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Ground cover plants, no more mowing!

Ground cover plants

If mowing the lawn has become an unbearable chore, or if you hope to add greenery to your shade-covered spots, opt for ground cover plants.

They’re just as beautiful as grass and only require minimal care, much less than other types of lawn grass.

Read also: alternatives to lawn grass

After a little planting guidance, we’ll introduce just six from the hundreds that can be purchased in horticulture stores.

Planting ground cover plants right

Ground cover plants rarely are started from seed; instead, clumps are used and divided.

Planting ground cover plantsIt helps to mark out edges with some kind of edging material. This makes maintenance easier, especially for patterns. However, it isn’t at all mandatory.

Spacing and mounds

Generally, space your clumps by about a foot. It’s all a question of how fast you want the plot covered; this also depends on the type of plant you use.

  • ground cover planting spacingFor example, Sempervivum houseleek are very slow growers, they’ll need around 4-5 years to spread an extra foot/30 cm in every direction.
  • Slow spreaders also include Delosperma, Helxine, and Sagina subulata (heath pearlwort).
  • For these, divide the distance by half: 6 inches or 15 cm between clumps.

Faster spreaders include heuchera, Houttuynia, ground ivy, violet and periwinkle. They will cover a surface within 2 years if planted a foot / 30 cm apart.


Go for a new lawn color that doesn't need mowing with this red heucheraA perennial plant that spontaneously grows in mountain rocky ground, heuchera bears green, violet-pink, purple, yellow or silver mottled leafage.

More or less 12 inches (30 cm) tall, it appreciates well drained and humus-rich soil, full sun or part sun exposure.


Like tiny round grass, baby tears leavesThis short ground-covering plant – usually below 5 cm tall – has tiny round leaves less than 1/5 inch (5 mm) across that look like duckweed. In summer, tiny pink flowers appear.

Helxine loves sandy, well drained soil in shade or part sun. It can’t withstand drought. Even though it can cope with temperatures as low as 5°F (-15°C), better mulch it before harsher winters.


Leaves and budding flowers of houttuynia ground coverThis 20 inch (50 cm) perennial plant with deciduous green, yellow and red mottled leaves flowers discretely in summer with tiny white, fragrant blooms. It prefers moist and rich soil, shade, and is vulnerable to summer dry spells. Add compost in spring; in case of harsh winters, keep the dead dry leaves that will keep the roots from from freezing.

Tip: burn its dried leaves that smell like oranges to keep mosquitoes away.


Ground ivy covers the ground wellNow don’t get common ivy (Hedera helix) confused with ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), which belongs to the same family as mint.

With evergreen green leafage that may present white, silver or gold designs, ivy thrives in part sun, in cool, chalky and well drained soil. Prune when its starts growing too large.


Periwinkle lawnKnown for its white or violet flowers, periwinkle is a also a perennial ground cover plant with green leaves that can also bear traces of white or gold.

It grows on humus-rich, well drained soil, eventually chalky, both in shade or in part sun.


Viola makes flowering ground coverThis semi-evergreen perennial, never any taller than 8 inches (20 cm), is covered in spring with very fragrant spring flowers, white or purple.

It loves light and rich soil, even if chalky, provided exposure is full sun or part shade. Apart from having to hunt a few slugs away, violets don’t need any follow-up and their flowers can be used in cooking!

Pierrick Le Jardinier

Smart tip about ground cover lawn replacements

If you’ve got rocky terrain, consider the vast array of succulents (Sempervivum is a low-growing species): they grow slowly, require zero watering at all. Place stepping stones among them to wander around the garden in meditative contemplation.

Images: CC BY 2.0: Melissa McMasters, CC BY 4.0: Paul, Rob Foster, dreamstime: Photozirka, Triciadaniel, Pixabay: Anna Pismenskova, Carola Engels, Kaoru Yamaoka, Paul Shoesmith
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