Ground cover plants consist of a variety of low-growing, low-maintenance perennials that are essential for upgrading your flower beds, front yard, footpaths, and even weed prevention.
These plants are great for adding colour, preventing weeds, and avoiding soil erosion, plus they typically thrive in both sunny areas, and darker more shaded areas.
Being that some plants are more specific as to what sort of weather they need to survive, we have included options that require sunny areas, as well as shaded areas, with temperature also playing a role.
The good news is that most come available in a variety of colours and textures, and can be used for a plethora of reasons, with the most common being to help eliminate weed growth.
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Do Ground Cover Plants Prevent Weeds?
Absolutely, ground cover plants carry immense benefits including the ability to prevent weeds from sprouting in your yard. The truth of the matter is that not all of your yard will be conducive to growing grass, which is where these ground covers come into play.
They are typically defined as a low-growing plant that spreads over a certain area over time. The idea being to create a beautiful carpet of foliage, while squeezing out any remaining weeds as a bonus.
There are a number of quality plants that can be used as ground covers, including vines, grasses, plants with specific blooms, and even low-growing shrubs.
Plus, they are all perennial, meaning that they will come back every year from their roots.
Still, it is worth noting that certain types of ground cover plants or better suited for certain geographic locations, and each plant will require a different level of care, and maintenance.
To help get you started, we have come up with the following comprehensive list of the best ground cover plants for preventing weeds.
10 Best Ground Cover Plants to Prevent Weeds
1. Creeping Juniper
This dense evergreen can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and once planted, it’s one of the tougher plants you will ever come across. It can tolerate poor soil, drought, and a strong layer that weeds cannot penetrate. The majority of them can be found in the Northern Hemisphere, and are typically recognized by their needle-shaped leaves, which can turn scaly as the plant matures. They generally carry blue-coloured berries at the end of the branches, and though they do better in more northern zones (Alaska/Canada), they can truly survive just about anywhere.
The Creeping Juniper is a sprawling, creeping needled evergreen that grows to a maximum height of 18 inches, and can spread up to 8 feet. Making it a go-to for covering large surface areas in difficult terrain, it thrives in full sunlight, and spreads horizontally. Illustrating one of the best ground cover plants for preventing weeds.
2. Ajuga (Bugle)
One of the best plants for shade, ideal for keeping out weeds as it steadily creeps over the surface of your soil, placing roots in it’s path, as the leaves knit together to cover every inch. With the Ajuga plant being only a few centimetres high, the leaves tend to lay flat in the soil, and come available in a variety of colours including green, bronze, pink, cream, and white.
These glossy leaves are a great low-growing lawn alternative, and they thrive in almost any climate. Plus, in the summer, little spikes of blue, purple, or white flowers will begin to sprout. Presenting one of the more aesthetically pleasing, as well as exceptionally tolerant ground cover plants for preventing weeds.
3. Lily of the Valley
While it may seem like one of the sturdier plants out there, Lily of the Valley is amazingly gorgeous white bells dangling from strappy green leaves. These beautiful plants carry a sweet smell, and spread easily, so make sure to plant it in a well-groomed area such as long walkways, or close to the foundation of the home.
These plants work exceptionally well as a ground cover, due to the rapid spread, and dense root system, as the plant grows, the roots actually crowd out the weeds. This creates a full, lush carpet of lilies that are surprisingly resilient, and low-maintenance. The Lily of the Valley also prefers the shade, though it can handle some sunlight.
4. Creeping Thyme
Also known as the “mother of thyme” or “wild thyme”, this unique plant is a creeping, woody-stemmed perennial that is immensely popular as a low-maintenance ground cover. The Creeping Thyme grows to be around 3 inches tall, spreading over time, crowding out the weeds in the process, and further reducing the maintenance requirements.
These gorgeous leaves are deep pink in colour, and exude a tremendous fragrance, blooming from June-July. The low-growing mats of Creeping Thyme is covered in tiny purple or white flowers in late spring, and although it thrives in full sun, it can easily tolerate the cold weather, poor soil, and droughts.
5. Mondo Grass
This glossy, strappy green is tremendously popular in the southern states of the U.S., but this tough plant can survive anywhere. It typically grows in smaller clumps, enjoys moist soil, and prefers full-part sun. Mondo Grass is one of the best ground covers for killing weeds because it grows vigorously, and spreads like wildfire.
This dwarf shrub prefers full-part shade for optimal results, but can handle a little morning sun. Commonly referred to as “monkey grass” due to it’s unique growth patter, low maintenance, and the fact that it is drought-tolerant.
