrow, woolly yarrow, pussytoes, silver mound sage, silver brocade sage, basket-of-gold, dwarf coreopsis, rock soapwort, partridge feather, verbena, hummingbird flower, sages, snow-in-summer, mountain alyssum, speedwells and moneywort.
Perennial ground covers will die back in the winter, leaving withered foliage or bare soil. Consider whether this is OK before choosing one. Popular perennial ground cover plants include: variegated goutweed, bugleweed, cushion spurge, Allegheny spurge, coral bells, red dragon persicaria, Rozanne geranium, lady's mantle, bergenia, plumbago, cranesbill, self-heal, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, blue fescue, chives, carex, crown vetch, delosperma, dichondra, oregano, heuchera, peppermint, chamomile, spearmint, yucca and stork's bill.
Evergreen ground covers are popular in all climates, as they provide year-round color and foliage. Some evergreen ground covers are: juniper, candytuft, creeping lily turf, periwinkle, Japanese spurge, pineleaf penstemon, goldmoss sedum, Kamschatka sedum, stonecrop, hen and chicks, ice plants, sea pink, creeping phlox, thymes, germander, kinnikinnick, purpleleaf winter creeper and creeping Oregon grape.
For some ground cover uses, mosses and moss-like cover plants may be ideal. They grow well in shady, wet areas and cover rocks well. Real mosses take decades to grow, but other moss-like plants can also be used. Examples include: Scotch moss, pearlwort or Irish moss, blue star creeper, green carpet or rupture wort, club or spike moss, moss pink and sandwort.
Many gardeners choose ground cover plants that will flower at some point in the season, for a burst of color that complements existing flower. These include: Carpathian bellflower, tiny rubies carnation, sweet woodruff, Johnson's blue geranium, daylily, soapwort, violet, Mount Atlas daisy, mountain sandwort, poppy mallow, evening primrose, compact rose geranium, hummingbird trumpet, blanket flower, dianthus, gaura and veronicas.
Many ground covers are creeping or running plants, which will spread year after year. They are a good choice for large, barren areas that you do not want to improve in the future, but they can cause problems if you want to keep them contained. Some popular running ground covers are: English ivy, golden creeping Charlie, creeping thyme, creeping speedwell, rockcress, silver lace vine, creeping cinquefoil, creeping baby's breath, trumpet vine, Virginia creeper, Boston ivy, creeping potentilla and ground ivy.
Woodland plants such as lily of the valley and Canadian wild ginger do great in shaded areas, as they are naturally found under forest canopies. Other ground covers in this category include: barrenwort, hakone grass, hosta, foamflower, European ginger, bluebells, carpet bugle, archangel, mountain lover, running mat phlox, tufted pansy, sweet violet, snow-on-the-mountain or bishop's goutweed, ghost fern and Lenten rose.