25 Low-Maintenance Groundcover Plants That Look Gorgeous Without a Lot of Effort

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Creeping phlox
Photo: Doug Hetherington

For bare spots under large trees, sunny slopes, and other challenging spots, a groundcover offers an easy solution for adding color. Plus, these plants act like a living mulch, protecting soil from erosion and drought. The following low-growing perennial groundcovers work well in a variety of situations, without requiring a lot of care.

01 of 25

Thyme

thyme pink flowers
Peter Krumhardt

Enjoy the fresh smell of thyme underfoot in your garden. This evergreen groundcover offers fragrant foliage and pink or white flowers in spring or summer.

Name: Thymus serpyllum

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 10 inches tall

Zones: 4-9

Buy It: Thyme Plant ($9, The Home Depot)

02 of 25

Sweet Woodruff

sweet woodruff small white flowers
Mike Jensen

When you need a groundcover for shade, sweet woodruff is an easy-to-grow option. It will even add a pleasant fragrance to your yard, both from the leaves (which smell like fresh hay when mown or crushed) and the small white flowers that appear in spring. This spreading perennial isn't prone to invasiveness, but can get a little exuberant when grown in optimal conditions with lots of moisture.

Name: Galium odoratum

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 12 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Sweet Woodruff Seeds ($9, Etsy)

03 of 25

Brass Buttons

leptinella squalida cover ground plant
King Au 

An evergreen groundcover in warmer areas, brass buttons offers fern-like, fine-textured foliage and button-shape, yellowish flowers. The variety 'Platt's Black' has very dark leaves that look especially striking surrounding lighter-plants or landscaping features like boulders. Plus, it can tolerate a little foot traffic, so it's a good choice between stepping stones as long as it receives steady moisture.

Name: Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black'

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 6 inches tall

Zones: 4-7

Buy It: Brass Buttons ($15, Walmart)

04 of 25

Lamium

Lamium maculatum Purple Dragon
Rich Pomerantz

Also known as deadnettle, lamium is a reliable, easy-care groundcover for shade. Most types bloom through the summer, producing clusters of pink, purple, or white flowers. Even when not in bloom, lamium has eye-catching, silver-marked green foliage that brightens up shady corners. This low-maintenance perennial makes a beautiful alternative to a struggling lawn.

Name: Lamium maculatum

Growing Conditions: Full shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 8 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Purple Chablis Dead Nettle ($29, The Home Depot)

05 of 25

Golden Moneywort

Creeping Jenny
Erica George Dines

Also called creeping Jenny, golden moneywort is a fast-growing groundcover that forms mats of tiny chartreuse leaves along thin, sprawling stems. The coloring will look brightest in full sun, but it grows well in part shade, too. Just beware, this perennial can quickly get out of hand so it's best grown where it can be kept in bounds, such as in a bed bordered on all sides by concrete or other impenetrable hardscaping. And it's considered invasive in some regions of the country, so make sure to check if it's a problem in your area before planting.

Name: Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist soil

Size: 3 inches tall

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: Goldilocks Creeping Jenny

06 of 25

Epimedium

epimedium grandiflorum pink flowers
Bob Stefko

Dry shade can be a tough landscaping problem. Thankfully, epimedium thrives in these conditions. There are many excellent varieties to choose from, but a few particularly pretty ones include 'Pierre's Purple', 'Sulphureum', and 'Lilafee'.

Name: Epimedium grandiflorum

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade and well-drained soil

Size: 8 inches tall

Zones: 3-9

Buy It: Perennial Farm Marketplace Epimedium

07 of 25

Lily-of-the-Valley

lily of the valley close up
Ginny Weiler

In addition to its fragrant spring blooms, lily-of-the-valley is one of the easiest groundcovers to grow. It's perfect in a shady spot off under a big tree in your backyard because it tolerates dry conditions well. Do watch it, though: It can be a vigorous spreader.

Name: Convallaria majalis

Growing Conditions: Shade and well-drained soil

Size: 8 inches tall

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Van Zyverden Lily of the Valley ($2, Walmart)

08 of 25

Bunchberry

bunchberry white flowers
Mike Eagleton

A native groundcover that does well in shade, bunchberry features cute little white flowers in spring, followed by bright red fruits in fall. The leaves also develop festive shades of bronzy-purple in autumn.

