Ground cover plants cover the ground quickly, covering bare soil and suppressing weeds. 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.
Here are 10 ground cover plants to grow in shade.
Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge) forms a dense, evergreen carpet. It’s useful for providing ground cover under trees and shrubs and does well in dry shade. It likes 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.
Height x spread: 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.
Height x spread: 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.
Height x spread: 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.
Height x spread: 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.
Height x spread: 50cm x 50cm
Ajuga reptans (bugle) is a robust evergreen that bears spikes of blue flowers from late spring to midsummer. Plants quickly form a carpet, making it ideal for ground cover under trees and shrubs. Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ has dark purple foliage.
Height x spread: 20cm x 90cm
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).
Cotoneaster horizontalis forms a herringbone pattern of evergreen foliage, which forms a dense mat. The white flowers in spring are a magnet for bees and birds appreciate the berries – making it a great wildlife plant.
Height x spread: 50cm x 180cm
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.
Height x spread: 30cm x 35cm