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The southern maidenhair fern has fluffy, airy, and elegant foliage, which works equally well in containers or in open ground. It's a perfect plant for providing light, airy texture to shady beds. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
This is a fine plant for cascading over the edge of a wall. It's a hardy, prostrate shrub with intricate branching that often forms mats up to 3 feet wide, by runners. Fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers tinged with pink are borne in May and followed later in the season by red berries. The common bearberry's stunning red stems are studded with small, glossy, evergreen leaves.
This plant produces distinct, 2-inch blossoms primarily in rich blue (but also in shades of purple and white), with dark eyes smudged white. It is suitable for sun and partial shade.
This ground-hugging succulent perennial roots at the nodes, has a creeping habit, and often forms deep mats covering large areas. It produces abundant yellow daisy-like flowers that open at noon and turn pink later in the day.
This is an evergreen, bushy shrub native to southwestern Europe and North Africa. Rock roses are useful in a shrub border, on a hillside, or in containers. Cistus albidus bears vibrant lilac-pink flowers in summer. Although each flower lasts only one day, they are produced in great numbers on plants that are 3 feet tall and wide.
This deciduous, late-flowering twining vine with deep green leaves and profuse, fragrant white flowers is easy to grow and will thrive and bloom in shade. Star-shaped blossoms are 1 inch across, appearing from late August to October and maturing to attractive, plume-like seed heads. The shiny green foliage is leathery.
This vigorous climber can easily cover a support of 8 to 10 feet tall once established. Finely textured, dense light-green foliage makes an excellent foil for dainty, pink and carmine teardrop-shaped flowers 2 inches across. Blooms appear in early August and continue well into autumn.
A spreading subshrub, Cornus canadensis has whorls of leathery mid-green leaves that turn purple in the winter. Green and white, sometimes pink-flushed flowers emerge in late spring and early summer, followed by clusters of scarlet berries.
This spreading ground cover flowers from fall into spring. Its tubular, dusky pink flowers attract hummingbirds, and its deep green leaves release a citrus scent when crushed. Tolerant of dry conditions, frost-hardy 'Dusky Bells' correa should be tip-pruned regularly to promote new growth and improve flowering. Healthy specimens can live up to 50 years or more.
Despite a soft, delicate appearance, trailing indigo bush is one of the toughest groundcovers around. The feathery, silvery green compound foliage makes the clusters of tiny, rosy purple flowers stand out at close range. The blooms, which occur most heavily in spring and summer, return sporadically the rest of the year. This plant is excellent for stabilizing soil on slopes because its stem nodes root wherever they come in contact with the ground.
Summer-long bloom and a tough constitution make the mat-forming ice plant a perfect groundcover. Two-inch magenta blossoms with white anthers are produced in midsummer and late summer.
Fringed flowers in shades of bright red with white centers open without fragrance in summer.
Long silvery stems, sometimes reaching 4 feet or more, bear silvery, small leaves. Use this striking plant as a groundcover or in containers.
This hybrid produces masses of pure white bracts above finely textured, apple green foliage. It adds stunning texture and color to a border in partial shade.
This hybrid has petite green-and-cream variegated foliage with a hint of pink on the undersides. It produces chartreuse and apple green bicolored bracts on airy stems.
This species is similar to E. myrsinites, but its habit is first erect before spreading, and its steely blue leaves are more narrow and pointed. It also bears terminal yellow bracts from early spring to summer.
This evergreen foliage plant has large, leathery leaves and daisy-like yellow flowers. It looks great in the border or in containers.
This sturdy groundcover is fast becoming one of the most dependable grasses for creating drought-tolerant meadows. Clumping evergreen foliage is a rich khaki green and grows in an arching clump. The flowers, while noticeable, are not showy. Atlas fescue is at its best in groups and grows in all but hot, humid, and low desert climates.
This cultivar boasts single, long-tubed, brick red flowers and dark bronze-red leaves and stems.
'Wargrave Pink' is a vigorous perennial suitable for groundcover. The notched, funnel-shaped, salmon-pink flowers bloom all season.
Q&A Ground covers to avoid
by Nancy Ondra
Planting Ground Covers
Proper spacing and regular care are the best ways to create a lush, weed-free carpet
by Mary Hirshfeld
Flowering Ground Covers
To blanket an area small or large, these are the perennials to pick
by Nancy Ondra
Dividing a ground cover
by Liana Mackey
Plants for Pathways
These durable creeping perennials discourage weeds and soften the look of a walkway
by Marty Wingate
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