Ground Cover Plants As Lawn Replacements & Borders

Ed Wike
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Reasons To Replace Lawns With Ground Cover Plants

If you are planning to install landscaping, replacing your lawn may be the ideal way to go. Replacing your lawn with native groundcover not only saves you a lot of time and money, it will also save water and preserve the environment. Ground cover is a great way to spruce up your garden and can also serve as protection from the elements, parasites, and hungry wildlife.

A ground cover is basically a low-growing plants that grows right into the surface and completely covers any turf that may be there. No one has to water the ground as they are extremely drought-resistant. Plants require little maintenance as only a weed control spray will be needed to keep them looking their best. There are many native plants that work well as ground cover. Here are a few:

Goatsbeard – Often called "Goat's Beard", this perennial shrub grows to about a foot tall and has yellow flowers that bloom in the late spring and summer. This plant works well as a lawn replacement. The flowers are placed in clusters on the stems and have an interesting cylindrical shape.

Mountain Laurel – This plant is native to the Appalachians and gets its name from the compound leaves that look like laurel. The bright flowers bloom in the spring and the leaves change color in the fall. The Mountain Laurel is evergreen and grows best in woodland conditions.

Alternate Ways To Use Ground Covers

Did you know that there are many alternatives to typical lawn grasses that produce much more color and offer many advantages in landscaping? Ground covers are the perfect solution for areas that lawn grasses or weedy areas do not fill adequately nor beautify for the homeowner.

How many times have you seen a bare area between the sidewalk and the street, either because someone wanted to grow grass or the ground was too rocky for grass to grow? Planting a ground cover is the perfect solution. There are many types of ground covers that will easily fill this area between the sidewalk and the street. Ground covers will thrive in full sun to partial shade and many will thrive in poor soil conditions. Soil a grade and add some compost and you will be able to grow ground covers in this hard-to-light area. Ground covers will also fill in areas where the ground is too rocky for planting a lawn grass as well.

Ground covers are perfect for a spot in the yard where you would like to add color but are not interested in a flower garden or vegetable garden. Plant a ground cover that will add the color you are looking for while providing some shade in the hot summer months. Some of the ground covers will even eliminate the need to mow, depending on the type you choose.

Some of the most popular ground covers used today include:

Selecting The Right Ground Cover Plants

Selecting ground cover plants depends on the growing climate where you live. Some plant varieties will not survive the hot Southern summers, whereas others will not be able to handle the cold winters in the northern states.

The selection of plants also depends on the growing conditions, such as sunlight and soil quality.

Some plants are very invasive and will overrun other plants. Select flowering ground cover plants with colors and flowers that appeal to you.

Consider the look you want to create. Do you want the flowers to grow up out of the ground or do you want them to stay low to the ground? Then make your final selection based on your wants and needs.

Some ground cover plants benefit wildlife by providing food, shelter or territory expansion.

Best Ground Cover Plants For Full Shade

Low maintenance, but still hearty, the best ground cover plants for full shade look great and require almost no upkeep. Here are the best choices for this type of landscape.

Low maintenance, but still hearty, the best ground cover plants for full shade look great and require almost no upkeep. Here are the best choices for this type of landscape.

If you’re looking to up-convert your landscape to a low maintenance garden and still want to maintain a lush, vibrant garden, you’re going to want to choose the best ground cover plants for full shade. Choosing this type of landscape gives you the opportunity to mow your lawn a bit less, and to reduce your workload significantly.

Although this type of gardening requires a little more forethought and planning to make sure you get the right plants in the right places at the right time, the return you get in the form of easy upkeep and great returns are well worth it.

The best ground cover plants for full shade have lots of uses in the garden and landscape.

Miniature Brass Buttons

Miniature brass buttons were used as foot decorations at the base of shoes on men and women in the Tudor and Elizabethan Periods, as well as red leather and jewelled buttons. Buttons must have been expensive items, for very few have survived. The use of buttons was most popular in the Elizabethan Period, and reached the height of fashion in the clothes of the aristocracy and royalty.

Glass buttons finally made an appearance in the middle of the 16th century, and were elegantly designed in a variety of styles. Glass buttons have been found in a number of an excavators’s “boggy” sites in the England. A button can be defined as a decorated, usually small, fastening device consisting of a disk, usually made of metal, covered with a thin coating of some organic material.

