Ground cover flowers are what many landscapers consider the holy grail. They offer function and beauty, and this will help to give your yard a blanket of color while helping you fight weed growth and control erosion on hilly terrain. If you’re looking for a pretty solution to your problem areas, ground cover flowers can get the job done while enhancing how your yard looks.
A lot of ground cover flowers will bloom for a very short time during the spring or summer months, so you want to make sure any ground cover flowers you pick also come with nice foliage. Doing so will ensure that they look good throughout the year.
Ground Cover (2) by Kaz Andrew / CC BY-SA 2.0
No matter if you’re a novice who is just digging into the world of ground cover flowers or if you’re a seasoned gardener who knows exactly what they want, we’re going to give you options to create your landscape design’s base. Our choices for the best ground cover flowers include different textures and colors that can work from everything from huge yards to quaint English gardens. You can use this guide to decide which ground cover flowers are going to work best for your space below.
1. Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)
The aster is a great option for dry and sunny parts of your yard. They’re also great for beginners as they’re tolerant of drought and poor soil conditions, and this ground cover flower has showy blooms that appear in August and go through September.
You’ll get a compact yet bushy growth habit with blue-green leaves with a rigid feel that will make the space smell like balsam when you crush them. The pretty, daisy-like appearance of the flowers give you a stunning show of violet-blue hues with a bright yellow center and slender petals. They’re a very attractive ground cover flower for birds and butterflies, and this makes them a great choice for pollinator gardens.
Asters grow best when planted in zones three to eight in an area that gets full, bright sun for at least six to eight hours each day. They can get between one and two feet high and one to three feet wide.
2014.09.18_18.31.09_DSCN1914 by Andrey Zharkikh / CC BY 2.0
2. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
Bugleweed is a perennial flower that is a member of the mint family, and it naturalizes in zones 3 to 10. It grows best when you plant it in average to moist soil in areas that get partial shade to full sun. If you live in a warmer planting zone, this is an evergreen plant.
It gets up to six inches high at full maturity, and the names come from the spikes on the small, bugle-shaped blossoms that can be anything from white to blue. The leaves are smooth or toothed and glossy, and it’s common to see tinges of purple on them. This ground cover flower will start to bloom in May and continue on through June.
Bugleweed by Alex Ranaldi / CC BY-SA 2.0
3. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
This ground cover flower is a circumpolar species, and it’s native to Eastern Asia and Greenland and North America. Bunchberry is a very attractive plant with oval, veined leaves that cluster around a single flower with white, four petal-like bracts.
Flowers will slowly give way to a host of bright red berries in August, and both birds and people can eat them. This ground cover flower usually does much better if cooler climates in a lot of shade. So, you want to plant them underneath trees to add pops of interest and protection from the sun. They grow best in zones two to seven, and they can get up to nine inches tall. They have a foot spread, so they fill in holes nicely.
Bunchberries by James Jordan / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
4. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
This is a mounding, woody ground cover flower that loves being in well-drained soil and full sun. It’ll tolerate drought nicely, and it does well when you plant it in zones there to eight. It can get up to a foot tall, and it’s an evergreen plant in warmer climates. The blooms offer a very sweet scent with white pears, and they pack so densely on the plant that you can’t see the elongated green leaves under them. The plants will bloom in April and May.
Candytuft by Neil Adams / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
5. Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’)
This is technically an evergreen shrub instead of a ground cover flower, but it has feathery and soft golden to green needles. As a true ground dweller, this plant maxes out between four and six inches. As the name suggests, the branches will creep outwards as it grows to form a very dense mat over the ground. The branches will root themselves in place as they spread out.
This is an excellent ground cover plant to put on slopes or other spots where you’re having trouble with erosion. It adapts very well to a range of environments, including sandy, rocky, dry, or poor soils in hot areas. However, it can’t tolerate wet soil. For the best results, plant it in zones three to nine. It’ll spread out between 6 and 10 feet at full maturity.
Creeping Juniper by Cranbrook Science / CC BY 2.0
6. Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Giving you a welcome burst of color and scent from the early to late spring months, this ground cover flower loves the sun and it will create a very pretty carpet across the landscape. It looks really nice when you plant it along your garden paths or cascading over retaining walls.
