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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 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.
Covering itself with glowing fuchsia daisy-like flowers with many narrow petals, 'John Proffit' makes a beautiful groundcover or container plant. The succulent foliage looks like it has small pieces of ice on it (hence the name "ice plant') and is evergreen in warmer climates. Growing to only a few inches tall, it can spread almost 2 feet wide. It blooms from late spring to early fall.
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 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 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 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.
This thyme grows to 6 inches tall, with fuzzy stems and tiny, rounded, fuzzy blue-green leaves. In summer, it produces clusters of very small white to lilac-pink flowers. Plants spread to about 9 inches wide. The leaves are aromatic but the strength of their scent varies according to the plant's site and the time of year.
Woolly thyme—the wooliest of all thymes—forms a dense ground-covering mat of tiny, densely hairy leaves. The foliage has barely any fragrance and is unsuitable for culinary use. In summer, tiny pink tubular flowers appear. Plants grow to only one inch or so in height and spread to about a foot across.
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.
This dense, mat-forming species has 3-inch-tall evergreen foliage with toothed gray leaves. Its saucer-shaped flowers are deep blue with white eyes, and they bloom from early spring to summer. It is drought tolerant and makes a good groundcover. In garden sites, it needs protection from winter moisture.
'Georgia Blue' forms beautiful mats of purple-tinged leaves. In spring, this free-flowering groundcover boasts abundant iridescent blue flowers. It grows to about 9 inches high and a foot wide. It is a vigorous and easy-to-grow cultivar.
This native perennial wildflower of the American Southwest bears a profusion of bright yellow to golden yellow flowers atop 4-inch high plants that spread to 15 inches wide. They bloom from late summer into fall.
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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