Low-growing groundcover plants are often the overlooked denizens of the yard. That’s a shame, because they can really add to the look of a landscape when used properly. Put groundcovers to use for problem situations, to set the stage for other plants, and even as star performers in their own right.
Add color and texture. While a large swatch of single-species groundcover makes a nice backdrop for showier plants, mixing species with different leaf textures and colors creates a beautiful carpet mosaic. The garden above is a garden showpiece and includes ajuga, creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Scotch moss, carex, Dutch clover (Trifolium repens), and golden pearlwort (Sagina subulata).
Partner with other plants. Groundcovers make great companions for other plants. Most are lower growing than their partners, providing movement as the eye goes from one level to the next. When you include something colorful like this Scotch moss, you end up with a bold vignette that can be enjoyed up close or from a distance.
Soften hardscape. In addition to their short stature, many groundcovers have a spreading habit that makes them well suited to planting along paths. Note how the creeping thyme hides the edge of the brick path and makes it fit more naturally into the setting.
Fill in around trees. Grass can be hard to grow under a large shade tree, but there are plenty of groundcovers that don’t mind that situation. These grape hyacinths are temporary guests in spring, doing most of their growing before the tree is fully leafed out. After they go dormant, shade-tolerant perennial groundcovers such as ivy, pachysandra, or ajuga can carry the show.
Tame slopes. Leave the lawnmower in the garage and let a well-behaved groundcover blanket a slope for low-maintenance visual appeal. Here, Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) and pachysandra do most of the heavy lifting, while ivy and Japanese painted fern (Athyrium nipponicum) add some variety at the foot of the steps.
Fill the gaps. Moss is a good groundcover to use when space is tight. It’s well-behaved, takes occasional foot traffic, and won’t outgrow its space. Other options for small spots like this: thyme or low-growing sedum.