Buttons are identified with the use of a sewing needle over 3000 years ago, in the time of the Pharaohs when they used to have lapels and cuffs. The buttons were made of various materials, and would have normally been fastened on by using a pin through the centre to attach to clothing.

Dwarf Impatiens

One of the easiest ground cover plants to grow is Impatiens Bequaertii. This plant is one of the most drought resistant plants.

They are a very popular plant and easy to find in nurseries. They also grow quickly and you will see the most beautiful pinkish blue flowers once the summer weather hits.

This plant can grow almost anywhere in your yard and look very beautiful.

If you have a lot of sun exposure in your yard or have a small area you want to fill in, this would be your best bet.

They come in many different colors so you have the option of choosing which one will match your yard.

If you like a lot of color in your yard for the summer months, this plant is definitely for you.

Baby’s Tears

Baby’s Tears or Mother’s Tears is a versatile plant that is often used as a ground cover, but is also perfect for bringing instant texture and color to the shady spots of the lawn. It has a low to medium height (approximately 12 to 24 inches), so it will work well as a border, edging, or between stepping stones. The plush, rounded, green leaves grow in a basal rosette and are covered in a fine, white felt. In the summer Baby’s Tears sends up small pinkish purple flowers which are very attractive to bees. The Baby’s Tears is a hardy ground cover that is drought tolerant and loves full sun, although it will tolerate part shade. It is a dense matting plant and looks good in rock gardens, cottage and cottage garden, naturalistic, and traditional-style gardens.

Golden Star

Golden star is a gorgeous, thick leaved ground cover plant. You'll notice that it looks a little like dwarf periwinkle. The leaves are glossy, dark green, and the star shaped flowers have a reddish appearance.

The reason that this plant works so well as a ground cover is the dark green leaves and dense base. You'll have no problem covering a larger area when you have grown this as a star.

Grown in zones 3-8, it will thrive outdoors. It can reach up to 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide with bushy, spreading growth. However, with a regular watering schedule this can be kept at a smaller width which makes this ideal for small garden beds.

The flowers will come out in the Summer without any help and they have a pretty reddish hue. The plants can flower nearly all season long as long as you are sure to maintain a consistent watering schedule. There are 11 species of golden star that grow in different areas of North America. This means that you'll have a wide variety that can be grown, no matter where you are located. As long as you match the climate zone, you'll be able to find golden star plants.

Sweet Woodruff

An extremely fragrant, very spreading little plant, which does not get as invasive as its common name, woodruff, would suggest. In fact, the most difficult aspect of growing sweet woodruff is getting the spreading habit under control. Sweet woodruff spreads by rhizomes just underneath the soil, and while it never really takes hold in sharp grade changes, it can get out of hand if left unpruned.

Still, it is a popular ground cover plant, as it has wonderfully fragrant clusters of white flowers, which are most noticeable in June, and only last for a few days. The flowers yield abundant amounts of nectar to attract honeybees, which pollinate them. It is one of the early spring flowers that make for such a wonderful and fragrant "nosegay", the way they smell when all bunched up together.

The tiny, star-shaped leaves of sweet woodruff stay green throughout the year.

Best Ground Cover Plants For Partial Sun

If you have a small lawn area that is uneven and needs to be enhanced then a ground cover landscaping idea can be a great alternative to grass. Ground covers still protect the soil and prevent erosion, but they do not need as much maintenance as a lawn.

Partial sun is an ideal area for a ground cover landscaping idea. Ground covers do need sun but they do also need variety in sunlight. They need to be able to receive some light in the morning and in the evening. The heat of the day needs to be moderate and not unbearable for them. Plant them so they will give you a seamless lawn substitute for your yard.

The best ground cover plants for partial sun are:

  • Scotch Moss: It has pale to bright green, 3/4 inch long hairless, egg-shaped leaves with serrated edges that can add a bright blue tint in the spring. This plant is a native of North America and has a creeping habit. It can spread to a width of 4 to 6 feet and it is best suited for a shady area.
  • Pachysandra: This plant has a medium height and texture with an upright habit. It is dense and has a green color to it. It thrives in partially sunny, well-drained soil. It is a native plant from Japan and it is common in only the Eastern part of North America.