6. Dead Nettle
Commonly referred to as “Lamium”, this low-growing perennial comes with silver-splashed leaves, and bursts of purple, pink, or white flowers. They typically sprout in spring and early summer, and prefers the shade, but will tolerate some morning sun. Dead nettle is one of the most effective ground covers for deeply shaded areas, although you might have to consult with your local extension office before growing these plants.
The reason being that these plants are considered incredibly invasive in certain areas (specifically in the Northeast, areas of the northern Midwest, and parts of the Pacific Northwest in the U.S.). However, if you are permitted to grow Dead Nettle in your area, then do not hesitate as it’s extremely effective at preventing weeds from taking over.
7. Creeping Phlox (Phlox Subulata)
These colorful spring flowers are short in stature, and can often be seen covering the side of long rolling hills, and thrives in full sun. It is remarkably easy to maintain as well and spreads surprisingly quick (under the right circumstances). Keep in mind that Creeping Phlox will need to be in the sun to thrive, and should be planted in rich, well-drained soil (though they can tolerate clay). Although these plants may look delicate at first glance, they are surprisingly rugged and can grow easily in the shade if cared for properly. However, if the area is overly shade or moist, then try Tufted Creeping Phlox (Phlox Stolonifera) instead, as these North American natives prefer partial sun (or shade), and dense soil, forming a dense mat to effectively suppress weeds.
When it comes to ground cover plants that prevent weeds, there are few more effective than the standard Creeping Phlox. They love full sun, are drought-tolerant, and sprout In any soil, not to mention the fact that they typically come in a variety of colors including white, blue, red, and pink.
Sedum spurium (often referred to as “dragon’s blood sedum”), is potentially one of the hardiest, and most versatile of all ground covers when it comes to preventing weeds. These low-growing plants come in a variety of formations, but all of them are extremely easy to care for, especially since the fleshy leaves are able to retain enough water to survive dry spells. Even though some Sedum’s have small flowers, the primary focus is the colorful foliage, ranging from chartreuse to bronze. Although, keep in mind that it will need full sun to survive, but once established the Sedum will look good year-round, and in spring you will begin to see bright green leaves turn maroon, and red in the summer.
Sedums are perfect for containers, rock gardens, or other places where little else (aside from weeds) grow, but will spread easily once established. They illustrate another tremendously effective method for removing weeds from your outdoor space.
9. Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis)
The Yellow Alyssum is a surprisingly popular pick for those looking for a ground cover that requires little to no maintenance, and will not grow out of control. With the exception of occasional watering during the warmer months of the year, the only real maintenance required is the occasional trim after it finishes flowering. This famous flower is also commonly referred to as “The Basket of Gold”, illustrating it’s charming bright yellow flowers that catch the eyes of anyone that walks by.
These ground cover plants will require full sun to thrive, and the soil will need to be high-quality, and well-drained to take full advantage of this plant’s effectiveness. However, once established the Yellow Alyssum presents one of the most beautiful alternatives for preventing weed growth in any outdoor space.
10. Sweet Woodruff
These beautiful ground cover plants help to round out our top 10, as they illustrate another tremendously effective method for preventing weeds from sprouting. These petite white star-shaped flowers spread incredibly fast and thrive in shady areas (specifically under trees and shrubs). They are remarkably low-maintenance, however, they can be an invasive plant when grown in moist soil, where it can sometimes spread out of control. However, in dry shade, Sweet Woodruff thrives immensely, and can grow up to a maximum height of 12 inches, and spread out to about 18 inches.
Even though this plant will grow much faster, and healthier in moist soil, it can also easily grow out of control if not cared for properly. This is why planting it in dry soil, and denying it water helps to keep the growth under control. This will likely take some trial and error, as you will need to experiment a bit until you find the right balance of giving them enough water to survive, and giving them too much where they grow out of control. However, as soon as you find the right balance, Sweet Woodruff is exceptionally effective as a ground cover plant for preventing weeds.
In conclusion, there are most certainly several considerations when looking into the best ground cover plant for weed prevention. However, the most important thing is that you take the time to understand the considerations.
You should first consider things like: Where is the plant going? Will there be enough sunlight? Do they need sunlight? Is it an invasive species? Do I need permission to grow said invasive species? How much water will it need? Will the roots disrupt the growth of other plants that aren’t weeds?
These are just some of the many questions you should be asking yourself as you go through the process of finding the right ground cover plant for weed prevention.
Although, as long as you keep these important notes in mind, and trust your intuition, you should be able to find an effective solution in no time.
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Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.