When left to themselves, unsightly weeds will quickly take over your yard, out-competing many of your desirable plants for water and nutrients.
They also invade your lawn, doing enormous damage to your turf grass if left to grow unchecked.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of low-maintenance ground cover options which produce beautiful flowers, not only giving your yard wonderful pops of color but also reducing the chance for weed growth.
Ground cover plants suppress weeds similarly to mulch; the density of the roots forms a barrier preventing the seeds from germinating and the weeds from gaining a foothold.
Many of these plants are hardy or shade resistant and can grow in poor soil conditions or in locations where grass does not grow well.
We have compiled a comprehensive list to give you a wide choice for your outdoor space.
Ajuga, also known as Bugleweed, will add texture and color to your yard or flower beds.
It’s a perennial evergreen with glossy leaves which come in a variety of different colors.
In spring and summer, little stalks of colorful flowers appear, ranging from white to pink to blue to purple, depending on your variety.
Ajuga foliage colors range from “burgundy glow,” dark green with maroon highlights, to the dark purple of the “black scallop” variety.
Other whimsical varieties include “chocolate chip,” which has narrow green and burgundy leaves, “Dixie chip,” which has green foliage streaked with pink, cream and white, and “silver beauty,” which has silver-green leaves with white edges.
Ajuga does well in various conditions; although it prefers moist, well-drained soils, it grows in dry soils and is drought tolerant.
It can manage part to full shade, but plant in full sun for the most dramatic foliage color.
Blue Star Creeper
This tough, low-growing perennial is highly resistant to foot traffic, so it makes an excellent ground cover between stepping stones or along walkways.
Blue Star Creeper has tiny green leaves and, as the name suggests, features star-shaped blue flowers which bloom in spring through to mid-summer.
It grows from 1-5″ inches high, spreads about 18″ inches per year, tolerates a wide range of soils provided they are well-drained, and does best in partial sun.
Also known as Hardy Geranium, Cranesbill is a heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant ground cover option, with flower colors ranging from white to vibrant pinks, blues, and purples.
It grows slowly and is not invasive, making it relatively easy to restrict to small areas.
Cranesbill prefers well-drained, loamy soil, which is moist but not overly wet but grows well in other well-drained soil types.
It prefers shady or partly shady locations which get the morning sun.
Also known as Moneywort, Creeping Jenny is a perennial evergreen which is a somewhat invasive plant in nature and restricted in some areas, so check with your local extension office before planting.
Creeping Jenny does well in direct sunlight or shade and prefers moist, well-drained soils.
It will quickly spread to form a low-growing carpet of leaves which range from yellow-green to deep green depending on the amount of sunlight it receives, and it requires little care.
In summer, it produces vibrant, yellow flowers.
Also known as Creeping Cypress, this low-growing evergreen requires little in the way of maintenance and is often planted on more difficult terrain such as slopes and hills to suppress weeds and prevent erosion.
Not considered an invasive species, it has attractive needle-shaped leaves which are bluish-green in spring and summer but take on a reddish-purple hue in the fall.
Creeping Juniper likes plenty of sun, and it adapts to almost any soil type and climate.
It should only need watering as a drought-tolerant species if the rainfall is less than 1″ inch per week.
Creeping Phlox is a hardy, native plant from eastern North America, also a great choice for a flowering ground cover.
It has needle-like, green leaves and colorful spring flowers which come in different hues, from white to pink to bluish-purple, depending on your variety.
Creeping Phlox prefers sun and likes well-drained, dry soil.
It grows well in sandy soil and in poor, gravelly areas of your yard to keep weeds at bay.
We also have a post on grass types that grow well in the sand if you’re interested in seeing more.
Red Creeping Thyme forms an effective ground cover, giving off a lovely scent when stepped on.
It’s a woody-stemmed, perennial herb that is heat and drought-tolerant and forms a dense mat to successfully choke out pesky weeds.
It also tolerates foot traffic, making it a great choice to plant between stepping stones.
In summer, it produces a gorgeous array of crimson red flowers.
Lemon Thyme and Wooly Thyme are other popular varieties of wild thyme that also form dense mats to suppress weeds.
Lemon Thyme flowers, which bloom in mid to late summer, range from pink to Lavender and Wooly Thyme produces tiny pink flowers which invite butterflies.
Also known as Lamium, this low-growing perennial is a member of the mint family, which comes in many varieties and is an aggressive grower.
Dead Nettle is a popular choice as a ground cover in shady or partly shady areas with colorful, bright flowers and heart-shaped leaves with varied silver accents depending on your strain.
It prefers rich, well-drained moist soils and tolerates dry conditions, but it does not do well in compacted, wet, or soggy soil.
Although they are often considered beautiful plants, several types of Dead Nettle, such as yellow, purple, and spotted Dead Nettle, are classified as invasive in many areas, so consult with your local extension office before planting.
Dragon’s Blood Sedum
A gorgeous variety of sedum is popular because it can grow as a 3-4″ inches high dense mat, thereby providing effective weed control.
This evergreen perennial has rounded, fleshy leaves which change color from bright green with dark red edges in the spring to bronze-red in summer to rich red in fall, and it produces stunning little ruby flowers in the summer.
It prefers full sun, tolerates poor soil and dry conditions, and withstands neglect.
Also known as Coral Bells, this perennial evergreen has bell-shaped flowers which range from white to pink and coral to rich red.
Moreover, this plant has heart-shaped, amazingly colorful foliage which ranges from silver to yellow, green to burgundy, and brown to almost black.
