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This woody-stemmed perennial produces sticky spikes of deep violet or, rarely, white to pink flowers. It blooms from early summer to autumn; reblooming is most reliable if spent flowers are deadheaded promptly. It has wrinkled leaves and forms an upright clump 3 feet tall by 1 foot wide. This salvia is most noted for its many hybirds with S. nemerosa.
Saruma henryi is as sublime as it is uncommon. Its velvety leaves and distinctively shaped, soft yellow flowers make it a superb specimen in a shady border, where it can contrast with more finely textured plants.
Little bluestem is a tidy, finely textured clumping grass with a blue-green summer color. Its silvery seed heads rise to a height of nearly 2 feet in late summer and are at their best when backlit in the morning or afternoon sun. In fall, the grass turns a rosy rust color that lasts all winter.
This tough, drought-tolerant species has glossy deep green leaves and, in early summer, half-inch golden yellow flowers that open from pink buds. It grows to about 6 inches tall and a little wider and makes a good groundcover.
This variety is more compact than the species, and its leaves are variegated with creamy margins. In late spring to summer, its star-shaped yellow flowers open from pink buds and mature to crimson. It grows to just 4 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
This low-growing sedum has dependable, dark bronzy green foliage and prolific flowering. New spring growth is a welcome, cheerful red. Prolific, star-shaped flowers are golden yellow with pinkish orange overtones and cover the plant twice during the growing season. Plants grow to just 2-4 inches tall and 10 inches wide.
This mat-forming species forms a carpet of rosy-red flowers in late July and August, contrasting against green leaves with bronzy-maroon highlights.
This shade-loving perennial produces plumes of creamy white blossoms in spring, followed by mottled yellowish-green berries that turn to deep red. The fragrant, ivory white blossoms occur on the ends of arching branches, distinguishing them from true Solomon's seal (Polygonatum). The plant grows to 3 feet high and 2 feet wide.
'Goldrush' heralds the coming of fall with masses of tiny, yellow flowers for four weeks in August and September. Its compact size—about a foot tall—makes it a great candidate for a rock garden or border edge.
This is the first goldenrod to bloom, featuring bright yellow, plume-like panicles in midsummer. It has dark green leaves along reddish stems, which form a vase-shaped clump when mature.
This is one of the smallest species of goldenrod, topping out at only 4 to 6 inches high in poor soils, and 2 feet high in fertile soils. It is considered a garden-worthy species, with gray-green leaves that form clumps and languid, one-sided yellow plumes. It is tolerant of both sandy and clay soils.
This low-growing, clump-forming shrub has a spreading habit, reaching 10 inches tall. Slender branches spread across the ground. Foliage is light blue-green to 1 inch long. In late June, this plant bears clusters of pink flowers; bloom continues into September if deadheaded.
The finely textured, green leaves of this slow-growing, clump-forming perennial turn golden yellow in autumn. It bears cloudy panicles of fragrant, pale-pink to tawny flowers 5 to 10 inches long in late summer, reaching 3 feet tall.
This mat-forming perennial has rosettes of furry, silvery-gray leaves to 4 inches long. In summer, it bears gray spikes tipped with tiny, pink-purple or violet flowers. This plant crowds out weeds. 'Silver Carpet' is a non-flowering cultivar. 'Big Ears' has 8- to 12-inch-long, grayish-white felted, mid-green leaves.
This decidous, thicket-forming shrub has attractive wavy-margined leaves that resemble maple leaves and have good orange-yellow fall color. Cutleaf stephanandra grows to less than 2 feet tall but spreads by suckering. Flowers are unremarkable at a distance, but attractive close-up. In winter, the rich brown, arching shoots draw the eye.
Chenault coralberry is an undemanding workhorse. This 2-foot-tall shrub spreads about 10 feet without causing any trouble. It does an excellent job of covering ground and smothering weeds while eliminating erosion. In late summer, small pink flowers appear and are followed by rosy red fruit.
This prolific cultivar has dark green foliage and bears nodding blue flowers from mauve buds. It grows to a compact height of 18 inches tall. It may become invasive and difficult to eradicate once established.
In early- to mid-summer, this mat-forming thyme erupts with masses of 6-inch-high spikes covered with pink flowers. The light green, tiny foliage, hugging the ground in mats, has a pleasing lemon fragrance when crushed. This plant shines when spilling over stone walls or between the cracks in paving stones, where passersby can tread on the leaves and release the lemony scent.
This plant is an elegant addition to an herb or ornamental garden. It has lemon-scented green leaves edged in silver and produces lilac flowers in early summer.
'Annie Hall' forms a prostrate mat with small, narrow leaves and is covered with pale purple-pink flowers in late spring. Plants can grow to 10 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
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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