Home » Home » 15 Best Perennial Groundcovers for Flower Gardens

15 Best Perennial Groundcovers for Flower Gardens

If you have a bare patch of ground and are looking for the right plant to fill it in, I’ve gathered my favorite groundcovers to help you find the best option for your space! Read on to find the best perennial groundcovers for sun and shade and why to use them.

Groundcovers are low-growing plants that spread to fill pockets of space in flower beds, under trees, and even in pathways. The right ground cover can make any space cozier and more inviting, adding warmth, texture, and a touch of personality. They also offer a variety of functional benefits!

Finding the right groundcover for your landscape can be a little tricky, especially considering different hardiness zones, lighting needs, and soil conditions. However, there are plenty of great options to consider, and you’ll find the perfect choice for sunny, shady, and mixed-light spaces below. 

Beautiful perennial flower garden featuring creeping thyme.
Creeping Thyme in a Perennial Flower Garden in Colorado

Benefits of Perennial Groundcovers

Erosion control – Groundcovers can lock in moisture the shallow roots will hold the soil in place, reducing soil erosion, especially on steep slopes or in new construction.

Crowd out weeds – As groundcovers spread, they’ll block out other weeds and keep your garden beds looking beautiful all summer long.

Add texture and detail – Groundcovers add a sense of design and give any garden a unique look and feel. When done right, I love the look of a groundcover meandering through a flower garden.

Soften your step – Although not all groundcovers can tolerate a lot of foot traffic, some can be used as a grass alternative between pavers or at the edges of a lawn. Some of my favorite walkable groundcovers include:

  • Veronica
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Irish Moss

Great lawn alternatives – If you struggle to grow grass in your climate, look for a native groundcover that can tolerate growing even in rocky or sandy soils. 

Low maintenance – Most groundcovers don’t require as much watering or mowing as regular grass, which can make them much more convenient and a great alternative to a conventional lawn. 

Great for pollinators – flowering groundcovers can offer important food for pollinators, which can benefit your whole garden.

Save this Pin to Your Favorite Gardening Board

Image of a landscape with text overlay - 15 Easy to Grow Ground Covers for Your Flower Garden

General Warnings for Perennial Ground Cover Plants

There are a few things to consider before you add a groundcover to your landscape. 

They spread. This is the nature of groundcovers – they cover the ground. This means the plants will grow in clusters and often push out other plants. 

May be invasive. Some groundcovers are considered invasive, like Snow on the Mountain or Lily-on-the-Valley, and should not be planted. It’s important to check your specific area to make sure the plant is well-adapted to your region and won’t become invasive.

Hazardous to trees. Vining plants, in particular, can grow up trees and potentially choke them out, which can be hazardous to trees.

Best Groundcovers for Full Sun

Irish Moss

Irish Moss is a low-maintenance, grass-like groundcover with tiny white flowers from mid spring to mid summer. It’s very short reaching only 2 inches at maturity. Irish Moss is a perfect plant to add to a fairy garden. It’s hardy down to zone 4.

Groundcover - Irish Moss
Irish Moss Closeup

Sedum

Sedum or stonecrop plants look similar to succulents but are generally easier to grow. There are hundreds of varieties, including some that are short enough to raise as groundcovers! They do need good drainage and full sun, but they tend to be very forgiving and can even tolerate some rough conditions. Plus, they have shallow root systems that make them easy to remove if needed. There are many options to choose from. A few of my favorites are John Creech and Lemon Ball. Most sedum plants are hardy in zones 3-9, but be sure to check your particular variety. 

Flowering John Creech stonecrop groundcover.
John Creech Stonecrop with Blue Uniform Campanula

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme hails from the Mediterranean and loves dry, sunny locations with similar growing conditions, but it can tolerate deep freezing conditions, too. It’s known for its fuzzy leaves that grow into a dense mat and fragrant flowers that smell lemony when you step on them. This is a good choice for people with bright, sunny areas and who want to add a sensory experience to their garden. Creeping Thyme grows slowly in the first year and reaches full size around three years old. It’s best suited to zones 4-9.

