Ground cover plants

Perennials and shrubs that form an attractive carpet can be put to good use in the garden, especially when looking for low-maintenance options.

Introduction

Many plants are low-growing and spreading in habit and may be termed ground-cover, but the prime requisite of a good ground cover plant is to provide a rapid, dense cover, to suppress germination and development of weed seeds and to eliminate the need for weed control measures. Such plants are usually evergreens or have densely twiggy growth.

 

Practical considerations

Whatever ground-covering plants are used, some weed control will be necessary until the young plants have established and formed a cover (good soil fertility is therefore very important). They will also need to be kept watered during dry spells in the first season or two, especially if positioned under trees.

 

Suitable plants

Suggested spacings for each plant are given below.

Mound forming and prostrate shrubs

Deciduous shrubs:
Cotoneaster horizontalis: 60cm (2ft) apart
Cytisus scoparius subsp. maritimus: 90cm (3ft) apart
Genista hispanica: 60cm (2ft) apart
Potentilla fruticosa ‘Manchu’: 90cm (3ft) apart
Rosa Flower Carpet series: 90cm (3ft) apart

Evergreen shrubs:
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi: 30cm (1ft) apart, acid soils only
Berberis candidula: 90cm (3ft) apart
Calluna vulgaris and cvs.: 45–60cm (1½–2ft) apart, acid soils only
Cistus salviifolius ‘Prostratus’ (milder areas): 60cm (2ft) apart
Cotoneaster conspicuus ‘Decorus’ AGM: 60cm (2ft) apart
Cotoneaster dammeri AGM, C. salicifolius ‘Gnom’: 60cm (2ft) apart
Cotoneaster × suecicus ‘Skogholm’: 90cm–1.2m (3–4ft) apart
Erica carnea and cvs.: 45–60cm (1½–2ft) apart, acid soils only
Erica vagans and cvs.: 60cm (2ft) apart, acid soils only
Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ AGM: 90cm (3ft) apart
Gaultheria procumbens AGM, G. mucronata: 60cm (2ft) apart, acid soils only
Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’ AGM: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Helianthemum ‘Rhodanthe Carneum’ AGM, H. ‘Wisley Primrose’ AGM: 60cm (2ft) apart
Juniperus sabina ‘Tamariscifolia’, Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Carpet’ AGM: 1.2m (4ft) apart
Juniperus × pfitzeriana, J. rigida subsp. conferta: 90cm (3ft) apart
Prunus laurocerasus ‘Zabeliana’, P. laurocerasus ‘Otto Luykens’ AGM: 90cm–1.2m (3–4ft) apart
Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’ AGM: 1.5m (5ft) apart
Rubus ‘Betty Ashburner’, R. tricolor: 45cm (1½ft) apart

Perennial plants

Herbaceous perennials:
Alchemilla mollis AGM: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Bergenia ‘Morgenröte’: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Cornus canadensis AGM: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ AGM: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Geranium × riversleaianum ‘Russel Prichard’: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Symphytum ibericum : 45cm (1½ft) apart

Evergreen perennials:
Epimedium perralderianum: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Persicaria affinis ‘Darjeeling Red’ AGM: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Waldsteinia ternata: 45cm (1½ft) apart

Creeping, suckering, spreading and thicket forming plants

Herbaceous:
Ajuga reptans ‘Caitlin’s Giant’: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Galium odoratum: 30cm (1ft) apart
Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’: 90cm (3ft) apart

Evergreen:
Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’: 60cm (2ft) apart
Fragaria vesca ‘Semperflorens’: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’ AGM, H. hibernica AGM: 90cm (3ft) apart
Hypericum calycinum: 45-60cm (1½-2ft) apart
Lamium galeobdolon, L. maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’: 60–90cm (2–3ft) apart
Leucothoe fontanesiana AGM: 90cm (3ft) apart, acid soils only
Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Mahonia aquifolium: 60–90cm (2–3ft) apart
Pachysandra terminalis AGM: 30cm (1ft) apart, acid moist soils only
Rubus ‘Betty Ashburner’, R. tricolor: 45cm (1½ft) apart
Vaccinium vitis-idaea: 60cm (2ft) apart, acid soils only
Vinca minor: 60cm (2ft) apart


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