Best Low-Maintenance Ground Cover Plants

By Amanda Lutz Updated February 7, 2024

Get Estimate

Ground cover plants are beautiful, easy-to-maintain alternatives to lawn grass and are ideal for homeowners whose lawns don’t get enough sunlight for grass to grow. Beautiful flowers, creeping plants, and richly colored leaves can create a picturesque landscape that gardeners and nature lovers enjoy. Read more about different types of low-maintenance ground cover plants and how to properly care for them in our guide below.


Why Use Ground Covers?

You can invest in ground cover plants to improve the appearance of your garden, keep weeds and erosion at bay, and simplify your landscape maintenance routine.

Here are some of the benefits of low-maintenance ground cover plants:


Ground Cover Recommendations

There are hundreds of ground cover plants from which you can choose, and each requires a different care routine. Our recommendations for the best ground cover plants are fast-growing, provide low ground cover so you don’t have to frequently mow or prune, and thrive in most of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones. Read below to decide which is best for your landscape.

Ajuga

Ajuga boasts deep green, blue, and bronze leaves that create a beautiful jewel-toned tapestry, and flowers add more color in the late summer. Ajuga stays tidily short, but it can quickly spread across the ground in shady or sunny conditions. It also thrives in most USDA Hardiness Zones.

Brass Buttons

Brass buttons are richly colored plants that grow black and green foliage and yellow, button-like flowers. These plants are evergreen and can grow indefinitely, especially in warmer climates. Brass buttons thrive in moist soil and full sunlight and can handle some foot traffic. Consider planting them around footpaths, rock gardens, and stepping stones. 

Bunchberry

Bunchberry is a flowering bloom that grows bright green leaves and cute four-petaled blooms. It’s a great choice for most landscapes and succeeds in deep patches of shade where other plants don’t thrive. Bunchberry spreads via rhizomes and will stay only six inches tall, so it’s ideal for gardeners who want tidy landscapes. 

Creeping Jenny

Creeping jenny, or golden moneywort, is a vibrant, bouncy ground cover that grows quickly in either full sun or partial shade as long as it has moist soil. Creeping jenny grows yellow leaves and thin stems. It can grow up to three inches tall, but gardeners must tend to it frequently to prevent overgrowth. 

Creeping Juniper

Creeping juniper creates a thick carpet that prevents dandelions and other weeds from taking root. It is incredibly durable, can grow well in droughts, and can thrive in most soil types. This low-maintenance ground cover plant needs full sun exposure.

Creeping Phlox

Plant creeping phlox, or phlox subulata, if you want splashes of bright purple flowers, periwinkle blue flowers, and red flowers across your landscape. It is a slow-growing, eight-inch-tall ground cover plant that is easy to maintain. Creeping phlox thrives in most USDA Hardiness Zones as long as it has well-drained soil and plenty of direct sunlight. Homeowners use it to border garden beds and walkways because it creates beautiful, colorful edges.

Creeping Thyme

Creeping thyme varieties are perennial plants that provide thick, low-laying, and fast-growing ground cover that grows into dense mats. Creeping thyme can spread in poor soil conditions and droughts as long as it has some access to sunlight. Pollinators love it for its small springtime flowers, and you’ll like its edible, herby leaves. 

Epimedium

Epimedium stands out among ground cover plants because it doesn’t require a lot of moisture. This plant is a beautiful choice for dry, shady areas and grows dramatic purple and pink flowers that feature pointy petals. Epimedium can thrive in full shade, even without much watering.

European Ginger

European ginger plants quickly spiral across the soil and grow wide, glossy leaves. These four-inch-tall plants can grow in full or part shade and stay neat even without pruning or cutting. 

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is taller than other ground cover plants and grows red, yellow, and white flowers. Honeysuckle flowers invite honey bees and hummingbirds to your landscape and grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 9, as long as they have access to some sunlight.

Sedum

Sedum, or stonecrop, is an excellent choice for beginner gardeners because it’s low-maintenance and drought-resistant. Its low-growing variety only grows up to three inches tall. The plant can fill in sparse grass patches or replace grass entirely. It sprouts green leaves and star-shaped yellow flowers.

Snow-in-Summer

Snow-in-summer grows tightly-packed white flowers in the late spring and summer and adds silver, evergreen ground cover in wintertime. These plants grow quickly in a wide range of soil types and even amid droughts as long as they get full sun exposure.

Consider multiple types of ground cover when deciding which plants are best for your landscape. A combination will help you achieve a beautiful landscape under shady trees or in full sunlight.


When to Plant

You can add low-maintenance ground cover plants in the spring, summer, or fall. If you live in a cold climate, plant ground cover in the early spring to give it more time to grow strong roots before the next winter. Plant your ground cover in the fall if you live in a warm climate, as the plant will grow stronger roots during winter rain before the hot, dry summer.


Our Recommendation

Low-maintenance ground cover plants are excellent alternatives to ornamental grass. We recommend starting with ajuga because it’s fast-growing and can thrive in most soil or sun conditions. Snow-in-summer plants and creeping phlox are also low-maintenance options that can grow almost anywhere that features full sunlight. Research your USDA Hardiness Zone to know which plants to choose for your landscape and which to avoid. The best ground cover plants are the ones that can thrive in your yard with little to no maintenance.


Best Low-Maintenance Ground Cover Plants FAQ

What ground cover blooms the longest?

The ground cover that blooms the longest is lamium, which blooms all summer long. This plant thrives in shade and is low-maintenance.

What is the easiest ground cover to grow?

The easiest ground covers to grow are creeping jenny, creeping phlox, and honeysuckle. Make sure they thrive in your landscape’s sunlight and soil conditions.

When should you fertilize ground covers?

You should fertilize ground covers or hire fertilizer services to do so during the spring or early summer. Many types of ground cover require fertilizing treatments three or four times throughout the growing season, but low-maintenance plants require fertilizer once a year.

What is the fastest spreading ground cover?

The fastest spreading ground covers are ajuga and creeping thyme, which can spread multiple feet in a year.

How often should you water ground cover?

You should water ground cover plants according to the needs of each specific plant. Drought-tolerant plants can go without regimented watering cycles, but other ground covers require year-round watering.

What ground covers are deer-resistant?

Ground covers that are deer-resistant include lamb’s ear, creeping phlox, and creeping thyme. There are many other perennial ground cover plants that repel deer with fragrance.

Which ground covers grow well in shade?

The ground covers that grow well in shade include bugleweed, lungwort, and coral bell. Yellow creeping jenny also grows well in shade and is a low-maintenance plant.