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This cool-season grass begins the season with bright green blades. In late summer and early fall, it produces silvery inflorescences which complement its golden-hued autumn foliage and persist throughout the winter.
'Purple Heart' is a trailing, tender perennial with purple stems and violet-purple leaves that produces pink flowers in summer. This plant is mainly grown for its foliage (leaves can reach 7 inches in length); best color is achieved in bright sunlight and a dry, cramped root zone. It is excellent as a groundcover or in containers or hanging baskets. It grows 8-12 inches tall and 16 inches wide.
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 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.
The lacy leaves of this meadow rue look like a columbine's, hence the common and scientific names. But the leaves are actually gray-green and more delicate than its namesake. It bears clusters of long-lasting cottony flowers in shades of lilac, purple, or white in early summer. It is suitable for naturalizing in a meadow or woodland. These perennials grow to about 3 feet tall and half as wide.
This species has exquisite tiny foliage that looks somewhat like parsley but with a steely blue cast. The leaves clothe stems that reach up to 18 inches in height. In early summer, it bears tiny greenish yellow flowers in starlike clusters. Plants grow to about 18 inches wide.
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.
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.
'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.
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 running cultivar has notably large light-pink flowers that appear in spring and then rebloom. It has a compact habit with maple-like leaves marked with burgundy centers. Foliage turns bronze in the fall. Plants grow to about 14 inches tall and slightly wider.
This cultivar of the North American species has reddish, deeply lobed, oak-like leaves that mature to dark green with burgundy splashes. From late spring to early summer it produces a profusion of starry pink flowers for up to 8 weeks. Plants grow to about 18 inches tall and wide.
This luminous hybrid bears unspotted, orchid-like lavender flowers with yellow-throated bases. It has unusually large and clean leaves, which look great all season. It grows up to 3 feet tall, although its lovely, almost weeping, habit keeps the plant's height closer to 2 or 2.5 feet. It grows to about 3 feet wide. Toad lilies make subtle but exotic specimens for woodland borders and other shady sites.
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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