Name: Cornus canadensis

Growing Conditions: Full shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 6 inches tall

Zones: 2-7

Buy It: Bunchberry

09 of 25

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger
Julie Mikos

Wild ginger is prized for its glossy, heart-shape leaves and vigorous growth. While not invasive, it wastes no time forming a sizable colony in your landscape.

Name: Asarum europaeum

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 4 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Bare-Root Wild Ginger Plants ($8, Etsy)

10 of 25

Lady's Mantle

ladys mantle ground cover plant
Matthew Benson

This low-maintenance perennial is a cottage garden favorite that offers a unique treat: Fine hairs on the scalloped leaves sparkle with water droplets in the early morning light. Lady's mantle blooms in late spring to early summer, too, producing clusters of tiny chartreuse blooms. This classy groundcover can seed itself around, so make sure to deadhead the blooms if you want to keep your planting more contained.

Name: Alchemilla mollis

Growing Conditions: Sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 4-7

Buy It: Lady's Mantle Perennial Plants ($16, Etsy)

11 of 25

Sedum

Yellow Sedum kamtschaticum
Jerry Pavia

Low-growing sedums may not produce the big bang of color like their taller cousins, but it's hard to go wrong with these ultra-low-maintenance, drought-tolerant groundcovers for sunny spots. Two of the hardiest creeping varieties are gold moss stonecrop (Sedum acre) and Sedum kamtschaticum (shown here).

Name: Sedum sp.

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 3 inches tall

Zones: 4-9

Buy It: Gold Moss Sedum

12 of 25

Hens-and-Chicks

hens and chick plant
Peter Krumhardt

A perfect companion for sedums, hens-and-chicks is an excellent succulent for the rock garden, stone wall, or crevice in the sidewalk. Hens-and-chicks is among the lowest-maintenance of groundcovers. Just plant and enjoy.

Name: Sempervivum varieties

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 4 inches tall

Zones: 3-9

Buy It: Outdoor Live Plant Hens N Chicks Jar ($15, Walmart)

13 of 25

Soapwort

soapworts max frei pink flowers along rock wall
Povy Kendal Atchison

A low-maintenance perennial that deserves to be grown in more gardens is soapwort, which makes a pretty, mat-forming groundcover. It produces so many starry pink flowers in summer that the green foliage is almost completely covered. 'Max Frei' is a variety that has an extra long bloom time, running into fall.

Name: Saponaria x lempergii 'Max Frei'

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 1 foot tall

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: Soapwort Perennial ($3, Etsy)

14 of 25

Showy Evening Primrose

showy evening primrose flower garden
Ed Gohlich

Native to the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico, showy evening primrose makes an excellent heat-, drought-, and humidity-tolerant groundcover. It will reward you in midsummer with cuplike pink flowers that open in the evening or on cloudy days. While it's easy to grow, it can spread aggressively in ideal conditions so make sure it has room to ramble.

Name: Oenothera speciosa

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 2 feet tall

Zones: 5-9

Buy It: Showy Evening Prime Rose (from $3, Etsy)

15 of 25

Armeria

armeria maritima flowers
Marty Baldwin

A charming plant not seen enough in gardens, armeria offers low, grassy foliage and clusters of bright pink or white flowers in late spring and early summer. For extra interest, look for 'Rubrifolia', which offers burgundy-tinged foliage.

Name: Armeria maritima

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 8 inches tall

Zones: 3-9

Buy It: Armeria Maritima Alba ($4, Etsy)

16 of 25

Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox
Doug Hetherington

A slow-growing, sprawling perennial, creeping phlox forms dense mats of narrow green leaves. This easy-care groundcover puts on an eye-catching show when it becomes covered in pink, white, purple, red, and bicolor flowers in spring. Perfect for edging sidewalks and walkways, creeping phlox won't become a rowdy neighbor to the tulips, daffodils, and other spring bulbs that look charming planted with it.

Name: Phlox subulata

Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 8 inches tall

Zones: 3-9

Buy It: Outdoor Live Plant Phlox Subulata ($8, Walmart)

17 of 25

Barren Strawberry

barren strawberry yellow flower
Nancy Rotenberg

Native to eastern North America, barren strawberries form dense, spreading clumps of strawberry-like foliage. In spring, they produce small yellow flowers, followed by inedible fruit.

