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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 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.
"Thorny but irresistible" best describes this low-maintenance, elfin barberry. Tiny leaves are smothered in coral-colored buds opening to bright yellow-orange spring flowers. These, in turn, produce silver-frosted, blue-black berries in fall. 'Corallina Compacta' is evergreen, tolerates most soil types, and is pest-free and drought tolerant once established.
'Spring Torch' gets its name from the vibrant color of its new growth in spring. The mid-green leaves are tipped in shades of cream, orange, and red. Later in the summer, mauve-pink flower spikes cover the plant and last into the fall. As cold weather sets in, leaves acquire bronze or purple tones, adding further interest. This small, mounding evergreen shrub makes a good groundcover or rock garden plant. Bees love it. Different cultivars are beautiful woven together in the garden to form a colorful tapestry.
One look at ‘Texas Scarlet’ flowering quince in bloom and most gardeners are instantly sold. Though the display only lasts a week or two in early spring, the sight of the tomato-red flowers is unforgettable. During the rest of the season, ‘Texas Scarlet’ remains a wave of glossy green leaves that reaches 2 to 3 feet tall in the toughest of conditions.
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 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.
This compact, low-growing, and self-rooting deciduous shrub is useful as an underplanting or ground cover. Its shiny dense foliage turns a brilliant red in the fall and requires little or no pruning.
This deciduous shrub has a spreading habit and branches that form a herringbone pattern. Its glossy, dark green leaves turn red in autumn.White flowers tinged with pink appear in late spring and mature to bright red, round fruit.
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.
This compact variety performs well as a groundcover and is an excellent choice for the mixed border or rock garden.
'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.
Prostrate to mound-forming, vigorous evergreen shrubs have oval, toothed, dark green leaves. Cultivars vary in foliage color and variegation, form, climbing or creeping habit, and fall interest.
Like other cultivars of this genus, 'Courtasol' is as tough as nails. The biggest difference from the rest, however, lies in its form. The stems reach to only 18 inches tall before arching down to the ground and running along to yield a 5-foot-wide spread. Its grapefruit yellow flowers appear in early spring.
This cultivar boasts single, long-tubed, brick red flowers and dark bronze-red leaves and stems.
This cultivar has dark green leaves with a faint bronze sheen. Its narrow, dangling, red and purple flowers bloom throughout the season.
This is a bushy, deciduous shrub with upright branches. Purple-flushed green leaves grow up to 4 inches long and are mildly resin scented when bruised. 'Albury Purple' bears stalked, star-shaped or cupped yellow flowers, up to 11 per cluster on distinctive 2-edged stems. Round, red berry-like fruit follows.
'Brigadoon' is a new St. John's wort with brilliant chartreuse-yellow foliage that looks great next to dark-foliaged plants. It grows 12 to 16 inches tall and spreads quickly to about 2 feet wide, making it an excellent groundcover when planted in groups. In the sun, the small, oval leaves turn a dazzling orange-gold. The fuzzy, rather inconspicuous yellow flowers appear in midsummer. 'Brigadoon' tolerates heat, most any type of well-drained soil, and shade.
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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