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Perennials or shrubs that cover the ground extensively and densely like a carpet are referred to as ground cover. These plants are characterized by their low and dense habit and the ability to form wide cushions. In addition to the evergreen specimens, which are used again and again, it is above all the flowering beauties that emphasize a sunny bed or an ugly corner in the garden with their very own charm.

ground cover

Benefits of ground cover plants

There is a lot to be said for planting ground cover in the garden. Carpet medlar, star moss or blue cushion fill disturbing or bare gaps in the beds and create green carpets or blooming splashes of color along the way, between stone slabs and under shrubs.

Ground covers also have very specific functions:

  • protection against erosion
  • suppress weeds
  • protect against heat and cold
  • retain moisture better in the soil
  • loosen up the soil

Suitable plants

Location is the most important factor when choosing plants. There are countless ways to use ground cover for partially shaded beds. If it is a place in the sun, attractive areas can be created with low, sun and heat-tolerant perennials and shrubs. In addition to the location and the soil conditions, attention should also be paid to the plant's willingness to grow. For example, ivy, as a ground cover, quickly and reliably greens large areas, but is then very difficult to control. Classic ground covers are robust and require little maintenance. In order to keep the effort within limits, it makes sense to select plants that are both perennial and hardy.

flowering varieties

Flowering varieties for dry locations in the sun

Locations in the sun are often associated with soil conditions that are dry and poor in nutrients. These conditions must also be taken into account when selecting plants. Mediterranean, low-growing perennials are particularly suitable as ground cover or plant species that come from alpine regions.

African ring-necked daisy (Anacyclus depressus)

  • tripinnate, grey-green shimmering leaves
  • bicolored flowers from May to September
  • Growth height: 5-10 cm

Andean cushion (Azorella trifurcata 'Nana')

  • very flat cushion perennial
  • evergreen, feathery foliage
  • Green-yellow flowers in May and June
  • Growth height: 3-5 cm

Mountain Chickweed (Arenaria montana)

  • numerous white flowers in May to June
  • very drought tolerant
  • Soil: not very demanding
  • Growth height: up to 15 cm

Blue-green prickly nutlet (Acaena buchananii)

  • white-grey to greenish foliage
  • single white flowers in June/July
  • forms beautiful, prickly fruit ornaments
  • Growth height: 5 to 8 cm
  • 10 to 12 plants per m²

Speedwell (Veronica)

  • mostly white or blue flowers (April/May)
  • deep green, needle-like foliage
  • loose, permeable soil
  • Growth height: 10 cm
Speedwell, Veronica

Garden sage (Salvia nemorosa)

  • Pillow-forming perennial
  • white or violet umbels of flowers from June to September
  • also tolerates heat and drought
  • Growth height: 30 to 40 cm
Wood sage, steppe sage, Salvia nemorosa

Autumn Catchfly (Silene schafta)

  • delicate, loose growth
  • intensely colored flowers in August and September
  • very adaptable and hardy
  • Growth height: 10 to 15 cm
  • 10 to 12 plants per m²
Catchfly, Silene italica

Hornwort (Cerastium tomentosum)

  • attractive silvery-white foliage all year round
  • Soil: rocky and dry
  • small white flowers in May
  • Growth height: 10 cm
  • 4 plants per m²

Cushion Carnations (Dianthus cultivars)

  • Flowers mostly in different shades of red or white
  • very long and rich flowering
  • also grows on stony and sandy soils
  • Growth height: 15 cm
Carnations, Dianthus

ice plant (Delosperma cooperi)

  • Flowers only open in the midday sun
  • intensively colored flowers from June to August
  • Leaves store water
  • suitable for full sun locations
  • Growth height: 10 to 15 cm

Cushion phlox/carpet phlox (Phlox subulata)

  • very wide range of flower colors
  • blooms profusely (May to June)
  • conditionally winter green
  • Growth height: 10 cm
cushion phlox

Porcelain stars (Houstonia caerulea)

  • profusely flowering small perennial
  • completely blue during flowering in May/June
  • needs acidic, stony soil
  • Growth height: 5 to 20 cm
  • conditionally winter green

Teucrium chamaedrys

  • native wild perennial
  • loose, flat, spreading growth
  • purple-pink flowers in July/August
  • Growth height: 20 to 25 cm
Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys

