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Ground Covers

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Ajuga .5-1' May-June
 Geneva 6-9" Blue
 Reptans 6" Blue,Pink,White

Ajuga reptansShallow rooted; need water during dry periods. Prefers partial sun to shade; medium to high moisture required. Winter protection or snow cover is recommended. Divide clumps when overcrowded; early spring. Doesn't come true from seed. A. genevensis has green foliage. A. reptans spreads rapidly by means of stems. Better foliage color in sun, but may scorch in full sun. Hardier than Geneva Bugle and has a tighter growth habit. Variegated cultivars are not as hardy. `Bronze Beauty' has dark purplish-bronze foliage. `Burgundy Glow' has foliage with a blend of creamy white, green and maroon. `Gaiety' has bronze foliage; leaves are glossy and leathery.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Silver Brocade Artemisia 4-6" 1-1.5' Insignificant -----

Silver Brocade ArtemisiaWooly, silver-gray foliage; coarser and broader than `Silver Mound'. Shear off flower stalks. Needs good drainage; may rot in wet soil. Full sun and dry conditions. Divide in early spring just as new growth is emerging; stem cuttings can be taken in summer.


Bergenia (see Perennial Flowers)

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Bishop's Weed 9-12" 1' Insignificant -----

Bishop's WeedVariegated form is recommended. Somewhat less vigorous than green form but more attractive. Spreads rapidly by rhizomes; can become weedy. Highly competitive and deeply rooted. Grows in almost any type of soil and light condition. Foliage may scorch in full sun. Mowing or clipping back several times during the summer will eliminate flowers and seed as well as keeping the plant more compact. Divide in early spring or early fall.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Crownveitch 24-30" 1-2' Pink and White June-Sept

CrownveitchHardy vigorous ground cover with fern-like leaves. Good for erosion control; often too tall for home use. Best in areas where it need not be contained. Slow to establish but once established spreads rapidly and is hard to eradicate. Best in full to part sun,  somewhat lean soil and in fairly dry conditions. In fertile soils it grows rampantly and is hard to control. Mow 2-3 times during the season for a more compact planting. Easily started from seed in spring. Divide in spring or early fall.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Ginger 4-6" .5-1' Insignificant ---------

Wild (American) GingerSlow to become established and slow spreading. Prefers part to full shade and moderately rich soil; likes good moisture. Water during dry periods. Divide rhizomes in early spring. Wild Ginger (American) is native. Felty heart shaped leaves. Hardier than European Ginger; winter protection is not needed even though mulching in exposed areas may be beneficial. European Ginger has glossy heart shaped leaves. Winter protection is recommended. 

Hosta (see Perennial Flowers)

Juniper, creeping (see Evergreen Shrubs)

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Lamb's Ear 8-15" 1' Pink, Purple July-August

Lamb's EarStachys byzantina (lanata) has soft velvety, dense mats of silver-gray color foliage; good contrast plant. Square stems and opposite leaves with flowers borne in whorls on spikes. Prefers full sun and well drained soil; lack of good drainage can cause winter kill. Tolerates drought; rapid spreading especially in rich soil. Winter protection needed.  Seed in early spring; divide in early spring or fall. `Silver Carpet' rarely blooms; leaves especially white.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Lamiastrum 9-15" 1.5' Yellow May-Sept

LamiastrumYellow Archangel (Deadnettle) has silver and green foliage; spreads rapidly by short underground stolons. Square stems and opposite leaves; clusters of flowers in leaf axils. Larger plant flowers slightly later than Lamium; more invasive and may get out of hand. If too leggy cut back. Does well in sun to shade and moderately fertile soil. Slugs can be a problem. Good for hanging baskets. Divide in spring; cuttings in early summer. `Herman's Pride' is upright growing with small flowers; less aggressive.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Lamium 6-10" 1' Pink, Purple, White May-Sept

Beacon Silver LamiumSpotted Dead Nettle has metallic silver streak down middle of leaf; mound forming plant with hooded flowers on terminal stems. Spreads by rooting on moist soil; not as invasive as Lamiastrum. Does well in sun to shade and moderately fertile soil. Slugs can be a problem. Divide in spring; cuttings in early summer. `Beacon Silver' has silver white leaves with green margins and pink flowers. `White Nancy' has similar leaves with white flowers.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Lily of the Valley 6-12" .5-1' Pink, White May

Lily of the ValleyConvallaria majalis has small bell-shaped flowers on a stalk above the wide green leaves; fragrant flowers. All parts of the plant are poisonous including the water cut flowers are places in. Likes soil rich in organic matter but spreads in poor soil and under trees and shrubs. Does well in any type of light condition. Smaller flowers when over crowded. Aggressive plant; can be hard to contain. Divide in the fall by seperating the crown into single pips.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Moneywort 4-6" 1' Yellow June

MoneywortLysimachia nummularia has smoothly rounded bright green leaves. Runners root forming a mat. Hardy, vigorous and may become weedy. Best in part to full shade and moderately moist conditions. Needs watering during hot dry periods. `Aurea' a yellow leafed form is not as vigorous and requires moist soil and good sun for best color. Cuttings, division or seed in spring.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Ostrich Fern 24-30" 1-1.5' Insignificant ----------