Creeping Thyme in a rose garden.

Veronica

Veronica, or thyme leaf speedwell, is a fantastic flowering ground cover that is very low-growing, usually maxing out at just 3 inches. It’s ideal for filling in gaps between pavers or adding extra color to your flower bed. There are many different varieties, but I’m partial to how the blue-violet flowers from the ‘Tidal Pool’ pool together, especially in flower beds. Other varieties, like ‘Turkish Veronica,’ are even shorter and look amazing spilling out of garden beds or growing between pavers. 

Tidal Pool Veronica groundcover with tiny blue flowers.
Veronica Groundcover – Tidal Pool

Veronica plants are quite durable and can withstand being stepped on. They grow well in zones 4-8 and can handle different soil types, but they need to be well-draining. 

Shade-Loving Groundcover Perennials

Sweet Woodruff

Also known as Galium odoratum, sweet woodroof is beloved for its sweet, herbaceous scent with small star-shaped flowers that add a delicate, romantic look. It prefers partial shade, and the palm-shaped leaves stay green all year long except in the coldest areas.

Perennial groundcover - Sweet Woodruff
Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff is known for spreading quickly, even in the deep shade, so you should see significant growth from just one growing season. This is a great plant for planting under trees especially, and it grows well in zones 4-9.

Corydalis

There are many different varieties of corydalis. I introduced the beautiful, low-growing yellow corydalis lutea to one of my shade gardens several years ago and I’ve enjoyed its dainty yellow blooms every since then.

Ground cover, Corydalis, in a hosta garden.
Yellow Corydalis in a hosta garden.

Although Corydalis is difficult to start from seed, it readily reseeds in the garden. It is however, easy to remove and share with other gardeners. Once it starts blooming in the spring, it blooms the entire summer. It is native to Europe and is hardy in zones 4-8.

Wild Geranium

These pretty pink flowers are native to the Eastern United States and can make a great groundcover in moist, rich soils. The serrated green leaves stay green most of the year and they prefer to grow in conditions similar to the forest floor with lots of shade.

Beautiful flowering wild geranium in a shade garden.
Wild Geranium in a shade garden.

There are also many cultivars of perennial geranium (cranesbill), many of which are long-blooming. Geranium (not to be confused with the annual flower) is perennial in zones 3-8, making it ideal for people in cooler climates.

Max Frei cranesbill with bright pink flowers in a flower garden.
Cranesbill – Max Frei

Pachysandra

This Japanese plant is related to the boxwood plant and adds evergreen foliage to any shady spot. It’s important to know that this plant can crowd out native plants and become invasive in some areas, especially the Midatlantic states. Be sure to keep it contained, or choose a non-invasive option.

Groundcover, pachysandra in a shade garden.
Pachysandra behaving itself in a shade garden.

I debated whether or not to even add pachysandra to this list of groundcovers. Although I would never plant it in my gardens, it can serve a purpose in a dry shade location where nothing else will grow. Pachysandra is suited to USA Hardiness Zones 4-9.

Wild Ginger

The bold green leaves of wild ginger are very pleasing to look at with their rounded, heart-shaped form. Ginger grows low to the ground, generally reaching no more than a foot tall, with some varieties being much shorter. It produces very small maroon-colored flowers that open towards the ground to invite pollinators. You generally can’t see the flowers unless you look for them. Wild Ginger is a great option for zones 4-8 with full or part shade and moist soil that drains well.

Wild Ginger plant.
Wild Ginger

Dwarf Mondo Grass

Only 4-6 inches tall, dwarf mondo grass (a/k/a dwarf lilyturf) is a great ground cover that adds texture and can even handle some foot traffic. It’s very low maintenance with its evergreen leaves that add dark green foliage all year long and even produce small white flowers in partial shade. It prefers warm environments in zones 6-11, so it’s best for people in warm climates.

