When we imagine how an ideal garden should look like, we rarely allow for patches of brown or exposed soil. Unless we are planning to include a trailing path, the ideal is usually to cover as much as possible with lush greens and brightly-colored flowers. Here are the low growing shrubs for ground cover.
In that sense, ground cover plants rarely get the love that grass lawns do, despite being much more environmentally friendly. Yet, many low-growing shrubs can offer thicker coverage with a more complex visual interest. They can even prevent erosion and are easier to maintain than turfgrass. So why not give them a try?
What makes a shrub good for ground cover?
If we truly want to replace grass with a ground-covering shrub, then we need something easy to grow, resilient, and that can form a thick layer over a large patch of dirt. For best results, the shrub should be evergreen, and if the plant grows during the winter, even better.
So what are some low growing shrubs for ground cover? The answer is creeping phlox, wintercreeper, creeping thyme, candytuft, and bearberry. Many other creeping vines will provide your lawn with a beautiful old-world aged appeal, but as they are not strictly shrubs, we will not be talking about them today.
Great Low Growing Shrubs for Ground Cover
Let’s take a closer look at these species. This will help you decide what to order at the local greenhouse
Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)
Thanks to its lime green foliage and delicate flowers, creeping phlox can make any dead patch look like it’s out of a fantasy story. It has white, pink, purple, and blue flowers in pastel tones, which all bloom in spring.
The creeping phlox can reach a height of up to 5 feet. It can handle many different soil conditions, but it prefers a well-draining, moist one. If possible, place them somewhere with full morning sun.
Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)
This drought-tolerant shrub can grow several feet per season. It is a great choice if you want something that can also climb up walls and fences, but without the damage caused by English Ivy.
It has beautiful variegated leaves that range from deep green to lime yellow. It is also one of the hardiest plants on this list, as it can resist very cold winters and hot summers alike. Its weak spot, however, is root rot, so make sure not to overwater it.
Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum coccineus)
A close cousin to one of everybody’s favourite kitchen herbs, creeping thyme is a great choice if you live in a relatively hot region. It is also pretty drought resistant and can thrive in places with low rainfall.
Perhaps more importantly, its purple flowers can easily blanket a wide area and have a very soothing smell. This is also a low-maintenance shrub: you just need to prune it in early spring to guide its growth.
Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
Due to its aromatic properties and pointy leaves, this evergreen shrub is often placed near sun porches and terraces. It is also great if you want to add a little bit of winter magic to your garden: the leaves tend to appear a bit blue during the summer, but acquire a red-gold tint in the winter.
A single creeping juniper can grow up to 8 feet wide as long as it has access to full sun and draining soil. It also has deep, wide-spreading roots that can prevent erosion around hills and inclines.
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Candytuft is usually recognized due to its tiny white flowers, which look almost like snowflakes, and constantly green leaves. The contrasting looks can look beautiful when it blooms, which it tends to do throughout spring and early summer.
This is also a very low-maintenance plant that can spread very quickly. It prefers full sun and will flower more when it has access to it, but it is relatively shade-resistant.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Bearberry is usually best-known for its medicinal properties, as it was long believed that its berries could help treat cystitis. The jury is still out with regards to its medicinal benefits, but our gardening experts are unanimously fond of its creamy pink flowers.
Bearberry is not as fast to grow as wintercreeper or thyme. However, its shiny foliage makes up for it. After flowering in May, it grows small red berries that will attract local birds and the occasional squirrel. It prefers moist soil and can handle cold and frost with ease.
Some shrub varieties work great as ground cover plants: they often grow well unattended, add a dash of color during spring, and contribute to your garden’s ecosystem.