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Groundcovers for the Garden

Groundcovers are one of the most important plants groups in the garden. They play a crucial role in retaining soil on slopes, they can fill large areas of shady ground where grass will not grow, and they can provide an unbroken expanse of color that helps tie garden areas together.  There are two main types of groundcovers for the garden; those for shade and those for sun.

 

Shade Groundcovers

 

Shady areas in the garden can be an invitation to planting large groups of your favorite hostas, coral bells, and hellebores. But what if you have an area that is very large and you need something to fill the spot while you save for that rare hosta or other shade lover? That is where shade groundcovers come in. While there are hostas and even coral bells that spread like groundcovers, they are not considered ground covers.  There are many good groundcovers for shade, but 3 stand out.

 Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) is one of the best groundcovers for shade

Gooseneck Loosstrife blooms
Gooseneck Loosstrife blooms

Gooseneck Loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) is one of the best groundcovers for shade.  Gooseneck loosestrife grows 1 to 2 feet tall and forms a thicket like structure with multiple rhizomes spreading under the soil. Native to China and Japan, this groundcover produces white blossoms that are crooked like a goose’s neck in late summer. Fall color is yellow to orangey-brown.

 

Periwinkle is an excellent shade perennial
Periwinkle is an excellent shade perennial

Periwinkle (Vinca minor) is an evergreen groundcover for deep to part shade areas. It grows very quickly, spreading via runners on top of the soil surface. It grows 3 to 8 inches tall and is very drought tolerant. Flowers appear in early spring in shades of white, purple, blue, and periwinkle.

 

Dead nettle blooms in summer
Dead nettle blooms in summer

Dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) is another quick spreading groundcover. It spreads rapidly by seed and rooted runners. There are many cultivars of dead nettle, most with some form of variegated leaves. Flower spikes emerge in summer and continue to bloom through fall. Bees are attracted to the flowers. Dead nettle grows 6 to 12 inches tall and is adaptable to both full shade and full sun conditions.

 

Sun Groundcovers

 

While most prefer to have turf or large beds of sun loving perennials, it is sometimes necessary to have large areas of sun loving groundcovers. If you have a steep slope that cannot be mowed, or if you do not like turf and would rather have groundcover in between beds of flowers, then these work best here.

 

Virginia sweetspire blooms white in spring
Virginia sweetspire blooms white in spring

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a quick spreading, shrubby groundcover. While this shrub is most often used in mass plantings or for its fall color, it makes an excellent groundcover. It grows 3 to 6 feet tall and spreads quickly from rhizomes. Virginia sweetspire produces fragrant, white blooms in mid spring that are visited by bees. Fall color is excellent, red to orange. It is very adaptable to both drought and wet periods.

 

Lilyturf is a good groundcover for sun or shade
Lilyturf is a good groundcover for sun or shade

Lilyturf (Liriope muscari) can be grown is shade or sun as a quick spreading groundcover. This groundcover is semi-evergreen, but is recommended to be cut back in the spring for new growth.  It grows 8 to 12 inches tall and spreads quickly by rhizomes. Purple flower spikes emerge in summer for an added bonus.

 

Lamb's ears silvery green foliage is velvety soft
Lamb’s ears silvery green foliage is velvety soft

Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) is a soft textured, silver leafed groundcover. The soft leaves are great in a children’s garden for feeling or welcome in both shade and sun locations. It grows 6 to 12 inches tall and spreads via runners and seed. The silvery leaves are semi-evergreen and need to be cut back or raked in the spring to renew growth. It is very drought tolerant.

 

There are many groundcovers available to the consumer, these are just a few. Call Grimm’s Gardens for more information on what groundcovers are best for your yard and garden.

2 thoughts on “Groundcovers for the Garden

  1. While gooseneck loosestrife is a handsome plant, it is aggressively invasive. May not be in all regions, but here in New England is is impossible to keep under control.

    1. Thank you for reading our blog! It is good to see people from across the country reading our work. This article and is geared for the Central Great Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri, but it is nice to learn about how plants grow in other parts of the country. Here, gooseneck loosestrife is a slow groundcover, not invasive at all.

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