It’s best to choose a low-maintenance ground cover plant for your lawn if you do not have time for constant weeding, pruning and watering. Groundcover plants spread as they grow, creating a thick foliage mat which is essential in the retention of moisture, weed control and pest management.
Here are the best low-maintenance ground cover plants for your garden:
1. Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)
This groundcover plant often occurs naturally on hillsides. It produces colorful and fragrant star-shaped pastel-colored flowers. These flowers bloom during spring. Creeping phlox requires minimal care, mostly needing watering during dry spells.
You should prune it at the end of its blossoming period. It is perfect for edging sidewalks and edgeways. It can be planted together with tulips and daffodils.
- Reaches a height of 8inches at full maturity.
- Requires exposure to full sunlight.
- Grows best in moist, well-drained, mostly clay soils.
- Perfect for USDA zones 3-9.
2. Creeping Juniper (Juniper horizontalis)
This is a low-growing conifer, native to North America. It grows close to the ground with dense and prickly green leaves. It is drought tolerant and can grow well in poor soils. It bears small black fruit.
Its blue-green foliage during spring and plum color during autumn increases interest in the plant. Creeping juniper is excellent for covering slopes and other hard terrain where growing grass would be difficult.
- Reaches a height of around 18 inches and spreads 8ft at full maturity.
- Requires exposure to full sunlight.
- Grows well in sandy, dry and well-drained soils.
- Ideal for USDA zones 3-9.
3. Desert Zinnia (Zinnia acerosa)
Native to the American southwest. Grows well in harsh conditions including extreme heat, low water, full sunlight and rocky terrain. Produce tiny, needle-like foliage that spreads along the ground. They produce large white flowers.
- Reaches a height of 4-10 inches at full maturity.
- Grows best in alkaline soils, when exposed to full sunlight or partial shade.
- Ideal for USDA zones 6-10.
4. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
An easy groundcover to grow and requires little maintenance. It tolerates dry conditions so you can grow it under shade in your garden. It is a vigorous spreader so you should grow it away from your house, ideally along hedges. Blooms fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers from mid to late spring. It is resistant to deer and rabbits.
- Grows to a height of 6-12 inches.
- Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade.
- Requires moist, fertile well-drained soils. Can grow in clay soil.
- Ideal for USDA zones 3-8.
5. Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
This easy-growing groundcover tolerates cold, heat and drought. It blooms in spring and summer. It produces pink, purple of white flowers. Its silver-green foliage brightens up your landscape throughout the year.
Lamium is fast growing and therefore needs to be cut before it can encroach on other shrubs and flowers. It is considered invasive in parts of the American Northwest and northern Midwest.
- Reaches a height of 8inches.
- Needs exposure to full sunlight or partial shade.
- Grows best in moist, well-drained, acidic soils.
- Perfect for USDA hardiness zones 4-8.
6. Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalida)
A perennial groundcover that can tolerate a variety of soil and light conditions. Produces fern-like foliage that bloom in late spring and its button-shaped yellowish flowers bloom in early summer.
It can grow well in areas with foot traffic and thus is a good choice for planting between stepping stones. Brass buttons can be planted as edging along paths and in rock gardens.
- Grow to a height of 2inches and spread 18 inches.
- Flourishes in full sunlight.
- Grows best in acidic, loamy well-drained soils.
- Ideal for USDA zones 4-7.
7. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
This groundcover native to America produces white flowers that bloom during spring. They are followed by bright red fruits in the fall. It naturally grows in wooded areas and is deer and rabbit-resistant. It is best to sow seeds in the fall to allow time to bloom by spring.
- Grows to a height of 4-9 inches and spreads 6-12 inches.
- Requires full sunlight or partial shade.
- Grows best in moist, acidic and well-drained soils.
- Ideal for USDA zones 2-7.
8. Gold Moss Stonecrop (Sedum acre)
Gold Moss Stonecrop is a low-growing herbaceous perennial groundcover that can grow in poor soils under full sunlight. It produces conical, pale green leaves, about a quarter inch in length. Occurs naturally in limestone hills, rock and walls.
It has small clusters of star-shaped, bright yellow flowers that bloom during the summer. It is vigorous and creates a vibrant groundcover. You can grow it along rock walls or in containers. Resistant to deer and rabbit and attracts butterflies and pollinators.
- Grows to a height of 3 inches and spreads 24 inches. It is self-seeding in ideal growing conditions.
- Requires full sunlight.
- Grows best in moderately fertile, dry, well-drained soils.
- Ideal for USDA zones 4-9.
9. Amethyst in Snow (Centaurea montana)
Amethyst in Snow produces flamboyant, blue flowers that bloom from late spring to early summer. When grown under ideal conditions it transforms into a colorful groundcover that will spread nicely on your lawn.
It attracts bees, and butterflies. It is self-seeding and therefore will need to be deheaded in the fall. In optimum growing conditions, it will spread quickly and form colonies. It is good for beds and borders, meadows and prairies and containers.
- Grows to a height of 12-24 inches and spreads 12-18 inches at full maturity.
- Requires full sunlight exposure.
- Grows well in dry, well-drained soils. It is tolerant to drought and poor soil quality.
- Ideal for USDA zones 3-7.
10. Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)
A woody-stemmed broadleaf evergreen that is often grown along hedges. It is a compact groundcover with vibrant foliage. It has shiny dark green leaves and rosy purple flowers which bloom during the summer.
It attracts bees. It can be used as edging or along walkways. It is vulnerable to leaf spot, rust and mites. Resistant to deer. Frequent deheading is needed to keep it bushy and to allow for new blooms.
- Grows to a height of 12 inches and spreads 2ft at full maturity.
- Grows well in alkaline, well-drained soils, typically under full sunlight. Once the plant is established it is tolerant to drought.
- Ideal for USDA zones 5-9.
How to choose the right ground cover plant
There are different types of low-maintenance ground cover plants for each climatic region, and garden space. The ideal groundcover plant should be adequately vigorous in order to fill the space you have available.
However, it should not be too vigorous as it might be a nuisance in your garden. Groundcover plants should be pretty and vibrant to increase visual interest and attract birds, butterflies and other small creatures to your garden.
Groundcover plants should provide a quick, dense cover, to suppress weed growth and protect the soils. The above-mentioned groundcover plants are low maintenance and can easily be grown in your home garden as an alternative to grass. Identify the type of groundcover ideal for your microclimate, space availability and the type of soil in your lawn.