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This woodland plant is valued for its flowers and its heart-shaped, ground-covering leaves. Its small blue flowers go nicely with ephemeral bulbs in mid- to late spring, as the enlarging leaves block out the ripening bulb foliage. 'Jack Frost' can take dry summers and wet winters. This cultivar is prized for its improved tolerance of heat and sun. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
This woodland plant is valued for its flowers and heart-shaped, groundcovering leaves. 'Langtrees' can take dry summers and wet winters. This cultivar is prized for its improved tolerance of heat and sun.
This brunnera cultivar has a silvery, heart-shaped leaves that are mostly everygreen. Delicate blue flowers emerge in spring. Drought tolerant once established, ‘Looking Glass’ brunnera requires little watering and is fairly resistant to pests. This cultivar grows to a little more than a foot tall and almost as wide. Use it in a woodland or shade garden, in a container, or at waterside. -Sylvia Matlock, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
'Ice Dance' is a dense, spreading sedge grown for its foliage. This sedge looks good year round, even in winter.The early-spring flowers are insignificant, but the white-edged leaves complement most other plants. Grow as a groundcover in woodland areas or in a shade garden. This sedge is evergreen in warm climates. -Jane Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
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.
'Silver Dragon' lilyturf features thick, tufted evergreen clumps of linear silver and white leaves with a shimmering silver stripe running down the arching blades. Dense spikes of violet-mauve flowers are borne on purple-green stems in autumn, maturing to black berries.
Lilyturf is a great choice for problem sites, such as the dry shade under a tree canopy. 'Variegata' is a vibrant, grass-like plant with green foliage, striped with cream. Leaves are wider and more blunt at their tip than grasses, and in warmer climates, the foliage persists through the winter. Clumps run from 1 to 1-1/2 feet tall and half again as wide. Spikes of small blue-violet flowers appear in late September and are followed by dark purple berries. -Lou Anella, Regional Picks: Southern Plains, Fine Gardening issue #127
Dwarf white-stripe has 5-inch-long, upward-pointing green leaves strongly variegated with white. It grows up to 3 feet tall in either sun or shade, forming a striking contrast to less flamboyant neighbors.
This bamboo has showy variegated leaves of green and gold in an irregular pattern of stripes. It is a running bamboo, making it good for naturalizing and filling in or for hedging, but it may need to be controlled by underground barriers. It grows to about 5 feet high.
Gracefully arching 2 to 3-foot tall burgundy stems support narrow leaves streaked in pure white. From late spring to early summer, this species bears white flowers that mature into spherical black fruit in autumn, when the foliage turns a golden yellow. Variegated Solomon's seal is a fine choice for a shady bed. -Matt Griswold, Regional Picks: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #27
Cooks and gardeners alike are indebted to this evergreen perennial for the unique, pungent flavor and aroma that its gray-green leaves produce. This cultivar has ornamental value, too—green leaves with white margins which are suffused with pink or purple. It forms a 1- to 1.5-foot-tall and wide bush with woody stems that may be trimmed back to newly emerging growth or strong stems in spring. In early to mid-summer, it sends up lavender-purple flower spikes; it has both ornamental and culinary qualities in an herb garden. It is tolerant of alkaline soils, but cannot survive wet winter conditions.
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 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.
The leaves of this clump-forming variety look as if they have been dusted by a fine mist of pink, cream, and green. It is a rebloomer, and in spring it produces a profusion of fragrant light pink flowers on spires that can reach 15 inches, rising above the foliage which grows to about 6 inches tall and wide.
This species blooms in early to mid-spring with large blossoms of white, yellow, or deep purple-black. It is vigorous, growing to almost 18 inches tall and wide, with leaves (usually mottled) up to 8 inches long.
This striking spring-blooming species features narrow, chocolate-colored petals that twist like a propeller over slightly mottled leaves. It forms a stocky plant, growing to 10-15 inches tall and not quite as wide.
Great for brightening up a shady spot, this ground-hugging, evergreen, trailing groundcover has dark green leaves with yellowish-white edges. Its texture is coarser than V. minor. This plant grows to 18 inches and spreads indefinitely. Blue flowers appear in spring. It can be used as an annual in cold climates. It is not quite as hardy as the popular Vinca minor and is not quite as aggressive either.
Like other creeping myrtles, 'Illumination' is a tough evergreen ground cover for shade that will grow in almost any soil. Its hallmark is its bright gold leaves that are edged with a border of irregular green. Periwinkle-blue flowers appear in spring. Use 'Illumination' as a shade ground cover or in hanging baskets. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
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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