Mountain avens (Dryas varieties)

  • very undemanding plant from the alpine region
  • small, white flowers with a yellow center (June-July)
  • beautiful fruit decoration
  • Foliage also visible in winter
  • Growth height: 15 cm

Prickly Nuts (Aceanea microphylla)

  • for all difficult to plant areas
  • very undemanding
  • filigree, green foliage, turning coppery in autumn
  • Flowers: small white flower balls in June/July
  • crimson, very decorative nutlets in autumn
  • Growth height: 10 cm

Stonewort/Saxifrage (Alyssum)

  • clumpy to carpet-like growth
  • yellow flowers in April to May
  • beautiful in combination with blue cushions
  • Growth height: 15 cm
Rock Alyssum, Alyssum saxatile

Carpet / cushion bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana)

  • heart-shaped, fresh green leaves, semi-evergreen
  • white or violet flowers from June to September
  • Growth height: 10 cm
Carpathian Bellflower, Campanula carpatica

Carpet/cushion soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides)

  • forms large cushions
  • for dry soils in full sun
  • pink flowers from May to June
  • Growth height 20 cm

carpet-forming plants

Carpet-forming plants for semi-shade

Although some ground cover plants need a very bright location, they do not tolerate blazing midday sun or heat. In addition, they prefer to grow in humus-rich, nutrient-rich soil that is better at retaining moisture. A location in the light semi-shade can be found, for example, next to low trees or tall perennials. Recommended as ground cover are low-growing perennials and small shrubs with good winter hardiness.

Cyclamen (Cyclamen species)

  • rounded leaves, purple from below
  • spreading flat
  • pink flowers
  • needs light winter protection
  • Growth height: 5 to 10 cm
Autumn Cyclamen

Ground cover roses (Rosaceae)

  • flat-growing species
  • floriferous, in many color variations
  • Lime tolerant and insensitive to drought
  • Growth height: up to 30 cm

Chinese leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)

  • sprouts late
  • competitive
  • lime tolerant
  • bright, gentian blue flowers (August to October)
  • wine-red autumn colour
  • Growth height: 25 cm
Chinese leadwort, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

  • flat mat forming shrub
  • fragrant flowers in May to June
  • dark red berries
  • dark green leaves with light veins
  • reddish shoots
  • Growth height: 5 to 10 cm

Spring Commemorative (Omphalodes verna)

  • adaptable area cover
  • sky blue, small flowers in April to May
  • Growth height: 10 cm
  • 15 to 17 plants per m²

Crawling Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

  • creeping shrub with long runners
  • different leaf colors (green, reddish)
  • spike-shaped flowers from April to May
  • evergreen
  • Growth height: up to 20 cm
Creeping bugle, Ajuga reptans

Fingerbush (Potentilla fruticosa)

  • densely branched, ground-covering small shrub
  • different flower colors
  • Continuous bloomers from May to October
  • undemanding to the ground
  • Growth height: 40 cm

Canadian dogwood/carpet dogwood (Cornus canadensis)

  • grows almost creeping
  • small, creamy white flowers in June
  • bright red colored fruits in autumn
  • orange to red fall color
  • loose, slightly acidic humus soil
  • Growth height: 10-20 cm
  • 6-8 plants per m²
Hornbush, Cornus, Dogwood

Knotweed (Bistorta)

  • forms a fresh green carpet of leaves
  • many flowering candles from May to October
  • Soil: moist to moist fresh
  • Growth height: 25 cm
candle knotweed

Lip mouth (Mazus reptans)

  • also for the edge of the pond
  • moist soils
  • Snapdragon-like flowers in May/June
  • Growth height: 3 to 8 cm
  • light winter protection necessary

Saxifrage/Bergenia (Bergenia)

  • very adaptable (suitable for almost all locations)
  • thick, green or green-red foliage
  • Flower umbels in April/May
  • Growth height: between 20 and 50 cm depending on the variety
Bergenia, Bergenia

Cranesbill (Geranium)

  • compact, bushy growth
  • Flowers of different colors from June to October
  • Growth height: 30-45 cm (depending on variety)
  • 4 to 5 plants per m²

Dwarf chinensis (Astilbe chinensis var. pumila)

  • carpet-like spread
  • many, tuffy inflorescences in August/September
  • pinnate, dark green foliage
  • Growth height: 20 to 30 cm
Royal spars, Astilbe

Walkable ground cover

Today, ground covers are becoming increasingly important. Increasingly, they are even being used as a lawn substitute in the garden. However, only very few plants tolerate frequent walking, as otherwise unsightly walkways are created. Sturdy or walkable usually only means occasional walking - and even barefoot. There are a number of plants that are suitable as walkable groundcover and also grow best in a spot in the sun or partial shade. All listed ground cover plants are perennial, hardy and require little maintenance.

