The Best Plants for Ground Cover

Ground cover plants are usually planted where grass can't grow. Often, this is the dark areas of the landscape, such as beneath a tree. Sometimes ground cover is used in areas of the garden where other plants will not thrive, such as places that are very soggy or very dry. Other times, it is used as an attractive way to inhibit weed growth. For these reasons, ground cover plants are the perfect choice for the problem areas of your garden.


Sedums are those lush, green plants you see growing in a thick mat between flagstones or stepping stones. There are a wide variety of sedums, and while the most popular is the tiny ones that grow only an inch or two tall. Others can grow up to 2 feet tall. All sedums are excellent for areas of the landscape that get very little water, as they are extremely drought tolerant, even maintaining their evergreen color through hot, dry periods. If the ground is too moist, however, their roots can rot.


Hostas are known for thriving in very shady areas, but they also make great ground cover plants. The colorful, variegated leaves of the plant look outstanding against the soil and the dwarf varieties will only produce flowers about 3 or 4 inches tall. While the leaves may die back in the winter in cold climates, they will return again in the spring. Hostas prefer moist, cool planting locations as their leaves can be burned quite easily by exposure to bright, hot sunlight.

Liriope or Lilyturf

These ground covers are very similar in appearance to grass, but they are much hardier, thriving even in coastal areas where they are exposed to salt water spray. Extremely versatile, they do equally well in full sun or full shade, and thrive in almost any area of the garden, including under trees or on steep banks. Both varieties spread very rapidly and are useful for preventing erosion.

Pachysandra, Japanese Spurge

Japanese spurge is an evergreen ground cover that is popular for its ability to grow and thrive even in dense shade. In fact, exposure to sunlight will often burn the plant's leaves. The foliage of the plant is quite attractive and changes color as the seasons change, appearing grayish purple in the spring, bright green in the summer and turning yellow in the winter. The Japanese spurge thrives in moist, well-draining soil.

Keywords: the best plants, for ground cover, how select

About this Author

April Sanders has been a writer and educator for 11 years. She is a published curriculum writer and has provided academic content for several subscription databases. Sanders holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in social psychology and a Master's degree in information sciences and technology.