slideshow: 10 great groundcovers to rely upon

geranium macrorrhizumIAM THINKING OF SIMPLIFYING SOME OF MY BIGGEST GARDEN BEDS this year—spots where the shrubs have grown in and are just crying out for a simple groundcover or two at their feet. In a slideshow, then, some of the tried-and-true choices I’ve got plenty of here to choose from come spring (including Geranium macrorrhizum, above). Divide and conquer, right?

Hover your cursor on the right side of the big photo to reveal the navigational arrows (or if you prefer, double-click the big image and the show will display on your darkened screen). When you’re done looking at photos, don’t forget to go read the full profiles of any that interest you, at the links below the photo gallery. Enjoy. And remember: Order multiples!

profiles of the pictured plants:

more helpful stuff:

January 27, 2011


  1. Darla, North Florida says

    Very impressive blog you have here….I’ll have to take digest a little bit at a time. I certainly do not have the experience you have…I love to garden though.

    • says

      Welcome, Darla, and thanks for your kind words. All that matters is the passion, and the happiness you derive. It could be one flower pot, one houseplant — at least, that’s what I believe. People+plants=happier lives. :) See you soon again.

  2. Kate Caruso says

    Ah, a nice reminder to put more groundcovers on the To Do list…..great mix of plants not usually thought of for such garden tasks….thanks, Margaret!

  3. Burndett Andres says

    Thanks for this timely post. We lost an ancient maple last fall and now have a roadside bank to landscape. Will any of these groundcovers tolorate salt or can you suggest something that will thrive in an area that is full sun, dry, and, and salty in winter? Thanx

  4. says

    Bless your heart for giving us eye candy (it is delicious eye candy to gardeners). Sedums are invaluable…such a range of leaf colors! Plus they give a tropical flavor to the gardens and you don’t have to dig them out in the fall like cannas, begonias and dahlias, etc. Love your blog!


  5. Matt says

    Your groundcovers always look so lush. I wish my garden was located in a wooded area. I live in Delaware along the South Coastal Plain in a subdivision carved out of a huge farm field. The soil’s so poor from industrial agriculture that it literally eats all the compost I put on it. You’ll dig a hole through sand then hit clay bottom. No organic matter at all. For the past three years, I’ve been hauling leaf mold from one of our tree-filled historic cities to amend the soil, but I still can’t grow many herbaceous plants during our hot dry summers.

    I can talk first hand about the wonders of primary succession trees though. The river birch next to our downspout is huge and creates a nice cool area along the side of the house. The soil still dries out too fast to grow groundcovers underneath of it though.

  6. Yvonne @ Country Gardener says

    Thanks for sharing this super useful info and all your amazing pictures. I have a shrub border that’s been underplanted with mulch for too long, and your suggestions over the seasons have given me lots of great ideas for enlivening the border.

    • says

      Welcome, Chen. Conifers are tricky, because they cast shade all year and beneath them the soil can be (is) very dry. I don’t know your Zone/location, but this situation is one of those where people often resort to Vinca minor (which thankfully comes in some better flower colors these days, including white). How cold do you get?

      @Patrick: Welcome, and thank you. I am trying in my chaos over here (book coming out in three weeks, egads!) to get some of these needed big posts up for people to refer to in spring. Glad it helps.

  7. Kathy M says

    Wonderful pictures and great ideas. We had a taste of spring here in Virginia today and I found myself poking under leaves to check my Hellebores . Delighted to find some buds showing color! Still a little early to cut back the foliage but wont be long. I love the way they pop up in unexpected places . I also have been a fan of Epemediums and was glad to see some new varieties in the Plant delights catalog. Always on the lookout for plants that will tolerate dry shade here in zone 7.
    I have vowed this year to plant more shrubs and groundcovers to cut back on some of the work. As I get older I really need to think before I plant and low maintenance is of primary importance. Sometimes our gardens become all work and we have no time to sit back and enjoy them. I think you wrote that we gardeners are our own worse enemies.

  8. Susan says

    What a nice pick-me-up after all of the snow we got on the east coast last week! As I scrolled through your photos of ground covers that I should take advantage of in my own garden it made me feel like spring was here- for a little while. I sent this article to all my friends so they could have a nice pick-me-up too. Thanks Margaret!

  9. Audrey Luth says

    Thank you for the timely hellebore post. Our many days of 90 plus heat last summer killed off most of my ground covers. The only healthy survivors were my hellebores .
    I love them and are planting many more to restart my beds.

    • says

      Welcome, Audrey. Same here — wow, what a hot dry summer that was. Waiting to see what makes it…but the hellebores are here, thankfully. So tough. See you soon again, I hope.

  10. says

    Just discovered your blog via (I’m a devoted customer of Baker Creek Seeds), I feel as though I’ve found the Gardener’s Vulcan Mind Meld here, and am reeling from all the great info and gorgeous photos. I see many happy hours of perusal here in my future . . .

    • says

      Welcome, Cattfrancisco. They have wonderful seeds, and what a catalog! A feast unto itself. Glad you feel right at home; not surprised. Seems like we like the same things. See you soon again, I hope.

  11. ANNE GRAYSON says

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures. I love the groundcovers. Some years ago I made a big mistake when I planted Vinca minor. It took over my gardenbeds and I am fighting it ever since. Every piece of root that’s left in the ground will grow and grow and grow. I am close to having it all removed this year, what a relief! My next task is removing the Mondo Gras along my garden boarders.I find it very agressiv.The underground runners send up shoots between the bricks in my walkways and in plants close by. I love Geraniums, Ferns and Hellebores as groundcovers and would like to purchase European Ginger this year. Margaret, you are an inspiration to me.Thank you for the information on plants. Love your slide shows and your books.

  12. says

    Margaret, we garden on 10 acres here and are just beginning. I am working on an area that is mostly shade and you have given me a lot of ideas with this post. About 10 years from now who ever is the owner will be surprised at what is showing up in the back 40.

    Have a graeat evining,

  13. Jean Sharac says

    Hi, Margaret. II have been thinking about using Angelina sedum in a specific place in my small RI garden but am afraid to ,because it looks so much like a sedum stone acre that Someone gave me years ago in my last garden ,and I could never get rid of it .Is it really , really invasive, do you think.? Jean

  14. Lorie says

    Glorious ideas and photos to savor. Thanks!! We have an incredible wholesale nursery in NE, called Bluebird, that has a charitable sale each spring and featured “Harlan’s Surprises”, specially picked by the late owner Harlan Hamernick. The table had small numbers of things he’d collected around the world, but were in early stages of propagation so were very limited. I have a few treasured Epimediums from him tucked into delicate little shady spaces that make me smile when they bloom. I didn’t think to keep the names, but they are the most treasured plants I have.

  15. Gioia says

    Thanks for the great pictures…..maybe spring will come! I just finished your last book and can’t wait for the next.

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