Ground cover plants are invaluable in the garden. They make a valuable foil for larger plants, add colour to the gaps between shrubs and perennials, and help prevent weeds from colonising bare soil. They are particularly useful in tricky parts of the garden, such as deep shade, beneath trees and shrubs and on steep banks, where other plants struggle to grow.
Ground cover plants cover the ground quickly. They are naturally low-growing and form attractive mounds or carpets. They are often low-maintenance and usually evergreen.
Grow ground cover plants on steep banks or hard-to-access areas, under trees and shrubs, or at the front of a border.
Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) forms a dense, evergreen carpet. It's useful for providing ground cover under trees and shrubs and does well in dry shade. It needs an acid soil, so is often grown as ground cover under rhododendrons.
Height x Spread: 25cm x 60cm
Vinca minor is a tough, low-maintenance perennial that will cope with many conditions in the garden, including sun or shade. It has glossy evergreen leaves and star-shaped flowers that are white or mauve, depending on the variety, from spring to autumn.
H x S: 10cm x 50cm
Gaultheria procumbens is an evergreen shrub from North America. It forms a dense carpet of leaves that are red-edged in winter and complemented by red berries in winter. It's a good choice for slopes and wildlife gardens. It likes moist, well-drained acidic soil.
H x S: 30cm x 1.5m
Hardy geraniums, or cranesbills, are invaluable plants for ground cover in all kinds of gardens, whether cottage-style or more contemporary schemes. With blue, pink or mauve flowers, they are perfect for the front of a border and popular with bees. For deep shade, try the tiny cranesbill herb robert.
H x S: 60cm x 90cm
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' is an attractive evergreen ground cover plant that has eye-catching silver foliage with dark green veins. In spring, it bears pretty blue flowers that look like forget-me-nots. It looks especially attractive planted with woodland plants.
H x S: 45cm x 60cm
Bergenia (elephant's ears) are tough plants that quickly form dense clumps. They have large, shiny, evergreen leaves, some of which are tinged an attractive red in winter, and attractive mauve flowers in April and May. They prefer moist, well-drained soil.
H x S: 50cm x 50cm
You might think of ivy (Hedera) as a climbing plant, but it can also be encouraged to grow flat, forming attractive evergreen ground cover. There are many varieties to choose from, some variegated, with differing leaf sizes. Hedera helix 'Halebob' is an attractive choice (pictured).
H x S: 20cm x 90cm
Heucheras are grown for their attractive, scalloped foliage in a range of colours, from pale orange to almost black. They form attractive clumps and make useful ground cover for a shady spot. They also bear spikes of tiny, flowers in summer.
H x S: 30cm x 35cm
Ajuga 'Black Scallop'
This spreading perennial is the perfect low-maintenance ground cover plant, with attractive foliage that adds rich, glossy colour to borders. 'Black Scallop' also sends up short spikes of dark blue flowers from April to June. Partial to full shade is ideal for ajugas.
H x S: 20cm x 90cm
Partial to full shade is best for these pretty perennials. Plant in groups to get maximum impact from the frothy flower spikes, which appear from May to July. It also offers bronze leaves in autumn. Useful under trees, tiarellas need little attention once established.
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H x S: 30cm x 30cm
This delightful, long-flowering favourite is great for filling gaps between perennials from April to June. Myosotis is easy to grow and self-seeds readily, even in dappled shade beneath deciduous trees.
H x S: 20cm x 15cm