Skip to main content

Galveston Monthly

Step On It

Jun 01, 2019 09:38AM

Not every plant in the landscape can be the star of the show. Whatever your main focal points or central specimen choices, there is also the need for a supporting cast of shrubs, annuals and perennials. Small plants can do big work and groundcovers fit well into the secondary role.

   A ground cover is any plant that grows over an area of ground; these plants provide protection from erosion of the topsoil as well as facilitating weed suppression. Ground covers add texture, color and interest to the garden with minimal maintenance. Ground covers can be used where grass is not wanted or may not grow well such as under trees or across areas in borders.

  Evergreen groundcovers fashion a beautiful low care design and selecting those most suitable for our zone (zone 9) is not difficult but one should consider that these choices must be sturdy enough to withstand our hot summer climate. Selections in this category include Beach Morning Glory, also called ipomoea, bayhops or railroad vine that is fast growing and prolific, with sporadic bright pink blooms and is perfect for difficult areas.

  Other choices are the pachysandra, known as Japanese Spurge that thrives in shade under trees, fast growing spreading into an attractive green blanket, and the Japanese ardisia, also called Marlberry, which presents itself as a low growing shrub with glossy leaves and small pink or white flowers and prefers full or part shade.


  The use of walkways has become increasingly popular, and a living path can be a delightful addition to any landscape. Using stepping stones or spaced brick patterns with low-growing plants between gives a natural appearance. Several mat-forming species of ground cover are hardy enough to tolerate light foot traffic, and some varieties release a pleasant fragrance when slightly crushed.

  For pathway use consider thyme, which is a resilient groundcover for sunny locations with a fresh scent. Use the non-culinary varieties, such as red creeping thyme, mother-of-thyme, and woolly thyme. They will all form dense mats of attractive foliage.

  For shady walkways, the Blue Star Creeper is a beautiful selection with its masses of pale blue star-shaped blooms that appear in spring and early summer. It is also tough enough to accept light foot traffic, if not allowed to dry out.

   Corsican mint grows only about an inch in height in thick mats of aromatic foliage, prefers some sun but afternoon shade and is an delightful option between stepping stones as it exudes its spicy fragrance when lightly trod upon. Keep well-watered between rainfalls.

  The heat and drought resistant sedums also make ideal groundcovers for sunny locations. Considered “tough as nails” sedum requires little attention or care. Short varieties are best for this situation. Look for Dragon’s Blood, Tricolor, or Blue Spruce for pretty flowers that will attract butterflies.


 Lirope, also known as lily turf, is a popular groundcover for the Gulf coast area as a low-maintenance hardy perennial plant that will grow in moist soil in partial shade to full sunlight. Lirope produces spikes of showy lavender purple or white blooms in late summer into fall with green or variegated foliage.

  There are clumping and creeping varieties that can reach to two feet in height. Good for garden borders and sloping ground, as well as under trees where there may be little to no sunlight.

  The variety known as wishbone flower, clown flower, or blue wings is an annual that does better in part to full shade with moist well-draining soil. The blossoms of this type are trumpet-shaped in shades of purple, pink, white, or yellow with contrasting throats and oval light green leaves. The wishbone will produce vibrant color in the shadiest area of the garden.

  Ground covers are a versatile garden choice and perfect for irregular terrain and an attractive alternative to an expanse of sod waiting to be mowed, fertilized and watered year after year. Why not remove a section of grass and replace it with a low-maintenance focal point that is especially lovely in full bloom?

  Nearly any low-growing plant or combinations of can be used as groundcover and when planted beneath ornamental shrubs can inhibit the growth of weeds. Remember that native or adapted varieties will be hardier and require the least maintenance.     

  Mixing types of evergreen groundcovers will provide interest in the off-season of winter and early spring by delivering an attractive palette of color, texture, and height. Pay close attention to descriptions of plant heights as you make your selections. You don’t want to shop for a ground-hugger to plant between paving stones and come home with a two-foot spike variety.   

  Why not consider these low-maintenance landscape solutions for your garden areas; create rich and varied carpets of color for your habitat. Groundcovers that bloom can be stunning as well as functional.



Carpets of Color— Flowering Ground Covers


Ajuga - Easy care with colorful bronze, chocolate, bright green, or variegated foliage and flowers of blue or white; hardy; partial shade; good container plant

Ajuga ‘bugleweed’- Evergreen mint family, six inches in height; full sun; average soil; glossy leaves with light blue- to white blooms in early-summer

Creeping phlox - Bold carpets of pink, blue, or white blooms with small evergreen leaves; may grow to six inches in height during full bloom; good over slopes; can tolerate light foot traffic; sun to part shade

Soapwort - Compact form, pink, red or white blooms; use for garden paths and rock gardens