Feather Pad (Cotula squalida, Laptinella squalida)

  • blue-green, fern-like leaves
  • sunny to semi-shady
  • small, yellow flowers in midsummer
  • Growth height: 5-10 cm
Silver pinnate, Cotula hispida

Gaudich (Isotoma fluviatilis)

  • creeping scented plant
  • countless blue or white flowers from June to August
  • hardwearing
  • full sun to part shade
  • Growth height: 10 cm
Blue bobcat, Isotoma fluviatilis

Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum)

  • fragrant, densely growing cushion perennial
  • deciduous
  • Flowers: very rich, mostly reddish tones (June to August)
  • Soil: lean, sandy, rather dry
  • Rock gardens, green roofs, gaps between joints
Wild thyme, wild thyme, Thymus serpyllum

Star Moss (Sagina subulata)

  • many small but numerous flowers in June to August
  • needle-like, evergreen foliage
  • no special demands on the soil
  • Also suitable for rock gardens, green roofs and slab recesses
  • Growth height: 3-5 cm
Star Moss, Sagina subulata

Cotoneaster dammeri

  • shrubby creeping growth and dense branching
  • many white flowers in May and June
  • red fruits last until spring (low toxicity)
  • prefers partial shade with evenly moist soil
  • lime loving
  • Growth height: around 40 cm

Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus 'Aureus')

  • fragrant ground cover for the rock garden
  • evergreen
  • Location: sunny (also tolerates drought and heat)
  • edible
  • hardy
  • Growth height: 10-15 cm
Lemon Thyme, Thymus citriodorus

Evergreen Varieties

Evergreen perennials and dwarf shrubs are suitable for making the garden easy to care for and to have few bare spots in the beds even in winter. They form a green plant cover all year round. However, most evergreen perennials only retain their foliage in mild winters or in sheltered locations. The winter sun and severe frost can cause the green carpet of plants to disappear for a short time. However, since the species listed are very hardy, they usually sprout again reliably in spring.

Blue Cushions (Aubrieta Hybrids)

  • flowering from March, long flowering period
  • usually in shades of blue or purple
  • sunny to off-sun
  • drought resistant
  • Growth height: 5 to 10 cm
Bluecushion, Aubrieta

Garden Globeflower (Glabularia cordifolia)

  • low-growing dwarf perennial, carpet-forming
  • Soil: calcareous, rocky
  • sunny and warm
  • Growth height: 5-10 cm
  • spherical flowers from May to July

Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

  • carpet-forming dwarf shrub
  • dark green foliage
  • Flowers: Blue or white (May to September)
  • Soil: permeable and humic
  • 5-7 plants per m²
Small periwinkle, Vinca minor

creeping spindle (Euonymus fortunei)

  • slow creeping shrub, also climbing on trees
  • Leaves: many colors (green, variegated)
  • cut compatible
  • Growth height: 30-50 cm
  • decorative small flowers and fruits
  • 6-8 plants per m²
Spindle shrub, Euonymus

Stonecrop (Sedum acre)

  • forms very dense cushions
  • yellow flowers in June to July
  • Growth height: around 10 cm
  • suitable for dry locations
  • walkable

Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia)

  • Area cover for the front bed area and the water edge
  • single, yellow flowers in May to June
  • Soil: freshly moist
  • Growth height: 5-10 cm
Loosestrife, Lysimachia vulgaris

Upholstery dot and round-leaved dot (Origanum vulgare and O. rotundifolium 'Kent Beauty')

  • Perennial bloomers with fragrant foliage
  • Spice plant with essential oils
  • related to oregano and marjoram
  • like it very sunny
  • Growth height: up to 30 cm
  • good hardy
golden wild marjoram, Origanum vulgare

