Just as a spectacular area rug can add life and warmth to a room, the right groundcover can do the same to complement a landscape or garden, taking it from "nice yard" to a stunning outdoor escape.
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Ranging in height from an inch to 4 feet, groundcover plants serve several purposes. They not only provide soil cover, but they also slow weed growth and prevent soil from erosion. For many gardeners, they're the best answer to problem areas where too much sun or barely a ray falls, or where too dry or too moist conditions are a turnoff for other greenery.
Need to soften hard edges? Or looking to bring more definition to a path? It's not too late to get a new cover into the ground. Just make sure to keep the plants watered.
The slew of groundcover offerings — woody or herbaceous; climbing, clumping or running; evergreen or deciduous — in all kinds of colors, textures and fragrances, leaves the door wide open to finding a fit for your garden's needs.
Among the pickings, you'll find hardly a boring cover in the bunch. But, be warned: Some of these pretty plants pack a powerful punch and will invade everything near it. Ask before you buy.
1. Trifolium repens 'Atropurpureum' (Dark Dancer), a unique clover, quickly creeps along in the sun or partial shade for sultry glamour.
2. Phlox subulata ('Emerald Blue' or moss phlox) dresses up a walkway with sheets of pink, lavender, white or rose.
3. Vinca minor (lesser periwinkle) is a vigorous growing evergreen that offers lavender-blue, star-like flowers.
4. Give Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' (blue fescue) sun or light shade, and drainage, and watch it show off spiky blades of — what else? — blue.
5. Viola cornuta ('Penny Yellow Jump-up'), one of the first signs of spring, does best in fertile, well-drained soil.
6. The super-versatile Setcreasea purpurea (purple heart) isn't finicky about water, sun or time. It's quick to root; stick a cutting in dirt and it takes off, giving up pretty pink flowers in winter or spring.
7. Soft and woolly Stachys byzantina (lamb's ears) tolerates sun. Its texture is a nice contrast to other plants.
8. Muehlenbeckia axillaris (creeping wire vine) sports teeny, tiny glossy leaves. This tough climber is just the thing for the creative-thinking gardener.
9. Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver' (spotted deadnettle) is a hardy choice for summer color in shade or partial sun.
10. Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Hermann's Pride' (yellow archangel) grows slow in shade and dry conditions.
11. Sedum bithynicum (Turkish sedum) keeps a low profile and is not afraid of drought.
12. Hedera helix 'Yellow Ripple' (English ivy) takes very well to walls, fences and slopes.
13. Japanese Pachysandra 'Gleen sheen' handles tree roots and spreads indefinitely in loose soil.
14. Epimedium sp. X versicolor 'Sulphureum' takes its time to spread 3 to 4 feet. Dainty flowers show off in the spring and resist deer.
15. Oenothera speciosa 'Siskyiou' (Showy evening primrose), with its glowing pink blooms, can be invasive. Plant where large cover is needed.
16. Fast-growing Ajuga reptans' handsome purple leaves stay low to the ground.
17. Fragrant Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple' is impressive in beds, rock gardens and as borders. Its trouble-free ways are a bonus.
18. Euonymus fortunei 'Moonshadow' (wintercreeper) is no stranger to the garden, especially sunny spots. Give it some elbow room as one plant can spread to about 3 feet wide.
19. Iberis sempervirens' (candytuft) showy white flowers can be sheared back after spring bloom for a bushier growth.
20. Hypoestes phyllostachya (Pink splash and red splash) is a splash beside the water garden.
21. Juniperus chinensis procumbens 'Nana' (Juniper) is a great low-maintenance choice for a large space.
22. Tiarella 'Cygnet's profuse', fragrant blooms are excellent performers under a tree or in shade.
23. Use Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Niger' to mix things up along a border or amid rocks.
Keri Plezia from Wickenburg, Ariz., uses colorful glass nuggets to create a unique picture frame.