Depending on the cultivar of creeping phlox, it’ll profusely bloom in shades of purple, pink, or white. The flowers have five rounded petals with a very big notch down the center and a tubular shape. It’s hardy in zones three to nine, and it loves being in the sun for six to eight hours a day. It’s a low-growing ground cover flower that tops out at six inches, and it can spread from one to two feet.
Creeping Phlox by Dennis D / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
7. Creeping Thyme (Thymus praecox)
Creeping thyme is a wild ground cover flower that is actually a herb that goes nicely between your stepping stones and repels mosquitoes. Walking over it will release a nice mint scent. It’s hardy in zones four to eight, and it’s a woody perennial that likes very well-drained soil and a location that gets full sun.
Creeping thyme is drought-tolerant, and it’ll be an evergreen in very mild climates. At full maturity, this plant will be roughly three inches high, and it offers glossy, round, but tiny leaves with spikes of pinkish-purple blossom in June and July each year.
Creeping Thyme by Mariylle Soveran / CC BY-NC 2.0
8. Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
Deadnettle thrives when you plant it in full to partial shade in zones three to eight. In more temperate zones, this is an evergreen plant. The leaves are variegated silver-white and green, and the pink blooms will appear in May and go through July.
It’s a pretty ground cover flower that is tolerant to drought, and it does best planted in low-humidity, cool regions with soil that drains very well. The height will depend on the cultivar from a few inches tall to two feet, and they grow in a creeping or clumping fashion. They’ll eventually form a tightly interconnected network that will crowd out weeds and prevent soil erosion. The shorter versions of this ground cover flower does well in narrow spaces in between stones, as well as in border gardens and rockeries where you want to prevent weeds from growing.
Sentinel by rachelsaurus.h / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
9. Goldenstar (Chrysogonum virginianum)
This low-growing ground cover flower is a perennial that offers very bright green leaves that form a dense mat along the ground. It is a native plant to Louisiana and Pennsylvania, and it tops out at four inches high. It will profusely bloom during the spring months with flowers that stretch above the foliage 10 inches or more. The pretty yellow flowers are star-shaped, and they are 1.5-inches across with five rounded petals.
You can grow it in hardiness zones five to nine, and it loves being in an area that is full shade to part shade. They can get between four inches to a foot tall, depending on the cultivar, and they spread between 9 inches and 1.5 feet.
Common Goldenstar, Bloomeria crocea by J. Maughn / CC BY-NC 2.0
10. Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana)
As a reliable perennial, this ground cover flower varies from lime to forest green, to white and variegated green to all white. The blooming process is inflorescent in nature, and hostas produce tall spikes of purple or white blossoms during May to July. Some cultivars have a very sweet scent, and you may hear them called plantain lilies. They can get huge under the correct growing conditions.
Hostas get divided for propagation, and you can easily split a big plant into three or four smaller plants and replanted. They do well in zones three to eight, and most of them like damp, rich soil. The heights will vary, and some get up to two feet tall.
Hosta by B.D.’s World / CC BY-SA 2.0
11. Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Spurge is a ground cover flower that is an evergreen perennial that is perfect in front yard landscaping designs under shrubs where your grass doesn’t grow well. You can easily gather a bucket full of cuttings and plant them under a big tree with sprawling, distressed roots and bare soil. The cuttings will take root straight away.
You’ll get a thick bed of green, glossy, whorled leaves that will hide any tree roots and protect them from damage. During April, you’ll see spikey white blooms that contrast nicely with the foliage. If you live in zones five to nine and you want a fast-growing ground cover flower, this could be a solid choice. It does well in partial to full shade, is drought-tolerant, and reaches roughly a foot tall.
Japanese Pachysandra Green Sheen 1 NBG by Puddin Tain / CC BY-SA 2.0
12. Liriope (Liriope spicata)
Better known as lily turf, this ground cover flower is a very hardy perennial that does nice under your rose bushes. It’s a grass-like plant that has creeping and clumping varieties that can get between one and two feet high. The tiny blossom spikes come in hues of white, blue, or purple, and they start cropping up in August and September. Some plants will have variegated foliage while others have green.