Creeping Phlox

The creeping phlox is a purple ground cover that is known for its fragrant blossoms. These flowers have a scent that is described as smelling like honey. They are also known as an herb-like plant. The creeping phlox is one of the most versatile plants you can choose when you want a ground cover. It gives you the best of both worlds. It grows very low to the ground, but it creeps up slowly on its own. Creeping phlox looks best covered in.

With the creeping phlox ground cover, you have an opportunity to enjoy a variety of blooms in the early spring time. You can even take advantage of the fact that this plant is more likely to bloom in full sun. In addition to being a purple ground cover, this plant has color options for you. These include yellow, white, pink, and white. So, you can enjoy the diversity that blooms offer when you choose to use the creeping phlox as a ground cover.

Dianthus

Dianthus is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae. These plants are also known by the common name of carnation. They are all annual or perennial herbaceous plants with pink or white flowers. Some species are fragrant. The flowers are usually less than 10 cm long, in diameter, with 5 petals. Dethatching is necessary to maintain the lawn. Another task to be performed annually is the application of herbicides.

Brunnera macrophylla – syn. Arabis macrophylla , is a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Brassicaceae. It is commonly known as Siberian bugloss, and grows in clumps of finely divided, spoon-shaped, mid-green leaves that turn red in autumn and early winter.

Centaurea macrocephala – syn. Centaurea scabiosa , is a species of plant in the Centaurea genus, native to eastern Europe and former USSR. It is a large herbaceous perennial growing to 70 cm tall, with flowers varying from white to pink to purplish, usually with a rose-like centre.

Corsican Mint

A wonderfully fragrant plant with a variety of uses, Corsican Mint Lavender is a perennial plant that add a wonderful additional dimension to your garden with its delicate flower aroma. Corsican Mint Lavender is a variety of Lamiaceae mint, although it is more like a cross between a clove scented garden are and a member of the mint family, essentially it has characteristics of both. This is one of the types of mint that you can actually smell from quite a distance away. The lavender variety of the Corsican Mint plant displays a deep, violet purple color that can add a lot of color and interest throughout your garden. The flower spikes will reach about a foot tall and are particularly sweet smelling. It is very easy to grow and one of its major benefits is that it does not take over the site in your garden. Corsican Mint plants will get around 18 to 24 inches tall and should be planted in full sun in loose, well drained soil that has been mixed with plenty of compost and drainage material, such as pea gravel or perlite. Many people will grow Corsican Mint Lavender as an annual simply because it looks so great for such a long time before it final dissolves into the ground. You can also recycle the flower stalks by putting them in your vegetable compost. The leaves can also be used to make herbal tea, which is a very soothing way to end the day.

Mazus

Mazus, sometimes called Devil's Beard, is a ground cover plant that does well in shady areas of a garden. It is also known as a creeping Jenny, false grape, wrinkled atranta, and dwarf mugwort. It is a tough plant that can be found growing in some of the harshest environments of the world.

When choosing Mazus for your garden, there are several varieties available. Some have variegated leaves, which provide a wonderful splash of color, while others have reddish stems and yellow blooms. The color of a variety remains constant all season, so visitors are guaranteed to be enamored with these beautiful plants for all the right reasons.

The texture and height of Mazus make it a wonderful shade-garden plant. The leaves are rounded, and the plant is low growing. This allows it to spread quickly, and with a little extra water, it does very well. It is also a great border plant, and can be used to soften the look of a garden where other hardscape elements may be present.

There are some limitations to Mazus. It requires an acidic soil environment, and once established, larger plants can be difficult to move. Also, because of its small size, and creeping habit, it is only a good option for a small garden. So if you have plenty of room and like a lot of color, this is a great plant for you.

Blue Star Creeper

(Amsonia tabernaemontana)

Also called Blue Star Vine, this plant is very useful for re-groundcovering, especially in the over-seas. It can be grown in about any hardiness zone and can be easily propagated by cuttings. It prefers poor, dry soil and can often be found growing wild in abandoned fields or roadsides. It produces a lovely, blue star-shaped flower in the Summer and Fall.

