From the Ground Up

Updated Mar 10, 2015

Monrovia Baby Pete1

New ways of thinking about groundcovers

You already know groundcovers are problem-solvers. They retain moisture and control erosion. They provide habitat for pollinators such as bees and butterflies. And they’re tough as nails. “Once established, many groundcovers crowd out weeds and are relatively low-maintenance,” says Jeff Gibson, landscape business manager with Ball Horticultural Company. “They’re also generally pest- and disease-resistant.”

Fragrant Carpet, Pratia angularFragrant Carpet, Pratia angular

Groundcovers work when you need to cover lots of square footage, such as in a corporate landscape where large naturalized areas are becoming increasingly common. In addition, in some parts of the country, such as in California, municipalities are offering homeowners incentives to replace turf with native plantings and drought-tolerant groundcovers.

Aesthetically, groundcovers serve as a vital design element. “They pull together a planting plan by creating a common theme that anchors the layout,” says J’Nell Bryson, a landscape architect in Charlotte, North Carolina. “For example, a single type of groundcover can unify many different kinds of shrubs for a more cohesive appearance.”

While low-growing plants such as pachysandra, vinca and liriope are old standbys for planting en masse, don’t overlook less traditional options such as small shrubs and woody ornamentals, succulents, grasses and conifers. New cultivars are introduced each year, boasting more compact shapes that require less pruning and maintenance, earlier and longer bloom times and improved heat or cold hardiness.

Expand your plant palate by including a few of these as groundcovers in your next planting project.


John Henry Lysimachia Nummularia John HenryCreeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’). This fast-grower features spectacular chartreuse foliage with attractive round leaves. Does best in moist but well-drained soil and needs some shade in warmer climates. Grows about 2 to 4 inches tall, spreading 12 to 18 inches.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8

• Full sun to partial shade

Golden Japanese Stonecrop Sedum Makinoi Ogon





Golden Japanese Stonecrop (Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’). Succulent, which is drought-tolerant once established. Bright yellow color with pinkish stems contrasts well with other foliage. Prefers partial sun to retain its color. Forms a low mat 2 inches tall, 8 to 12 inches wide.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9

• Partial sun




Monrovia Catlins Giant Carpet Bugle Ajuga Reptans Catlins Giant


Catlin’s Giant Carpet Bugle (Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’). Carpet-like bronze foliage with blue flower spikes. Benefits if watered during the first growing season to establish root system. Moderate grower 3 to 6 inches tall, 1 to 2 feet wide.


• Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9

• Full sun to full shade











Ball Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit2 Kieft SeedEchinacea Cheyenne Spirit (Echinacea hybrid). This new All-American Selections’ winner for 2013 is drought-tolerant. Brilliant splashes of mixed colors including scarlet, pink, coral, cream, yellow and white flowers are spectacular en masse. Attracts birds and butterflies. Grows 18 to 30 inches high, 10 to 20 inches wide.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 10

• Full sun








Monrovia Purple EmperorPurple Emperor Stonecrop (Sedum x ‘Purple Emperor’). Vibrant purple foliage offers a blast of intense color to the landscape. Especially nice in borders or contrasting with dark green foliage. Grows 15 inches tall, 12 to 23 inches wide.


• Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9

• Full sun






Monrovia Baby PeteBaby Pete Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus orientalis ‘Benfran’ P.P. #21,705). Dwarf agapanthus with showy blue flowers in mid-spring. Seed heads are attractive and don’t flop over like other varieties. Good substitute for liriope. Grows 12 to 15 inches tall, 18 to 24 inches wide.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11

• Part to full sun



Ball Koeleria Coolio Kieft SeedKoeleria Coolio (Koeleria glauca). Heat-tolerant grass tolerates soil that is not too fertile. Silver-green mounds of spikes offer unique appearance planted as a small-scale groundcover. Reaches 8 to 10 inches in height and width.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9

• Full sun




Ball Milium Flashlights Pan American Seed

Flashlights Grass (Milium effusum aureum). New variety with lime-green spiky leaves offers a splash of color in shade. Neat arching mounds grow to 8 to 10 inches tall, 6 to 8 inches wide. Can be used as an annual in colder climates.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 8

• Shade




Monrovia Blue FescueElijah Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’). Silver-blue, fine-textured grass retains its color in heat and is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant. Stays in small, dense mounds 8 to 12 inches tall and wide.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 11

• Full sun










Ball Hydrangea Bombshell Ball OrnamentalsBombshell Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata Bombshell). New cultivar needs little or no pruning to keep its mounded, compact shape. Profuse white flowers from early summer to frost contrast well with dark green foliage. Grows 3 feet by 3 feet.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8

• Partial sun

Ball Buddleia Flutterby Flow Ball Ornamentals

Flutterby Petite Butterfly Bush (Buddleia hybrid). This little sister of lankier versions blooms from early summer to frost. Available in pink, dark pink, white and blue. Its fragrant flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Maximum height and width of 2 to 3 feet.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10

• Full sun






Monrovia Feelin Blue Deodar Cedar Cedrus Deodar Feelin Blue

Feelin’ Blue Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara Feelin’ Blue). Bright blue dwarf evergreen with attractive weeping habit looks good clustered in small masses, planted against foundations or along driveways. Grows 2 to 4 feet tall, 6 feet wide.

• Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9

• Full sun



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