This ground cover flower thrives in shade as well as sun, and it likes rich, moist soil. It grows best in zones 5 to 10, and it tends to turn brown in the winter before coming back in the spring in zones 6 and 7. It works well in garden borders, and it is nice for stopping erosion on slopes. You can plant it under trees where you have problems getting grass to grow.
Liriope by Al / CC BY-NC 2.0
13. Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)
Purple poppy mallow is a ground cover flower that grows very easily in moist or dry soil conditions as long as you plant it in a sunny spot in the yard. It starts out as a very low mound with deeply-lobed and interesting leaves and blooms on and off during the growing season.
When it does bloom, you’ll get a stunning display of cup-shaped, magenta colored flowers that are 2.5 inches across. They bloom from mid-spring until fall, and the flowers will open in the morning and close at dusk. Once they get pollinated, they stay shut, and it can self-seed as well.
This ground cover flower grows best in zones four to eight in full sun, but it can also do decently in shade. It’ll bloom more in sunny conditions. It can get six inches to a foot tall and spread out six inches to three feet at full maturity.
Purple Poppy Mallow by Bart Hanlon / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
14. Roundleaf Liverleaf (Anemone americana)
Roundleaf liverleaf will bloom very early in the season to give you anemone-like flowers in lavender, light blue, or white coloring. The flowers have a single hairy stem during March before the foliage has a chance to sprout. This is an essential early nectar source for pollinating insects. Once your blooms start to fade, the fresh greens will pop up close to the ground. The leaves are leathery and large with three rounded lobes.
Once the growing season wears on, the green leaves will turn a wine, reddish-hue. If you plant them in consistently moist and fertile soils, the ground cover flower will self-seed to give you a matting effect. You can successfully plant it in zones three to eight in partial shade. It can get six to nine inches tall and wide at full maturity.
Liverleaf/Hepatica by NatureServe / CC BY 2.0
15. Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima)
The native range for this ground cover flower covers all of the coastal areas in the Northern Hemisphere. It has slowly evolved to grow in spaces where other plants struggle, including infertile and dry soils right next to the sea sprays.
The foliage on this plant is very compact, low-lying, dense, and mounded with darker green leaves that are grass-like. In April, this plant will bloom to offer generous clusters over tiny white or pink flowers that will create a flower sphere. They spheres rise above the foliage on the ground cover flower to roughly a foot. Each flower is over three inches across, and butterflies and bees love them.
This ground cover flower grows best in zones four to eight as long as you plant it in full sun. It can get up to a foot tall, but most stay roughly six inches tall. Also, it can spread out up to a foot from where you plant it, so give it a little space to fill in.
Thrift and Gwynver sands by Philip Goddard / CC BY-NC 2.0
16. Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
This is a stunning vining ground cover flower that usually comes in a green color. It will quickly climb up any vertical surface, and it can reach an impressive 50 feet per growing season. Along with being a prolific climber, it’s also a sprawler that will creep along horizontal surfaces.
Eventually, this plant will form a low-growing, dense carpet. It offers compound leaves that have five toothly leaflets along the vine, and it also has suckers that will root right into the ground. The leaves are a very dark green coloring in the summer and turn a vibrant red with darker purple hues in the fall to give you a dramatic show until the first frost.
The Virginia Creeper is best planted in zones three to nine in partial shade to full sun. It can get between three and six inches high and spread out an impressive 5 to 10 feet.
Virginia Creeper by Todd Petit / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
17. White Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)
Also called Mexican primrose or Pink Ladies, this ground cover flower is a drought-tolerant, heat-loving perennial that grows from Mexico to Missouri. It’s a very vigorous grower that will spread via self-seeding and rhizomes to form very large colonies over time. So, it really needs a lot of space to spread out and thrive.
White Evening Primrose offers large, fragrant, satiny petals with very delicate veins. The flowers will start out a brilliant white and fade to a soft pink as they mature. Like the more common evening primrose, the flowers will open at dusk and close in the morning, hence the name. It gives you a very nice show from late spring until the early autumn months.
Plant this flower outside in zones four to nine in a space that gets bright, full sun for six to eight hours a day. It will get between nine inches and two feet tall and spread between one and one point five feet wide.
