11 Low-Growing Perennials That Are Perfect for Ground Cover Planting

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Brock Ingham
Brock Ingham

Picturing a lush garden mosaic created with vibrant, low-maintenance plants? You’re on the right track. These low-growing perennials not only elevate your space but also serve as welcome ground covers.

Purple low growing creeping phlox
Purple low-growing creeping phlox

Having grown gardens and nurtured landscapes for over [15+] years, I’ve experimented with a myriad of plants. And I’ve found that certain low-growing perennials are not just survivors; they’re show-stoppers in the ground cover game.

Ready to turn that bare patch into a perennial paradise? Stick with me, and we’ll make your garden the talk of the town!


1. Eastern Pasque Flower

Eastern Pasque Flower
Eastern Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla Patens)

The Eastern Pasque flower is native to the prairies and meadows of North America and is hearty all the way from USDA zone 3-8. Its bright purple blooms resembling fuzzy pompoms are a welcome sight to early spring.

Scientific Name:Pulsatilla Patens
Growth Rate:Slow
Native Range:North America, Europe, and Asia
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 3-8
Exposure:Full sun to partial shade
Soil Needs:Well-draining, alkaline soil
Fertilizing Needs:Not necessary
Pruning Needs:Deadheading after flowering
Eastern Pasque Growing Guide

2. Perennial Pinks

Perennial Pinks
Perennial Pinks (Dianthus sp.)

Perennial Pinks are charming little flowers that come in various colors and are known for their fragrant, spicy scent. They’re a great addition to any garden as they will bloom for several weeks in the summer, and some species even have a second bloom in the fall.

Scientific Name:Dianthus plumarius
Growth Rate:Moderate
Native Range:Europe and Asia
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 3-9
Exposure:Full sun
Soil Needs:Well-draining, neutral to alkaline soil
Fertilizing Needs:Fertilize in the spring with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Deadheading after flowering
Perennial Pinks Growing Guide

3. Dwarf Purple Coneflower

Dwarf Purple Coneflower
Dwarf Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)

Dwarf Coneflowers are a smaller cultivar of the popular medicinal herb Ecenacia. This perennial is a favorite among gardeners looking to add a low-lying pop of color to their landscape. It’s bright purple petals and cone-shaped center add interest and layers of intreague to gardeners and polinators alike.

Scientific Name:Echinacea Purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee High’
Growth Rate:Moderate
Native Range:North America
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 3-8
Exposure:Full sun to partial shade
Soil Needs:Well-draining, dry to medium soil
Fertilizing Needs:Fertilize in the spring with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Deadheading after flowering
Dwarf Purple Coneflower Growing guide

4. Plantain Lilies

Plantain Lilies
Plantain Lilies (Hostas)

These low-growing perennials are a favorite for shady areas or along river rock gardens. Hostas have large, lush foliage in shades of green, blue, and variegated.

They are easy to care for and can be a great way to add texture and contrast to your garden. Once established you can split your Plantain Lilies to create new patches in your garden with ease.

Scientific Name:Hosta sp.
Growth Rate:Moderate to fast
Native Range:Asia and North America
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 3-9
Exposure:Partial to full shade
Soil Needs:Rich, moist soil
Fertilizing Needs:Fertilize in the spring with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Remove dead leaves in the fall
Plantain Lilies Growing guide

5. Bishop’s Hat

Bishops Hat
Bishop’s Hat (Barrenwort Epimedium)

This unique perennial gets its name from its delicate, heart-shaped leaves resembling a bishop’s hat. It also has small, delicate flowers that bloom in shades of pink, white, and yellow in early spring.

It’s a great choice for shady areas and can tolerate dry conditions.

Scientific Name:Barrenwort Epimedium
Growth Rate:Slow to moderate
Native Range:Asia and Europe
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 4-9
Exposure:Partial shade
Soil Needs:Well-draining, moist soil
Fertilizing Needs:Fertilize in the spring with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Remove dead leaves in the fall
Bishop’s Hat Growing guide

6. Flowering Thyme

Flowering Thyme
Flowering Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum)

This low-growing thyme is aromatic and beautiful, with pink or purple flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer. If your looking for a carpet of flowers, this variety of thyme should be right up you alley.

Consider planting flowering thyme in your rock gardens or as a ground cover alongside paths and walkways.

Scientific Name:Thymus Serpyllum
Growth Rate:Moderate
Native Range:Europe and North Africa
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 4-9
Exposure:Full sun
Soil Needs:Well-draining, dry to medium soil
Fertilizing Needs:Not necessary
Pruning Needs:Trim after flowering to maintain shape
Flowering Thyme Growing guide

7. Perennial Violets

Perennial Violets
Perennial Violets (Viola Odorata)

Growing Perennial Violets feels like nurturing a little piece of history. There’s an old story I came across, set in a quaint village where a young gardener, discovered an old, forgotten book in the attic that spoke of the significance of Perennial Violets. Flipping through the book he discovered these flowers were once considered a symbol of enduring love and the passage of time.