Cushion Saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia or S. cespitosa)

  • white or reddish flowers in May to June
  • ideal for rock gardens or green roofs
  • partially shaded location
  • Growth height: up to 10 cm
Saxifrage, Saxifraga

Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

  • very aromatic
  • for full sun locations
  • white flowers from June to August
  • Growth height: 25 cm

Rockrose (Helianthemum)

  • evergreen dwarf shrub
  • cupped flowers of yellow, orange or red (May-July)
  • Location: sunny and not too humid
  • Growth height: 20 cm
Yellow rockrose, Helianthemum nummularium

Rockseed (Lithodora)

  • Evergreen dwarf shrub, herbaceous growing
  • forms dense cushions
  • bright blue sea of flowers in summer
  • Location: sunny
  • Growth height: up to 15 cm
Rockseed, Lithodora diffusa

Carpet Fat Leaf (Sedum spurium)

  • compact, dense growth
  • rich, intensively colored flowers from July to August
  • also suitable for roof greening
  • Growth height: 15 cm

Carpet Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis 'Chaval')

  • dark red flowers (May to August)
  • edible berries
  • partially shaded, humus rich soil
  • Growth height: 10-20 cm
Wild Strawberry, Fragaria vesca

ornamental leaf perennials

Ornamental leaf perennials bring color to the garden for several months, and evergreen varieties even all year round. There is also a large selection for sunny locations. When choosing ground cover, pay attention to the site and soil conditions. Some species tolerate full sun others prefer a few hours of shade.

Mountain silver mantle / silver lady's mantle (Alchemilla hoppeana)

  • native perennial
  • fan-shaped, green foliage (deciduous)
  • prefers calcareous soils in the sun
  • Flowers: simple, green-yellow in June to September
  • Growth height: 6-10 cm
lady's mantle

Blue-grey Bacopa (Sedum cyaneum 'Sakhalin')

  • compact, flat growth
  • bluish-grey, thick leaf rosettes
  • Location: sunny
  • rich flowering variety (pink, July to September)
  • Growth height: 5-10 cm
Sedum telephium Xenox, Tall Stonecrop, Garden Bacopa

Variegated broadleaf sedge (Carex siderosticha 'Variegata')

  • wide leaves with a white border
  • for partially shaded places
  • spike-shaped flowers in May
  • deciduous
  • Growth height: 30-40 cm
Rough sedge, Carex hirta

Colorful lizard tail (Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon')

  • multicolored variegated foliage
  • small, white flowers (June/July)
  • full sun or shade
  • can also be planted in moist soil (up to 5 cm water depth)
  • Growth height: 30 to 50 cm

Cinquefoil feather carpet (Cotula pontentillina)

  • fast-growing species with pinnate leaves
  • evergreen
  • small flowers in May to June
  • Soil: slightly damp
  • Location: sunny
  • Growth height: 5 cm
Silver pinnate, Cotula hispida

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)

  • unusual leaf shape
  • adapts well to different locations
  • yellowish-green flowers in June/July
  • Growth height: 30-40 cm
Lady's mantle, Alchemilla xanthochlora

Cat's Paw (Antennaria)

  • silver-green leaf rosettes with hairy leaves
  • white or purple inflorescences (May to July)
  • sandy, rather acidic soils in the sun
  • Growth height: 8 to 10 cm

Purple Bells (Heuchera)

  • Leaves available in all colors (greens, violet, copper, cherry red, grey-blue)
  • inconspicuous umbels in June to August
  • bright but no midday sun
  • Growth height: 20-30 cm
Silverleaf Crimson Bells

shield leaf (Darmera peltata)

  • shield-shaped, large leaves (20-45 cm)
  • Flowers in April before the leaves emerge
  • intensive autumn colours
  • Soil: fresh to moist
  • for sunny water edges and open spaces
  • Growth height: up to 80 cm
shield sheet

Carpet Woolly Ziest (Stachys byzantina 'Silver Carpet')

  • fluffy hairy leaves
  • flat-growing variety with almost no flowers
  • well-drained soil
  • wintergreen
  • Location: full sun, dry
  • Growth height: 30 to 40 cm

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