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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
Dianthus 'Bath's Pink' is a stunning, wide-spreading ground cover with grassy, blue-green foliage and pink flowers. Use it to edge a bed or grow it in your rock garden for a splash of cool color. To keep its blooms going, be sure to deadhead.
Early in the season, the thin, heart-shaped leaves of this plant have a red tinge, which turns to bronze in fall. Plant red epimedium along a path, where its delicate foliage and tiny spring flowers can be admired. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
This cultivar has a compact, bushy habit to 20 inches tall and purple-red flushed leaves, especially on new growth and in winter. It produces yellow bracts in mid-spring and early summer.
This notable species produces erect stems of bronzy burgundy leaves and purple-green bracts in early summer. It looks exceptional when placed near contrasting plants. The foliage may be cut back after flowering to produce fresh growth.
Perfectly round, puckered, bright-gold leaves have a pattern resembling seersucker fabric. Pale-lavender flowers appear in early summer.
This upright selection reaches 24 inches tall and 44 to 48 inches wide. 'Fort Knox' has an elegant vase-shaped habit and radiant yellowish-gold leaves 10 inches long by 6 inches wide. Lavender flowers appear in midsummer.
A robust, clump-forming perennial, 'Piedmont Gold' has prominently veined, wavy-margined, bright-gold leaves 10 inches long by 7 inches wide. It reaches an average height of 18 to 25 inches tall and 40 inches wide. White flowers on 26-inch stems appear in midsummer.
'Blue Star' jumiper is a slow-growing, compact, evergreen shrub with a mounding shape. Its silver blue foliage is attractive in all seasons, and its blue, berry-like, female cones each contain one seed, hence its common name.
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 leaves suffused with steely-gray purple. It forms a 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 tolerates alkaline soils, but cannot survive wet winter conditions.
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 clump-forming variety has very dramatic, deeply cut foliage with wide black veins that looks like a black snowflake when new. The dark color is more pronounced in cool weather. Plants produce a profusion of starry white flowers on numerous spires up to 12 inches high and grow to about a foot wide. Tiarellas are at home in moist woodland environments. In the garden they make wonderful carpets of intricate leaves. For a long period from spring into summer, the profusion of foamy flowers can be appreciated up close or from a distance. Grow 'Black Snowflake' as a groundcover or edger in a shady border or woodland garden. It is a great foil to early spring bulbs.
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 clump-forming variety has unusually long, maple-shaped leaves with a chocolate-colored overlay. It is topped in spring by 16-inch spires of pink buds which yield to wispy, starlike ivory flowers. Plants rebloom lightly, so they can flower from spring to mid-summer. 'Mint Chocolate' grows to about 16 inches tall and a foot wide.
This clump-forming variety has exquisitely textured, bright green maple-like leaves emblazoned with chocolate centers. In spring, its large pink-kissed-white flowers rebloom lightly on 16-inch stalks. Leaf coloration is best in cool weather. Plants grow to about a foot wide.
This reblooming, clump-forming variety blooms in spring, producing 15-inch spires densely packed with pink blossoms. Its deeply cut foliage is compact, with black markings along the midrib. Plants grow to about 10 inches tall and wide.
A good choice for winter color, this clump-forming variety is often grown for its long lasting, pink-budded white flowers that appear in late spring on 12-inch spires. Its star-shaped leaves are marked with burgundy and, in mild climates, turn bronze in winter. Plants grow to about 1 foot tall and wide.
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.
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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