Name: Waldsteinia fragarioides

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: 1 foot tall

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Waldsteinia Fragarioides ($12, Bluestone Perennials)

18 of 25

Prostrate Veronica

prostrate veronica purple flowers
Marty Baldwin

This perennial is the groundcover version of the taller, well-known veronica. Its pretty blue spring flowers create a dazzling contrast to the golden foliage of cultivars such as 'Trehane' and 'Goldwell'.

Name: Veronica prostrata

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 1 foot tall

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Veronica 'Tidal Pool' ($11, Jackson & Perkins)

19 of 25

Bloody Cranesbill

bloody cranesbill pink flowers
Jeff McNamara

Colorfully named bloody cranesbill gets its name from the bright red color the foliage takes on in fall. Many varieties are available in flower colors of blue and purple that bloom in May and June, then sporadically through the rest of the growing season. This low-maintenance groundcover spreads slowly but will eventually form broad swaths if you let it.

Name: Geranium sanguineum

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in well-drained soil

Size: 1 foot tall

Zones: 4-8

Buy It: Bloody Cranesbill Hardy Perennial Plant

20 of 25

Japanese Forestgrass

'All Gold' Japanese forest grass
Bob Stefko

Ornamental grasses are a beautiful way to add texture to the landscape. Low-growing forms make excellent groundcovers, and Japanese forestgrass is one of the best. It comes in glowing shades of gold and chartreuse, and forms flowing mounds that hug the ground.

Name: Hakonechloa macra

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 2 feet tall

Zones: 5-9

Buy It: Golden Yellow Foliage Gold Japanese Forest Grass ($19, The Home Depot)

21 of 25

Leadwort

leadplant blue flowers
Scott Little

An excellent low-maintenance groundcover for putting on a late-season show, leadwort begins blooming in late summer with beautiful, electric-blue flowers and keeps going until the first frost. In fall, the leaves turn a gorgeous shade of burgundy red.

Name: Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

Size: To 12 inches tall

Zones: 5-9

Buy It: Leadwort

22 of 25

Mondo Grass

mondo grass along brick path
Ed Gohlich

A favorite of Southern gardeners, mondo grass makes a tough, drought-tolerant groundcover that doesn't mind heat and humidity. Plus, this low-growing perennial can tolerate a little foot traffic. It forms clumps of strappy, grass-like green foliage; dark-leaf varieties add a moody hue to the garden and create pleasing contrasts with plants that have paler foliage. Despite its appearance and name, mondo grass is actually more closely related to lilies.

Name: Ophiopogon japonicus

Growing Conditions: Shade and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 24 inches tall, depending on variety

Zones: 6-10

Buy It: Mondo Grass ($16, The Home Depot)

23 of 25

Snow-in-Summer

snow in summer flowers
Peter Krumhardt

Billowing mounds of crystalline white flowers float over snow-in-summer's silvery evergreen foliage, beginning in spring. This drought-tolerant groundcover also makes a stunning accent to a stone wall, patio, or rock garden. Snow-in-summer is able to handle a range of soil types as well.

Name: Cerastium tomentosum

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: 3 inches tall

Zones: 3-7

Buy It: Show in Summer Seeds ($2, Etsy)

24 of 25

Lamb's Ear

lambs ears plant with pink flowers
William N. Hopkins

Kids especially love the fuzzy leaves of this classic perennial. Soft and silvery, lamb's ear forms low-growing mounds. Equally fuzzy spikes of purple to pink flowers appear in spring and summer. If you don't want this plant to self-seed around, make sure to deadhead the flowers. Good cultivars to look for include 'Cotton Ball', 'Big Ears', and 'Primrose Heron'.

Name: Stachys byzantina

Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 4-7

Buy It: Lamb's Ear Seeds ($4, Etsy)

25 of 25

Crested Iris

crested iri purple flower
Walter Chandoha

Sometimes known as woodland iris, crested iris is a native of eastern North America and can be found in a variety of forms and patterns in blue and white. Once established, they are carefree, cheery groundcovers for a shady woodland garden.

Name: Iris cristata

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade in moist, well-drained soil

Size: 9 inches tall

Zones: 3-9

Buy It: Dwarf Crested Iris Plants ($15, Etsy)

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