6 Spreading Groundcovers That Are Easy To Maintain

Do you get tired of re-mulching your landscape each year? Are you exhausted at the thought of weeding the garden yet again?

Planting perennial spreading groundcovers is a great way to control weeds, attract pollinators, and add low-level interest to the landscape. Creeping Japanese Plum Yew, Coral Bells, Hostas, Firewitch Dianthus, Emerald Pink Creeping Phlox, and Creeping Raspberry are six excellent groundcovers for temperate gardens that receive full sun or partial shade. 

You might remember from this blog post on tiered landscaping that adding varying levels of plant height is a critical component of landscape design. But the benefits of spreading groundcovers are much more than just the aesthetics.

Keep reading to learn more about why you should plant groundcovers and which species will thrive in your garden.   

The benefits of planting groundcovers 

At GoBuyPlants we have a laundry list of everything we love about these low-growing, spreading plants. Groundcovers have a number of environmental benefits, including:

  • Reducing soil erosion by holding the soil in place with their roots
  • Improving soil health by adding organic matter and increasing microbial activity
  • Providing habitat and food for beneficial insects and wildlife

But what’s in it for the gardener? We’re so glad you asked. 

  • Natural weed suppression

Groundcovers make a great natural alternative to landscape plastic and mulch. Weeds can’t grow where something is already growing, so plant groundcovers along borders and in holes to keep the landscape looking tidy and weed-free. 

  • Require minimal time and effort

Although maybe not top-of-mind when it comes to beginner-friendly plants, perennial groundcovers are among the easiest plants to grow. Most groundcovers are naturally low-maintenance since the plants spread easily and are quick to rejuvenate themselves. 

  • Cost-effective

Among the most cost-effective plants, the only cost associated with groundcovers is the initial price of the plant itself—no fertilizers, no pesticides, and no trellis needed. Plus, groundcovers spread with time, so eventually you have even more plants than you started with. Because these plants typically have a longer lifespan you won't have to replace them as often as annuals or short-lived perennials.

  • Fast-growing

Since groundcovers aren’t too picky about where they grow or what they need to thrive, you can count on success from the very beginning. These plants are designed to spread and spread quickly, sending out underground runners and reseeding themselves until they completely fill out their allotted space. 

Some species double or triple their growth by the end of the season, so keep a watchful eye to make sure that groundcovers don’t exceed their bounds. You can plant groundcovers in containers to restrict their spread, or you can cut the plants back yearly. Unless, of course, your goal is a wild and untamed garden vibe—then let them go! 

Shade-tolerant ground covers

Have a shady corner of the garden but no idea what to fill it with? These spreading groundcovers are perfect since they don’t require much sun to thrive.

  1. Creeping Japanese Plum Yew

  2. It’s the same plant as the yew tree but with a short, spreading growth habit. The evergreen needle-like foliage emerges a lime green color in spring, maturing to a rich and glossy green. Plant both a male and female plant for a modest harvest of edible berries with medicinal properties. Just make sure to spit out the seed if you do consume yew berries, as the seeds contain toxins.

    Spreading Plum Yew thrives in partial sun and fertile, well-draining soil. Once established, the plants are drought-tolerant and deer resistant. With such little care required, you might forget you even planted this easy and effective groundcover!

  3. Coral Bells

  4. Add color to your landscape with coral bells! The evergreen herbaceous perennials produce delicate pink or cream cup-shaped blooms, but we’re obsessed with their color-changing foliage. Choose between the lovely golden bronze of Caramel, the lime green Citronelle, the rich ruby-red Fire Chief, or the deeply veined and maroon Purple Palace.

    Coral bells are native to North America and are particularly well-adapted to the forest understory. Heuchera thrives in moist conditions but requires well-draining soil. The nectar-rich flowers begin drawing hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden in early summer.

  5. Hostas

  6. You really can’t go wrong planting hostas. Their large, often variegated leaves hide any holes in the garden and provide visual interest at ground level. Hostas are known for being shade-tolerant and hardy, with varieties like Blue Angel that overwinter down to Zone 3. Slug-resistant First Frost is an excellent option for shady gardens in Zones 4–9. 

    Hostas are prone to multiply themselves over time, either through reseeding themselves or through spreading root rhizomes. Under ideal conditions, hostas will produce fragrant lavender flowers that attract butterflies.

    Ground covers for full sun

    Add eye-catching low-level color with these flowering groundcovers. Plant these in full sun for the biggest and brightest flowers, but partial sun will work for most of these varieties in a pinch.

  7. Firewitch Dianthus

  8. If you’re interested in a groundcover bursting with color, Firewitch Dianthus is the perfect planting. The blue-gray foliage grows in a compact mat not reaching more than a foot tall. The fragrant pink flowers begin blooming in spring and will continue to bloom through summer and into fall if periodically deadheaded. Needless to say, Firewitch Dianthus is a huge hit with bees and other pollinators.

    For the most and brightest blooms, plant in well-draining, slightly alkaline soil situated in full sun. Firewitch Dianthus is a low-maintenance groundcover but does benefit from regular watering.

  9. Emerald Pink Creeping Phlox

  10. Believe it or not, this lovely blooming groundcover is actually native to the Appalachian Mountains, but can adapt to grow in other climates. This evergreen perennial provides a lovely carpet of vibrant pink color during the growing season, providing food and shelter for native pollinators and beneficial insects.

    For the most striking display, plant Emerald Pink Creeping Phlox in full sun, in soil that drains well. Cut back the plants after the first round of spring flowers for repeat blooming in summer and fall.

  11. Creeping Raspberry

  12. Pair beauty and function by planting creeping raspberries in your landscape. The green leathery leaves transition to a bright red color in fall. Pollinators adore the white buttercup-shaped blooms, but you might have to fight birds and other animals for a harvest of deliciously sweet red berries.

    Plant creeping raspberries in well-draining and slightly acidic soil, and make sure the plants receive full sun for the best berry harvest.

Groundcovers are a great low-maintenance and cost-effective option to reduce weeds, retain soil, and introduce beauty to the landscape. Depending on the environment, there are various types of groundcovers that are best suited for different soils and varying light levels that serve different purposes, from filling out shade gardens to attracting pollinators.

Curious about other options?  Shop our full collection of groundcovers here, or check out our entire catalog of plants here.