Intrigued, the gardener decided to plant a patch of these wild violets from seeds he had collected from nearby pathways. As the violets bloomed, they became the talk of the village. People would visit, sharing stories of ancestors who exchanged violets as tokens of affection or planted them to mark significant life events.

The violets soon wove a tapestry of tales, from young couples falling in love to the bittersweetness of farewells. They weren’t just flowers; they were storytellers, each bloom holding a whisper from the past.

Now, whenever I see Perennial Violets, I’m reminded of that gardener and the village. It’s a beautiful testament to how nature can connect us to stories long forgotten, I’m grateful to have my own little plot of these growing in my garden to trigger this memory every springtime bloom.

Scientific Name:Viola Odorata
Growth Rate:Slow to moderate
Native Range:Europe and Asia
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 5-8
Exposure:Partial shade to full shade
Soil Needs:A moist, well-draining soil
Fertilizing Needs:Fertilize in the spring with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Deadheading after flowering
Perennial Violets Growing guide

8. Hardy Ice Plant

Hardy Ice Plant
Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma)

Don’t let the name fool you, this succulent-like plant is a great choice for hot, dry areas, as it can tolerate drought and heat. At first glance, the Ice plant’s fleshy green leaves might seem unassuming. But come spring and summer, it bursts into a carpet of dazzling, daisy-like flowers. It’s like that quiet person we all know who, when given a chance, surprises everyone with their depth and brilliance.

Scientific Name:Delosperma spp.
Growth Rate:Fast
Native Range:Southern Africa
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 5-9
Exposure:Full sun
Soil Needs:Well-draining, sandy soil
Fertilizing Needs:Once a year in spring, with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Deadheading to encourage blooming and trimming back after flowering to maintain shape
Hardy Ice Plant Growing guide

9. Blanket Flower

Blanket Flower
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia Aristata)

This short-lived perennial is known for its bright, daisy-like flowers in shades of red, orange, and yellow, which bloom all summer long. At about the 2-year mark divide your plants to keep them growing strong.

The first time I ever saw a blanket flower was nearing the end of a growing season at my local nursery. It was one of the few plans still well in bloom. Naturally, covered in honey bees looking to reap the last of nature’s reward before hibernation. It’s what drew me to show the picture above.

Scientific Name:Gaillardia Aristata
Growth Rate:Moderate
Native Range:North America
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 3-10
Exposure:Full sun
Soil Needs:Well-draining, average to sandy soil
Fertilizing Needs:Once a year in spring, with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Deadheading to encourage blooming and cutting back in late summer to promote a second bloom
Blanket Flower Growing guide

10. Silver Mound Artemisia

silver mound
Silver Mound (Artemisia Schmidtiana)

This low-growing perennial is prized for its silvery-gray foliage, which can add color and texture to your garden. Consider pruning in the spring to maintain the rounded shape by pinching off stray buds of foliage.

Silver Mound is drought-tolerant and can be a great choice for rock gardens all the way down to zone 8.

Scientific Name:Artemisia Schmidtiana
Growth Rate:Moderate
Native Range:Central Asia, Europe
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 4-8
Exposure:Full sun to partial shade
Soil Needs:Well-draining, average to poor soil
Fertilizing Needs:Infrequent fertilization
Pruning Needs:Cut back hard in late summer to promote bushier growth
Silver Mound Growing Guide

11. Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox
Creeping Phlox (Phlox Subulata)

This easy-to-grow ground cover is known for its delicate, star-shaped flowers in shades of pink, blue, and white, which bloom in the spring. It’s a great choice for adding color to rock gardens, borders or even as a lawn substitute.

Scientific Name:Phlox Subulata
Growth Rate:Moderate
Native Range:Eastern and Central United States
Hardiness Range:USDA zones 3-9
Exposure:Full sun to partial shade
Soil Needs:Well-draining, average to sandy soil
Fertilizing Needs:Once a year in early spring, with a balanced fertilizer
Pruning Needs:Deadheading to encourage blooming and shearing back after flowering to maintain shape.
Creeping Phlox Growing Guide

FAQ:

What is a Short-Height Perennial?

A short-height perennial is a plant that grows to a relatively small size, typically less than 18 inches in height. These perennials can add texture and color to low-growing areas, such as garden borders or rock gardens.

What’s a Short-Lived Perennial?

A short-lived perennial is a plant with a lifespan of 2-3 years or less. These plants typically bloom profusely during their short lifespan and can add color and texture to a garden or landscape, but they require more maintenance and replanting to ensure continued growth and blooms.

What Perennial Has the Longest Bloom Period?

The perennial with the longest bloom period varies depending on the climate, growing conditions, and the plant. Some perennials with particularly long bloom periods include yarrow (Achillea), coneflower (Echinacea), and bee balm (Monarda).

These perennials can bloom for several months, providing a long-lasting burst of color to the garden or landscape.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for plants that don’t require much attention but can make your garden look more beautiful and vibrant, consider the low-growing perennials above.

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