Best Ground Cover Plants For Full Sun

Ground covers are a smart solution for homeowners. They are wonderfully adaptable and provide great benefits for many different yard conditions. They can be planted as borders, in containers, and as a lawn replacement.

Ground covers do not require a great deal of watering and provide a natural barrier between you and weeds. They are great for tackling erosion and for stabilizing your home's property value.

Their low maintenance requirements, coupled with their exceptional resilience and versatile uses make ground cover plants an ideal solution for many homeowners.

However, not all ground covers are appropriate for every location. I have found that not all ground covers are a fit for all neighborhoods and types of yards. They can be lined up and categorized by their hardiness zone and can be made into three main groups,

Flowering Ground Covers: Vibrant, Full, and Fragrant

These plants not only provide a barrier that privacy but also add some color into the yard. There are also numerous fragrant varieties that are great for scented landscapes.

Non-Flowering Plants: Scotts Zone, Low Care and Year-Round Interest

These plants include moss and lichen and are generally the first line of defense for reclaiming your yard from weeds. They work best in shaded areas and in high traffic areas.

Creeping Thyme

There are so many creeping thyme varieties to choose from. I prefer creeping Garden Thyme (commonly named English thyme) for two reasons. First, let’s pay homage to our British ancestors. They gave us Shakespeare, Buckingham Palace, Sir Walter Raleigh, etc. and are responsible for putting the Empire back together after the divorce. Second, it’s a beautiful plant that’s very easy to grow. It can survive in the shade or full sun and still stay put. It stays nice and compact and has pretty purple flowers in the spring. You can also mow it a couple of times in the early summer to create a fresh new look.

Lamb’s Ear

Lamb’s Ear is a soft, fuzzy plant that is often used in border areas. It is soft to walk on, and the flowers are small and scented. It’s evergreen, which is attractive in the winter when nothing else is green. It’s also drought-resistant, and deer don’t generally eat the leaves. But, sometime they do.

The biggest drawback of lamb’s ear is its growth. It spreads out several feet, requiring frequent maintenance.

Creeping Speedwell

The roots are deep, and it builds new plants from the smallest piece of root left in the soil. It's a heavy feeder and likes the rich soil that a lawn might have, but it's not vigorous enough to take over.

The flower is usually white, but it can be pink, purple, or yellow. It matures into a cluster of seed capsules that looks similar to black pepper.

Another approach is to add clover to the mix. All of the clovers are excellent natural lawn fertilizers. White Dutch clover is the most common and the most aggressive. The leaves are rounded and hairless and the pink flowers have a white center. You can sow it alone or mix it with other ground cover.

It can encourage wildflowers to grow, which is good for both your lawn and for the pollinators.

Wooly Thyme

Wooly thyme (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii) is a great ground cover plant for dry and sunny areas, which means that it is also perfect to use as a lawn replacement and as a border plants in the xeriscape and water wise garden.

Growing wooly thyme is easy, as it performs well in the most stubborn soils, including clay, so it can be used as a lawn replacement in areas where it is both too dry and too rocky for most grasses to establish themselves.

The plants will grow to be 6-10 inches high and wide. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil.

Wooly thyme is drought and heat tolerant, it needs low-to-moderate watering and pruning will keep the plant compact.

Instead of spending money on fertilizer or mowing your lawn, removing it and planting wooly thyme can be a good choice. The adaptation to extreme conditions, resistance to both drought and sloppy soil and the low maintenance make this ground cover a perfect choice for several different reasons.

Another amazing advantage of wooly thyme is that it has a delightfully strong and minty smell that is sure to please its best friends “ us humans.

Creeping Juniper

Inexpensive and long-lasting, ground cover juniper is a no-fuss-no-mow solution when it comes to replacing a lawn or gracing a border with green. Unlike pretty much all other ground cover plants, ground cover juniper not only tolerates, but actually prefers, full sun, so it will thrive in your lean-to or near a deck or porch. Ground cover juniper should be pruned periodically throughout the year, but it is very low-maintenance. It's clean-cut foliage is attractive in any season-and it stays evergreen almost all year. To control its spread, just mow down ground cover juniper now and then.

Best Drought-Tolerant Ground Cover Plants

Ground covers have very low water needs, which makes them a great alternative for larger areas of your lawn. They do need to be watered occasionally during extended hot and dry periods, but they typically never need to be watered so often that it becomes a huge burden.

