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This New Zealand native subshrub has 3-inch-wide scalloped leaves and little purple-brown to pale olive leaflets. Its rhizomatous roots spread in a mat to support this plant's wonderful ground-cover form. In early summer, 3/4-inch-wide flowers appear on short stems, and brownish green sepals and white anthers contrast with the dark leaves. The rhizomatous roots of this plant spread slowly into a mat, forming a nice ground cover. Prune every five years or so for a neat appearance; little other care is required. -Gerald Gibbens, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
This wild ginger is an evergreen groundcover with heart-shaped, shiny leaves that are often marbled. Its interesting brown-purple flowers hide beneath the foliage.
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 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.
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.
'Minimus' has smaller leaves than other plants of the species and a very low-growing, spreading habit. This evergreen shrub is best used as a groundcover, but it can climb as a vine if given support. It forms a dense mat of quarter-inch leaves. It may suffer winter burn in cold climates.
This beautiful, mounded, dwarf perennial has gray-green leaves (grayer than the species) and large, purplish pink flowers with purple veins and eyes.
This twining perennial has evergreen, oval or rounded, mid- to dark green leaves. Fragrant, 6-inch white blooms appear in early summer to fall, opening in early evening.
A mass of small purple leaves and abundant golden yellow, bell-shaped flowers distinguish this groundcover. It is useful on slopes as well as in containers.
Nuda is one of the hardiest bamboos. New culms emerge purplish green, eventually lightening to match the leaf color. This is a running bamboo, so take precautions for restraint. Though it is reluctant to spread into very dry soils, it is resistant to some drought.
This prostrate evergreen species produces a mass of richly textured leaves, making it an attractive groundcover for formal areas, rock gardens, or woodland beds. The leaves are thick, neatly rounded and formed, with bronzy undersides and autumn color that persists through the winter. In summer, it bears white flowers, which are sometimes followed by red fruits.
This Japanese native is perfect for the rock garden. It is a compact species with blue-green foliage and pink stems, and bears purplish-red flowers in fall. Sedum cauticola grows to about 3 inches tall and a foot wide.
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 is a vigorous, mat-forming evergreen species with small gray-green leaves and terminal clusters of star-shaped, vibrant yellow flowers in summer. The drooping buds face upward when they open. It grows to 4 inches tall and 2 feet across.
This vigorous, mat-forming, evergreen species has electric golden-yellow foliage that holds its color through the heat of summer. The foliage tips sometimes develop an orangey hue. In June and July, 'Angelina' has terminal clusters of star-shaped, vibrant yellow flowers. The drooping buds face upward when they open and the plant can grow to 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide. It is superlative as a groundcover, spilling over rock walls, and in containers. It also makes an excellent accent for plants with dark foliage.
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 compact, evergreen subshrub has glossy, dark green leaves and grows to only 5 inches tall and 16 inches wide. It bears long-lasting, lavender flowers, and it is a great choice for low edging or for a rock garden.
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.
One of the first thymes to flower each year, this charming and reliable cultivar bursts into bloom in early spring with unique salmon-pink flowers. Its fuzzy olive-green foliage forms a mat 1 to 2 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It is one of the most tolerant of thymes of dry conditions, but grows robustly with plenty of water.
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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