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Desert Ground Cover Plants

Ground cover plants are creeping, sprawling and clumping plants that spread to cover the soil. Ground covers are commonly used in landscapes to visually tie plantings together. Desert ground covers need to be able to survive arid, hot conditions. These plants add a touch of cool, green color to desert landscapes. Ground covers suppress dust, prevent the evaporation of water from the soil, control erosion and reduce the need to mow a lawn.

Australian Saltbush

Australian saltbush (Atriplex semibaccata) is a dense, low-growing desert shrub. It grows at a slow rate and only reaches 12 to 24 inches in height. The grey-green foliage is fire-resistant and it is often used to control erosion. Australian saltbush produces small red berries. It thrives in salty areas, which makes it an ideal ground cover along roadsides where salt is commonly dumped to dissolve ice.

Centennial Desert Broom

Centennial desert broom (Baccharis x "Centennial") is a dense, ground-hugging plant with a medium growth rate. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall with green-gray leaves. Centennial desert broom produces small white flowers during the winter and spring. This ground cover does not tolerate foot traffic.

Trailing Indigo Bush

Trailing indigo bush (Dalea greggii) creates mounding low shrubs of 6 to 12 inches in height. Soft gray to blue-green leaves spread to 4 feet wide. Lavender flowers appear in the spring. Trailing indigo bush is used to stabilize slopes and cover rocky areas.

Creeping Lilyturf

Creeping lilyturf (Liriope spicata) is an evergreen grasslike ground cover. It rapidly grows to 1 foot tall. The clumps of foliage begin green, then turn bronze-green during the cold temperatures of winter. Small flower spikes appear slightly above the leaves topped with pale lilac-white blossoms. In the fall, blue-black berrylike fruit show up after the blossoms disappear.


Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is a perennial ground cover that forms a dense mat. Green-gray leaves reach 1 to 2 feet tall with yellow buttonlike flowers in the summer. This medium-growing plant is drought-tolerant.

Prostrate Germander

Prostrate germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) barely reaches 10 inches in height. Dense, shiny, dark-green leaves spread by the growth of stolons to achieve 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide. Rose-purple-colored flowers appear in the summer. This ground cover is used in rock gardens or planted next to railroad ties. Prostrate germander is a drought-tolerant plant that can withstand the arid conditions of a desert.


Wedelia (Wedelia trilobata) grows 1/2 to 1 foot tall quickly. Glossy, dark green leaves spread by sprouting roots wherever it contacts the soil. Yellow daisylike blossoms bloom all year long. This plant needs room to spread and covers rough, rocky ground easily. Wedelia will tolerate a light amount of foot traffic.

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