Perennials for ground covers
Ground covers are both decorative and problem solvers. Many thrive in shade or where lawns will not grow. Others are ideal for preventing soil erosion and weed control.
Perennials for ground covers are not usually the herbaceous types that die down in winter, but rather evergreen types, woody sub-shrubs and those with winter persistent foliage.
Below you will find a list of some of the more common species of ground covers.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva ursi)
15 cm tall, spacing 30 to 45 cm. Glossy green leaves and pink, bell-shaped flowers in spring, followed by bright red berries. Sandy dry soil in sun or partial shade.
Bugleflower (Ajuga species)
Foliage height 10 to 15 cm, flowers to 30 cm, spacing 30 cm. Bronze or purple-leaved, plain green and variegated forms are also available. Blue flower spikes in May to June, but pink to white are also possible. Sun or shade.
Woolly yarrow (Achillea tomentosa)
10 to 15 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Fine-cut silver foliage and light yellow flowers in June to July. Dry soil in full sun. The foliage persists in winter.
Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis and vulgaris)
45 cm tall, spacing 60 cm. Lobed or wavy leaves with a fine down. Chartreuse-yellow flowers in May to June. The dwarf form (A. erythropoda) has more silvery leaves. Full sun or partial shade.
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majallis)
15 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Broad, pointed green leaves and fragrant pure white flowers in May to June. Good underplanting for shade or partial shade.
Note: Toxic to pets and other animals.
Crown vetch (Coronilla varia)
60 cm tall, spacing 60 cm. Bushy and upright with masses of pink flowers in June. Use on steep banks as erosion or weed control in sun or partial shade.
Snow in summer (Cerastium tomentosa)
15 cm tall, spacing 45 to 60 cm. Silvery foliage covered with white flowers in June. When used in borders, it should be checked by severe cutting back after flowering. Full sun on dry slopes.
Purple wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus')
30 cm tall, spacing 60 cm. Dark leaves in summer, turning bright red in fall. Sun or shade.
Barrenwort (Epimedium varieties)
30 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Also known as bishop's hat due to its unique flower shape. Fresh green leaves with red and bronze tints. Flowers are red, pink, yellow or white. Sandy soil in sun to partial shade.
Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, Asperula o.)
15 to 30 cm, spacing 30 cm. Whorls of bright green, shiny leaves and masses of small, white flowers in June to July. Good underplanting for moist shade with slight acidic soil.
Dead nettle (Lamium varieties)
20 cm tall, spacing 30 to 45 cm. Foliage is reddish tones with silver veining. Hooded pink or pure white flowers. Tolerates full sun or shade as an underplanting.
Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis)
20 cm tall, spacing 15 to 30 cm. Fully evergreen. Forms a weed-controlling mat. Green-white flowers in April to May. Shade to partial shade.
Ground phlox (Phlox subulata)
10 to 15 cm tall, spacing 45 cm. Densely tufted, soft needle-like leaves. Pink, blue or white flower covering in May. Remains green in winter.
Irish and Scotch moss (Sagina subulata verna and aurea)
5 cm tall, spacing 15 to 30 cm. Bright green or gold mossy foliage with tiny white flowers in June to July. Keep weed-free for best effects. Best in shade. Tolerates full sun in moist soil.
Dragon's blood stonecrop (Sedum spurium)
15 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Deep red foliage all season. Starry red flowers in July to August. Used on banks in full sun.
Thyme (Thymus varieties)
5 to 10 cm tall, spacing 30 cm. Woolly thyme provides a dense mat of gray foliage and pink-mauve flowers in June. Thyme is evergreen and comes in gold or silver-marked varieties. Sun in well-drained moisture retentive soil.
Consider these as well
Information on alternatives to some naturally-invasive plants courtesy of Grow Me Instead.
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
15 cm tall. Three-lobed and toothed green leaves. Small white flowers in late-spring, small edible berries in early-summer. Dry to average sand, loam or clay soil. Full sun.
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
15-20 cm tall. Single maroon flower under leaves in late-spring. Deer resistent. Roots have a sweet ginger smell. Average to moist, humus-rich soil. Part sun to shade.
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
10-15 cm tall. Fragant leaves can be chewed for minty flavour. Fragrant white flowers in spring, bright red berries in fall. Dry to moist, acidic soil. Partial shade.
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)
Up to 40 cm tall. Large, umbrella-like leaves unravel in early spring. A single white flower under leaves in spring. Edible fruit. Average to moist soil. Part sun to deciduous shade. Needs spring sun.
Running Euonymus (Euonymus obovatus)
45 cm tall. Dense foliage turns scarlet in fall. Red berries in fall. Rich and moist, well-drained soil. Groundcover in partial shade.
Foamflower (Tharella cordifolia)
13-25 cm tall. Maple-like leaves turn red in fall and winter. Small, white star-like flowers on spikes in early spring an early summer. Average to moist, humus rich loam soils. Partial to full shade.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
7-20 cm tall. Smooth-edged upper leaves are green above, whitish below. Cream-green glowers throughout summer, followed by red berries. Can withstand poor soil in damp, cool conditions, acidic soil or peat moss.
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
30-60 cm tall, clumping. Show pink or magenta blooms in late-spring and early-summer. Nectar source for hummingbirds. Dry to moderate sand or clay soil. Sun to partial shade.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
5-15 cm tall shrub. Shiny leaves, bronze in fall. Showy-white pink flowers in spring and summer followed by showy red fruit. Drought tolerant. Moderate spreader. Dry to medium sand and loam. Sun to partial shade.