White-Evening Primrose by David~O / CC BY 2.0
18. Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
Wild Geraniums are a very easygoing ground cover flower that will do well in poor or fertile soil, shade or sun, and dry or moist conditions. Additionally, this is a pretty plant that has green, deeply lobed leaves that can get up to six inches across. They will bloom for six to seven weeks at a time during the mid-spring months with saucer-shaped, papery flowers in lavender or pink.
You may get a second bloom during the autumn months with this ground cover flower. You can plant this flower in masses to get a great flowering shrub. The copious amounts of blooms will become a favorite location for pollinating insects and butterflies. Plant it in zones three to eight in part shade to full sun. This plant can get between 1.5 and 2-feet high and 1 to 1.5-feet across at full maturity.
Wild Geranium by DM / CC BY-ND 2.0
19. Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Wild ginger is a pretty ground cover flower that offers downy, soft heart-shaped leaves that can get roughly six inches in diameter. During springtime, wild ginger will produce small reddish flowers right near the soil’s surface that the foliage hides. You can gently lift the foliage to get to the blooms. It’ll form a very dense mat using spreading rhizomes, and it works best in dark and damp spaces in your garden. It’s actually native to forests and woodlands, so it’s a nice choice for popping under the shade trees in your yard.
This type of ginger doesn’t have any relation to Asia’s culinary gingers, but it’s edible. It’s more pungent than traditional ginger root, and the rhizomes and leaves were originally used by the Native Americans to flavor teas and food.
Plant your wild ginger in zones four to six in a full shade to partially shaded area to encourage strong growth. It can get between six inches and a foot tall and one to one and a half feet wide.
Wild Ginger – Asarum caudatum by Pictoscribe – / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
20. Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)
This charming, succulent-like ground cover flower is a wonderful attractant for bees. It offers whorls of rounded and fleshy leaves in a light green coloring. The leaves will always grow in threes, and they root in place as they slowly spread out across your yard. Like any other sedum, this plant does best in rock gardens or stony landscapes. In April, this plant will bloom in clusters of tiny white flowers that stretch above the foliage.
This ground cover flower grows best in zones four to eight, and you should plant it in partial shade to full sun. It can get between three and six inches tall and six to nine inches wide planted under ideal growing conditions.
Bright Stonecrop by Kirill Ignatyev / CC BY-NC 2.0
21. Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
The final ground cover flower on the list may surprise you. However, wild strawberries offer coarsely toothed leaves in a trifoliate pattern, and they’re a very low-growing and sprawling perennial that will use runners to spread and root along the ground’s surface as they do so.
This plant will bloom from April until the end of May and offer white petaled flowers with a bright yellow center. Eventually, these turn to smaller red fruits that are a half inch across. Even though they’re smaller than traditional strawberries, they’re just as tasty and sweet. You can eat them raw or put them in pies and jams.
This plant grows best in zones five to nine in partial shade to full sun, and they get up to nine inches tall at full maturity. Each plant can spread out a maximum of two feet, so be sure to give them room to grow when you plant them.
Wild Strawberries by Dave / CC BY-ND 2.0
Why Use Ground Cover Flowers
Along with the obvious aesthetics, ground cover flowers can help you solve several different landscaping problems wherever you plant them. These things include:
Caring for turf grass requires that you routinely mow, water, aerate, fertilize, and overseed it to keep it looking green and lush throughout the summer months. Reseeding your lawn with ground cover flowers is a lot less work year in and year out. You can pick out low-growing plants that can tolerate light walking on them to replace your traditional grass and add more biodiversity to the yard.
You can also use ground cover flowers in your garden as a living form of mulch. Like non-living mulches or wood chips, ground covers will help to preserve the soil’s moisture by blocking the sunlight. Also, they work to insulate the earth by keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler during the summer months.
Growing ground cover flowers on steep slopes and hilly terrain can help prevent erosion because the plant’s roots will anchor your soul in place. Ground covers work wonderfully for erosion control because you never need to cut them back or mow them.
Any bare spot in the yard will always get quickly occupied with weeds or other undesirable plants that you may not want in your yard. Ground cover flowers are great for helping fill in empty spaces in your yard or garden. The best ground covers you can get for weed control have a very dense growth habit that will choke out any stray weeds.
These 21 practical and pretty ground cover flowers can help add texture and color to your yard while protecting against erosion and weed control. You can mix and match based on your growing zone to get a pretty landscape feature that is also functional.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.