The best ground cover plants for your lawn combine beauty, low maintenance, and hardiness. Here are the best varieties:

Summer Cypress Vine (Parthenocissus inserta)

This vine is a great choice for growing on an arbor or over a wall. It is also a great choice for growing on a trellis. This is not a ground covering, though it can spread out and cover the area under or beside it if allowed.

Dwarf Bugleweed (Ajuga Reptans)

This ground cover is a flowering type. It is evergreen and spreads and grows slowly. It doesn’t require much upkeep and will grow in shade or sun.

Foamflower (Tiarella Cordifolia)

This ground cover spreads out to grow. It has small leaves and white flowers that bloom in the spring.

Sedum

Sedum is perhaps one of the easiest ground cover plants to grow in the world. Once they can set their roots down, the need for a lot of maintenance. This does not mean that they are not susceptible to insect infestation. Pests of sedums, such as slugs, snails, white flies, and nematodes are as likely as with any other plant.

The keys to growing healthy sedums are: adequate moisture; sunlight; air circulation; healthy, loose, well-draining soil; and drainage.

The winter hardy sedums are not limited to green. The ginger family sedums are actually available in a variety of other colors. These include green, grey, rose, mauve, pink, and violet.

Sedum ground cover is an excellent choice for clear rock gardens with gravel paths. It is also good for terraces, and edging as well as borders for any other garden area. Due to it’s thick, fleshy leaves, sedum is usually a good choice for shady moist locations. And again, there are wide varieties of sedum sizes, textures, and colors to choose from.

Roman Chamomile

Ice Plant

If you are weary of having to care for the lawn during the hot summer months, or if you simply don’t have the time to put into your lawn, then you might want to consider choosing a lawn alternative that you can care for much more easily. Ground cover plants are a great choice for an alternative to the traditional lawn. They are low-maintenance and require little work on your part to keep them maintained.

Try Ground Cover Plants as Lawn Replacement

Just like anything that you grow in your garden, ground cover plants can be susceptible to disease, insect infestation and various other threats, so you should do your research about any ground cover that you choose. For example, some plants are not suitable for various parts of the country, so if you live in a region where there is a threat of frost every year, you may want to steer clear from using plants such as vinca, pachysandra or sand sedge.

When choosing ground cover plants, you will either need to sow these plants each year or if you have decided to plant perennials, you will need to replant them yearly as the years go on.

With a traditional, much-maligned lawn, you will always need to satisfy the need to mow at least once a week, but with ground cover plants, you do not need to mow them as often, as they are shorter in length.

Creeping Sage

Placing a low-growing ground cover in patches of your lawn allows you to grow other plants closer to the ground in the more traditional grassy areas.

Sage (Salvia spp.), which comes in a variety of sizes and forms, is a good candidate for this practice. You can range from a creeping sage with fine leaves and low height like Salvia microphylla var. Microphylla to a big, taller variety such as an upright Salvia chamaedryoides.

For plant material, look for nice-sized plants with healthy, dark-green leaves that are spaced about 1 to 1.5 inches apart.

Some varieties such as Purple Sage Salvia farinacea var. rubifolia will be slightly gray in color and softer and more pliable than other varieties.

Plant them directly into the ground and pinch the terminal area to force branching, and to keep the plants at a height you are happy with. To keep them flowering continuously, remove the fading flowers.

Occasional watering, bright sunlight, and a fertile, well-draining soil helps to keep them healthy.

Greek Oregano

How to grow and make your very own oregano oil.

It is fairly easy to propagate oregano from cuttings. To do so, wash a mature stem gently and completely. Cut it into 5 to 6 inch pieces, remove leaves from the lower half of each piece and plant it in well-drained soil. Amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure and water the oregano plant gently and thoroughly.

If your clippings dry out or rot, nothing is lost. Instead of wasting good leaves, you can try again until you get it right. So don’t worry, practice makes perfect!

Keep your new oregano plant moist and in a sunny location for best results. After rooting, the cuttings will form roots and the leaves will turn green. Once this occurs, wait for the night temperatures to warm up to about 18-20 degrees C before transplanting.