Ground cover plants are a must for every garden and gardener

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 28 September 2016.

I am a fan of ground cover plants for three simple reasons:

  • they help me control weeds
  • they reduce the amount of work the garden needs to keep it looking good
  • they look great!

Once you get the hang of ground cover plants, your garden and your life will never be the same: both will be better for it!

What are ground cover plants?

Plants that grow quickly and densely, close to the ground, and create a carpet covering the soil. Read all about them in the RHS advice notes but read on here for why I love ground cover plants.

So, plant weed control

A carpet of plants is a barrier that prevents weed seeds reaching the soil, smothers weed seedlings and makes it easier to see and remove weeds that get through. This reduces all the work we otherwise need to do in a war on weeds.

ground cover plants
Ajuga, or bugle, is an all-time favourite in ground cover plants. Sarah Buchanan

I first met the tough little Ajuga when a work colleague offered me a small handful of plants for my new and bare garden. And I carry on the tradition and pass these charming and helpful plants to friends.

Then, put your feet up

By controlling weeds, ground cover plants reduce your workload. And because most are hardy, long lived and require little more attention than ensuring they aren’t covering the plants you do want to see they don’t need much of your time and energy. Our recent blog encouraged you to sit back, rest  and dream a little – an easy garden helps you do just that.

And, enjoy plants that are pretty and easy

Evergreen ground cover creates a year-round carpet – and not just in green. Different sizes and shapes of plant, a range of leaf and flower colours are all on offer.

ground cover
‘Darjeeling Red’ (Persicaria affinis) covers the ground with bright leaves and flowers. Sarah Buchanan

Which plants to choose?

Know your garden and read the labels to find plants that like your dry or damp soil, sun or shade. Many ground cover plants are short but some are bushy and add height to the garden while covering the ground.

My favourite easy-to-grow ground cover plants seem to suit most gardens and most places. Try some in yours?

  • Persicaria affinis ‘Darjeeling Red’; this all-time favourite has bright, evergreen leaves with red edges running along the ground and supporting sturdy red or pink flower spikes. A fantastic plant under shrubs and trees.
  • Geranium macrorrhizum (any variety) is a mound of soft, evergreen, leaves that tinge to red in autumn, with pretty pink or white flowers over the summer. It’s slightly scented. I love it!
  • Ajuga reptans (a cousin of wild bugle) is another all-time favourite. It prefers shade to bright sun where burgundy or pink splashed green leaves are a delight all year. Bold blue summer flower spikes are a bonus for the garden and the bees.
  • Vinca minor or major, and any variety. This old friend is ‘periwinkle’. All varieties have evergreen, trailing leaves, some are creamy green splodged, others a deep forest green. Flower colours are blue, purple or white.
  • Stachys byzantia ‘Silver Carpet’. The soft, grey, felted leaves give the common name of lambs’ ears or lambs’ lugs. Tall summer spikes of pink flowers loved by bees are a bonus. It is perfect for sunny and dry soil.
  • Lamium. This plant grows fast. Different varieties offer a range of leaf and flower colours and sizes. My favourite for many years was ‘Pink Nancy’, delicate, pretty and tough on weeds. My sort of plant!.
  • Epimedium perralderianum, any variety, is a joy of changing leaf colours and delicate flowers. I have struggled with these in some gardens but now they fill a dry and dull area in shade under a tree and I am a confirmed fan.


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