Ostrich FernMatteuccia struthiopteris forms graceful clumps of fronds (finely divided leaves); have no flowers. Fertile fronds will occasionally arise from the center of the clump; shorter, more erect, darker in color and less attractive. Slow to become established; browns in hot dry conditions. Need shelter from wind. Does well in partial to full shade and moderate to rich soil. Can become aggressive once established. Divide in the spring.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Pachysandra 6-12" .5-1' White June

Green Carpet PachysandraJapanese Spurge has glossy green somewhat coarse leaves. Pinch in the spring to promote branching. Best in part to full shade and moderately fertile soil. Will not tolerate drought. Borderline in hardiness; needs good snow cover. Seldom spreads enough to be a good ground cover. Divide in spring; cuttings or rooted stolons in early summer.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Paxistima 6-9" 1' Insignificant ------

Canby PaxistimaCanby Paxistima has small, leathery evergreen leaves which resemble miniature holly leaves. Prefers partial shade and moderately fertile soil; needs a well drained site. High pH soil can cause foliar discoloration and slow growth. Some winter loss of foliage may occur without good snow cover. Divide in the spring or cuttings in midseason or fall.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Phlox, Dwarf Creeping 4-6" .5-1' Various May

Dwarf Creeping PhloxPhlox subulata (Moss Phlox) has mid-green, linear, rigid, evergreen leaves which grow into a spreading mat; heavy flowering on terminal panicles. Shear back after flowering to promote denser growth. Prefers full sun and neutral or slightly alkaline, lean soil. Must not be kept too wet; may rot. Water in dry summers.  Weeds can be a problem. Foliage takes on a bronze color in fall; winter browning may occur without good cover. Don't prune early in the spring; new growth may emerge from "dead" areas.  Divide after bloom or by taking basal cuttings in mid-summer.

Ribbon Grass (see Ornamental Grasses)

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Sedum (Stonecrop)
  Gold Moss 3-6" 1' Yellow June
  Hybrid Sedum 3-9" 1-1.5' Yellow June-July
  `Rosy Glow' 6-8" 1-1.5' Red August-Sept
S. kamtschaticum 3-6" 1' Orange,Yellow June-July
S. spurium 3-6" 1-1.5' Pink,Red July-August
  White Sedum 3-6" 1' White July

All have fleshy leaves and unusual flowers. Various colored foliage and flowers. Easy to grow in full sun and well drained average soil. Shear after bloom; very attractive without flower stalks. Propagate by seed, division, cuttings and leaves.

Gold Dust SedumSedum acre (Gold Dust) has very fine, green fleshy leaves and small flowers. Good mat former in areas without traffic. Spreading; can be difficult to control. Not a good competitor with weeds.


Sedum album (White Sedum) has succulent leaves slightly coarser than Gold Moss; reddish-purple leaves in the spring and fall. Striking when in bloom; shear after bloom.

Hybrid SedumSedum hybridium has 1/2" wide glossy leaves; look good without flowers. Spreads with underground stems. Best Sedum. `Rosy Glow' is larger and flowers later.


Kamtschtka SedumSedum kamtschaticum has attractive dark green scalloped foliage; variegated form has light green leaves tinged with pink and white. Forms clumps. Doesn't spread with underground stems; not invasive. Subsp. middendorffianum has narrow tooth leaves and red fall color. Subsp. ellacombianum has scalloped light green leaves.


Dragon Blood SedumSedum spurium has bronze-green to red, small rounded leaves; vigorous but slightly slower spreading than Hybrid Sedum. Spreads by underground stems. `Dragon Blood' (bronze leaves and red flowers), `Bronze Carpet' (bronze and pink) and `Red Carpet' (red and red).


Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Snow in Summer 6-10" 1-2' White June

Snow in SummerCerastium tomentosum has silvery gray fine textured foliage and small flowers; shear after flowering for a neater appearance and to keep from spreading rampantly. Does well in full sun and poor soil. High fertility can cause excessive growth; needs good drainage. Good competitor against weeds. Divide in early spring; cuttings in early summer.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
Thyme June-July
  Creeping 3-6" .5-1' Lavender, Pink, White
  Lemon 6-12" 1' Lavender
  Wooly 3-6" .5-1' Pink

ThymeLow growing semi-evergreen which roots as it creeps with the ends of the branches ascending. Mint family. Slow growing with a fine texture. To keep neat, trim in early spring before flowering. Releases a pleasant aroma when bruised. Prefers full to part sun, moderately lean soil and fairly low moisture levels. Good snow cover is needed to prevent winter browning. Division, cuttings and seed. Creeping Thyme (serpyllum) also called Mother of Thyme has dark green foliage. `Coccineus' has dark pink flowers. Lemon (citriodoros) has lemon scented light green foliage; new growth is golden colored. Does better in more sheltered sites. `Aureus' has golden variegated leaves. Retains golden color through most of the season. Wooly (pseudolanuginosus) has wooly grey pubescent foliage.

Common Name Height Space Flower Colors Flowering
 Vinca minor 6-9" 1' Blue, White May

Vinca MinorCommon Periwinkle is a trailing evergreen ground cover which lacks hardiness and requires a snow cover. Leaves are less glossy and lighter green in full sun. Pinch to cause branching. Branches root as they creep. Does best in part to full shade and moderately rich soil. Don't plant in wet poorly drained areas. Divide in spring; root or stem cuttings in early summer. `Alpina' hardier than species. Variegated form used as a house plant or annual bedding plant.

Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist & Master Gardener Coordinator
Phone: (701) 241-5707

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