20 Tough Groundcovers

Tired of mowing that lawn? Why not replace expensive, high-maintenance sod with an easy-care, environmentally-friendly groundcover?

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©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Moss Acres.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Sunset

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Schlegelfotos

Photo By: Photo by David Winger for Monrovia


Creeping Thyme

This fun, checkerboard yard gets its look from pavers and creeping thyme. The fragrant herb comes in a variety of cultivars that typically grow anywhere from 3 to 6 inches high with dozens and dozens of small, delicate flowers. Creeping thyme is great for dry soil and can even be tucked into rock gardens and stair crevices.

Dwarf Mondo Grass

With dense dark green blades, drought-resistant and evergreen dwarf mondo grass grows only 2 to 4 inches tall, in both sun and shade.


Moss makes a beautiful border in this Japanese garden and requires no mowing, leaving more time for meditation.


This shade-loving evergreen never needs cutting. Hard to zone 4, it grows up to 10 inches tall and in spring blooms with white or pink spikes.


Also known as bugle weed, ajuga is a matting groundcover that grows only 6 inches tall in shades of purple, green and pink. In early summer, it sends up spikes of blue, lavender, or pink flowers. Great for rock gardens, too.

Creeping Jenny

A perennial, creeping Jenny is a bright chartreuse vining plant that prefers full sun but will tolerate part shade (and become greener). Hardy to zone 3, it likes medium to wet soil. It's also considered invasive in some regions of the country.


This tough succulent offers tons of varieties and is extremely drought resistant. A perennial, it's easy to grow in full sun.

Asiatic Jasmine

This vining evergreen is great for slopes and grows only 6 to 12 inches high. Its small dark green, glossy leaves form a mat, and in spring the plant produces tiny white, yellow or pink flowers.


Also known as monkey grass, liriope is a tough evergreen that also makes a great edging plant for pathways and driveways. Extremely drought resistant, it blooms in summer with purple or white flower spikes.

Vinca major

Though considered invasive in some areas, Vinca Major can be controlled with diligent maintenance. Also known as variegated periwinkle, it grows up to 18 inches tall with dark green leaves edged in white. It yields blue flowers in summer.

Vinca minor

Commonly known as periwinkle, Vinca minor puts down roots from spreading shoots to form a dense mat of dainty foliage with deep blue or purple flowers.

Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox is a perennial that produces a thick mat of pink, lavender or purple flowers in early spring. Great for hillsides and cascading over walls. Give it full sun for best bloom.

English Ivy

English ivy has become a controversial option for home gardens due to its invasiveness — however, those with shady gardens or tough soil types may find success with ivy. The vine spreads quickly and easily, and only needs to be prune if it creeps into unwanted areas. 

Wild Ginger

Wild ginger creates a fragrant mat of bright green, heart-shaped foliage. The creeping plant is great for covering slopes or for edging. Try tucking spring and summer bulbs underneath wild ginger for a stunning scene all season.


Geraniums create a mound of stems that, if left alone, trail and clamber through a bed from spring to frost. The icing on top are the plant's violet-blue flowers. The shade-lover grows best where summers are cool, needing very little care.

Lamb's Ear

The fuzzy, silver-green foliage that gives lamb's ear its name is loved by children and adults alike. The plant tolerates poor soil, high heat and is best used as a groundcover for a sunny spot.

Roman Chamomile

Roman chamomile creates a pretty, low-maintenance lawn that releases an apple fragrance with every step. Plants prefer a sunny location but will grow in part shade. You can mow this groundcover regularly or to remove spent flowers.

Hardy Ice Plant

Ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) provides an evergreen groundcover that grows to 2 inches high in Zones 5 - 11. Ice plant features daisy-like flowers, 'Fire Spinner' (pictured) shows off tri-colored blooms. Plant it in places with low foot traffic.

Creeping Lilyturf

Creeping lilyturf is bulletproof, resisting high humidity, heat, pests, diseases, deer and rabbits. Pale lavender flower spikes appear above leaves in midsummer. Plants spread by underground runners to form a weed-resistant mat. This is a groundcover that can compete with tree roots, making it an ideal lawn replacement beneath trees.

Miniature Brass Buttons

For heavy traffic, miniature brass buttons (Leptinella gruveri) is the plant of choice. A combination of above and below ground runners combine to create a thick mat that can even withstand car traffic up to twice a day. It thrives in the shade.