It grows in the shade but needs at least 4-6 hours of exposure to sunlight to develop its best foliage and flower color.
It prefers rich, well-drained soils but can handle a range of soil conditions, and it’s tolerant of salt.
Once established, Heuchera requires little in the way of maintenance apart from the occasional watering.
Ice plant is the common name for members of the genus Delosperma which hail from South Africa.
These plants are hardy, perennial succulents with low maintenance and drought-tolerant qualities and produce beautiful, daisy-like flowers in various colors.
Growing an average of 3-6″ inches tall, they thrive in sunny locations with well-drained, dry soil and are evergreens in southern states.
They are also surprisingly cold hardy; although they die back in the cooler states in winter, they typically grow back in the spring.
Also known as baby’s tears, Irish Moss is a creeping perennial relative of the nettle and is often confused with moss.
It is an evergreen plant in warmer climates that has lush, green foliage and forms tiny white flowers in late spring/early summer.
It thrives in well-drained, moist soil in sunny or shaded areas.
Its average height is 1-2″ inches tall, sometimes reaching as high as 5″ inches, but it can spread out from 3-6′ feet wide.
Everyone is familiar with the amazing scent and beautiful appearance of Lavender’s purple flowers, and this plant makes a great ground cover for hotter, dryer locations.
It likes well-drained, even gravelly soils and prefers 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.
Be careful not to overwater Lavender as this can lead to root rot.
Most Lavender grows from 12-18″ inches high, but shorter, compact varieties such as Lavandula Augustifolia are suitable for a low-growing ground cover.
Lily Of The Valley
Lily Of The Valley is a tough plant which prefers shade or partial shade and grows just about anywhere in any type of soil.
It’s a low-growing perennial with dark green or variegated leaves and delicate, extremely fragrant bell-shaped flowers.
Most people associate Lily Of The Valley with pure white blooms, but there are now varieties with pale pink flowers.
It has dense roots which crowd out weeds and although it prefers moist soil, it can tolerate dry shady conditions once established.
Although beautiful, all parts of this plant are highly toxic, so caution is needed if you have children and pets.
At 2″ inches tall, Mazus is ideal between stepping stones and along walkways or walls.
It’s a perennial low-maintenance ground cover, and it prefers partial shade but grows in full shade and tolerates a wide range of soil types.
It remains green from the spring to early fall and produces blue flowers in the summer months.
Mondo Grass is a slow-growing, perennial evergreen which forms a vigorous ground cover or makes an excellent standalone plant.
It grows in clumps or mounds depending on the variety, has glossy green or variegated leaves, and produces tiny spikes of lilac flowers in the summer.
It’s popular in the South but can grow in almost any type of soil in various climates, provided it has adequate moisture and part to full sun.
As the name suggests, this hardy evergreen which looks similar to Juniper, originated in Siberia.
Able to survive extreme temperatures down to -40° degrees Fahrenheit (-40° C), this slower-growing ground cover reaches a height of about 12″ inches but can beautifully spread out over 8-10′ feet.
Its delicate-looking, feathery foliage is bright green in the warmer months but takes on a bronze-purple hue in the winter.
It prefers well-drained, moist soil but tolerates dry conditions and grows well in many soil types.
It likes full sun in the cooler months but will benefit from afternoon shade during the summer.
If you love a blue flower, this low-growing evergreen produces pretty ones from April to July, depending on your climate.
It quickly establishes itself and tolerates many adverse soil conditions to spread 2-3′ feet per year.
It’s disease resistant and forms a thick carpet which suppresses weeds.
Lowing growing sedum or stonecrop are succulents that have fleshy leaves and produce clusters of star-shaped flowers in a range of colors depending on your variety.
They are low maintenance ground covers which like full sun and prefer well-drained, loose soils.
Soil fertility is not an issue for stonecrop; in fact, they can thrive in soils low in nutrients.
Popular stonecrop varieties include:
- Coral Reef
- White And Blue Spruce Stonecrop
Sweet Alyssum is a flowering ground cover often found in coastal areas but grows in various locations and climates.
In most locations across North America, but it’s perennial in warmer climates.
It has an average height of 6″ inches and produces many tiny clusters of white, cream, pink or purple flowers depending on your variety.
It’s a long blooming plant often seen cascading over the edges of flower beds and rock gardens.
Sweet Alyssum prefers moist, well-drained soils and can grow in rock crevices, sandy soils, and even sand dunes.
Drying out will kill it, so it will need extra watering in the warmest months if you live in a hot, dry climate.
Sweet Woodruff is an excellent ground cover choice for dry shady areas.
Its vibrant, whorled green foliage grows to about 6-8″ inches tall, and it produces tiny, fragrant white flowers in the spring.
Be careful to choose dry soils for Sweet Woodruff because, in moist soils, it becomes quite aggressive and tends to take over.
It can die out in very hot, dry weather, so if it requires water, you’ll need to figure out the appropriate amount of water to keep it alive but stop it from becoming invasive.
Also known as Basket Of Gold, this plant should not be confused with Sweet Alyssum.
It’s a perennial evergreen that grows 6-12″ inches high, has grayish-green foliage, and produces a dazzling display of brilliant yellow flowers in the spring.
This low-maintenance ground cover prefers direct sunlight, well-drained, dry soil, and dry conditions.
In very hot, humid conditions and rich soils, Yellow Alyssum does poorly.
Don’t confuse weeds for regular plants and grasses.
Check out this list of weeds that look like grass.