Dwarf mondo grass
Dwarf Mondo Grass

Perennial Groundcovers for Sun & Shade

Vinca Minor Vine 

This Mediterranean native absolutely loves full sun and it likewise loves shade. Like other vines, it drapes and spreads even over uneven areas, showing off its iconic blue-purple flowers.

Perennial vinca vine (a/k/a periwinkle)
Vinca Vine (a/k/a Periwinkle or Creeping Myrtle)

Vinca Vine is another ground cover that I contemplated including in this list. The plants can outgrow your growing area quite easily and become invasive, so watch the runners and trim them back at least once per year. For this reason, I would not include it in a flower bed, but keep it by itself on a slope to control erosion, or under a tree where nothing else will grow. Because of it’s spreading nature, Vinca Vine (a/k/a creeping myrtle) is not a low-maintenance ground cover. It is perennial in USDA hardiness zones 4-9. 

Lamium

Also known as spotted dead nettle, lamium has variegated leaves and small, colorful flowers that resemble tiny snapdragons. Lamium is one of my favorite groundcovers that flowers throughout spring and summer. I love using it in my shade garden to fill in around hostas. It’s also a fun draping plant to use in flower planters as a spiller. Look for a perennial variety like ‘White Nancy’ or ‘Shell Pink’ to ensure it will come back year after year. Lamium grows best in full shade or part sun in zones 3-8.

Lamium ground cover with bright pink flowers.
Lamium (a/k/a Deadnettle)

Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny is a gorgeous vining plant ideal for rock gardens, pathways, and open spaces. Also known as Lysimachia, it’s a very popular spiller plant for both sun and shade planters.  It’s an exceptionally low-maintenance plant with a fresh bright green that contrasts against stones, stucco, and slate.

Groundcover creeping Jenny used as a spiller plant in a container.
Creeping Jenny as a spiller plant in a planter.

Pro Tip: For those in colder gardening zones, dig creeping Jenny out of your planters in fall and plant it in the ground. The following spring you’ll have a fresh supply of it to use in your planters.

Creeping Jenny produces small yellow flowers in late spring or early summer, but it can spread quite a bit, so monitor it and trim it back as needed. This option grows well in zones 2-9, so it’s a great option for many gardeners. 

Ajuga

The Ajuga plant, better known as “bugleweed,” is known for its dark, reddish-green leaves with blue-purple flowers. As a member of the mint family, it grows very well in a variety of soils but prefers well-drained soil that doesn’t stay too wet. It likes to spread into a thick carpet-like mat, making it great for filling large areas. It grows well in shady gardens and does okay with morning sun. This plant is best suited to zones 3-9. 

Ajuga (a/k/a bugleweed) ground cover.
Ajuga (a/k/a bugleweed)

Creeping Phlox

This herbaceous perennial is native to the East Coast and produces large masses of pink and purple flowers in late spring that look like a plush blanket. It tends to “creep” and spread, making it excellent for filling gaps in your garden or letting it drape over the side of your garden bed. Phlox prefers full sun, but it can tolerate partial shade as well. This is a great option for zones 3-9.

Brightly colored creeping phlox in a spring garden.
Creeping Phlox

If you love perennial flower gardens, be sure to check out these popular posts on Gingham Gardens:

Perennial Plants With Beautiful Foliage
Gorgeous Perennials That Smell Amazing
Designing With Perennials For Three Seasons of Blooms0
Classic Perennials That Every Flower Garden Needs

Have you had good experiences with perennial groundcovers in your gardens? Or, do you have groundcover plants that you wish you’d never planted? Please leave a comment below and share your experience. A gardener’s experience is always helpful to other gardeners.

Happy Gardening, 
Julie

More Great Things on Gingham Gardens

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters full of gardening tips. You’ll also get access to our Gardening Resources Library and all our helpful gardening printables.

More places to find Gingham Gardens:

Save a pin to your gardening board on Pinterest, so you can remember this post later:

Image of a landscape with text overlay - 15 Easy to Grow Ground Covers for Your Flower Garden

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.