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:

  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.

    1. Margaret 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. Candylei 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.

    1. Ruth Rogers Clausen says:

      Although the soil is not great where you live, even that can be improved. But better yet look for some shallow-rooted plants that are native in your area. Your problems are probably due more to the the underlying clay that impedes drainage, rather than to the sandy soil. After years of agriculture there is a “hard pan” that acts like concrete. Break that up and many of your plant problems will go away. And be aware that the is a brand new Botanic Garden on the horizon in Dagsboro, DE. They plan to break ground in 2016, so look for news of it online, FB, and in the press. It will be a huge asset to the whole Delmarva Peninsula.

  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.

    1. Margaret 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.

    1. Margaret 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.

    1. Margaret 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.

  10. 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.

    1. margaret says:

      You are welcome, Anne. Sounds like you have some beautiful plants there (not including the vinca, tee hee). See you soon I hope!

  11. 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,

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. Gioia says:

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

  15. Sue L'Hommedieu says:

    The term groundcover used to imply “no maintenance” plants, but as you have noted, some of the ones you enjoy require cutting back. I use sweeps of any sturdy perennials that grow well in my yard as groundcovers. Astilbe work great for me. There are so many varieties to choose from I have blooms from early summer to fall. Deer leave them alone here, too. I use primrose, lamium, carex, comfrey and mazus (beware of this one, tho) along with the ones you mentioned for foliage contrast among the feathery astilbe. I always encourage new gardeners to be bold about splitting Astilbe to expand the planting. In the early years, I did it both in spring and fall.

    1. margaret says:

      I have some Astilbe that I planted 25+ years ago, Sue. Tough birds, those Astible! I need to divide/move some primroses around; thanks for the reminder.

  16. Allison P. says:

    Why can’t I get this slideshow to work? I have tried the arrow on the right side of the large photo and have tried scrolling through the smaller photos. This is not the first this happened on this site. Is it my browser maybe? I have a Mac and use Safari.

  17. Leesie says:

    I love this! Would love to do something similar. Unfortunately, the large herds of deer eat everything here in my yard in Orange Co. Do you have a deer problem up there?

  18. Doris says:

    Excellent and informative, I am going to share this blog with several of my gardening friends that are just becoming addicted to this great pastime. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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