Nonflowering ground covers are perennial plants. Some varieties have what are referred to as insignificant blooms, meaning the flowers are either inconspicuous or the species rarely flowers. These ground covers are suitable for decorative landscaping as borders, edging and on banks and slopes. Ground covers are useful in areas where mowing may be difficult, or where erosion control is a factor. Little or no maintenance is required by nonflowering ground covers.
Ivy does best in areas that are partially shaded and not overly wet. They thrive on banks and as edging, and are hardy trailing plants, effective for erosion control. Algerian ivy has glossy 6-inch green leaves with three to seven pointed leaf divisions (lobes). Its variegated cousin’s leaves are edged in white. The leaves of English ivy are dark green with three to five lobes. The “Anne Marie” and “baltica” species are bordered with white, while the “gold child” has gold veins. Persian ivy leaves are larger, more rounded with no lobes and rimmed with yellow.
Nonflowering grass ground covers fare well under sunny or shady conditions, making them highly adaptable to decorative landscaping schemes. Dwarf mondo grass, an evergreen with smooth, dark green 1/8-inch leaf blades, grows to 2 to 3 inches in height. The “picta” species of ribbon grass can develop blades as long as 3 feet under optimal moist, partially shaded situations. Its green and cream striped blades are rough in texture.
Evergreen junipers prefer full sun, are advantageous for erosion control and are drought tolerant. The needle-like foliage is bluish-green. Sizes range from the 3- to 6-inch dwarf juniper to the Japanese juniper that can grow as tall as 30 inches. The Andorra juniper turns purplish hues in winter, while the coloring of the dwarf and Japanese only mellows to a greener shade.
Cypress, lamb’s ear and the cast iron plant are all evergreen nonflowering ground covers. Cypress and lamb’s ear prefer sunnier areas; the cast iron plant does better in shadier environments. The cast iron plant is sturdy and resilient to adverse soil conditions. Lamb’s ear is so named for its grayish-green lamb’s-ear shaped leaves covered with a silvery “fur." The bronze leaves of the cypress turn burgundy in colder weather.
Native to North America, most ferns prefer partial shade. The southern shield variety, though, do well with full sun. The Japanese painted fern, ostrich fern, royal fern and cinnamon fern are all dormant throughout the winter. The southern shield fern, autumn fern, peacock moss and Christmas fern are evergreens. The blue iridescent peacock moss and Japanese painted fern with its silvery purplish tinge are smaller species ideal for decorative landscaping. Cinnamon, ostrich and royal ferns can tower to 5 or 6 feet.