Alberta's Best Garden Blog

Ground Cover Plants

When you’re designing your backyard landscape and curating your assortment of plants for the garden, it’s important to find a good balance of colour, texture, and height. Tall, vivid flowers that make a big statement look best when situated in the middle or back of the garden, so they’re in full view and don’t block smaller flowers. While these flowers tend to be the stars of the show, it’s important to have shorter, denser plants to fill in bare patches and gaps, and to line the borders of your garden.

There’s lots of beautiful ground cover plants, some flowering, and some that are all about the foliage. Depending on if you want perennial groundcover that comes back year after year, low-growing plants that thrive in a garden full of sun, or plants that will fill out spaces in shady corners of your yard, you’ve got tons of viable options that thrive here in Edmonton.   

Perennial ground cover plants

If you want some reliable ground cover that will pop back up each spring with all your other perennials flowers and plants, you’ll definitely dig these top picks: 

Creeping Phlox: This perennial flowering plant is wildly popular, and with good reason: The star-shaped blossoms come in loads of different colours, they’re pretty low-maintenance. They tend to spread over time, so if they start to take over a bit too much, just dig them up, divide them gently at the root, and re-plant the other half elsewhere. 

Dianthus “Sternkissun”: This drought tolerant ground cover does best in full-sun or partial shade. It’s herbaceous leaves and pink blossoms are super fragrant, so it naturally repels deer and attracts butterflies and bees. 

Sedum: This gorgeous succulent come in hundreds of different colours and leaf shapes, but we particularly love the Blue Pearl variety, as its uniquely coloured foliage stays bright from spring until fall. It makes a great border plant to line pathways and garden edges. 

Arabis: This ultra-dense flowering ground cover provides fantastic coverage for gaps in your garden bed. Its blossoms, typically white or pink, can thrive in partial shade, but this will shorten their lifespan, so full sun is ideal. 

Best ground cover plants for full sun

If your yard isn’t heavily shaded by trees, ground cover plants that can tolerate intense sunlight will provide you with some pretty impressive displays of colour in the summer. Check out these tried-and-true faves:

Creeping Thyme: Not just beautiful, but delicious too! This popular herb is a must-have for roast chicken, soups and stews. It has a showy display of purple flowers typically appear at the end of spring, but the golden-green foliage is an impressive sight all the way until winter. 

Brass Buttons: This hardy ground cover spreads pretty quickly, so you might want to keep an eye on this one and divide it if it starts to get a bit unruly. It does well in rock gardens, and its spiky button-shaped chartreuse flowers are pretty funky!

Lady’s Mantle: The scalloped dusty green foliage of this ground cover plant is really gorgeous— the muted tones will blend with almost any colour scheme. It produces tiny clusters of lemon-lime blossoms that sprout up from long protruding stems. If you’re getting a lot of rain, there’s no need for additional watering. 

Best ground cover for shade

Whether your garden is shaded by a canopy of trees, nestled into the corner of a tall fence, or full of tall leafy plants that cast shade below, these shade tolerant ground cover plants will make fabulous additions.

Creeping Jenny: The vibrant foliage of this flowering ground cover is a burst of sunshine! The yellow-green leaves and golden blooms are so lovely, and they’re pretty tough too, so if you’ve got kids running around in the yard, this plant can tolerate a bit of trampling. 

Bishop’s Weed:  This shade-loving plant is a pretty aggressive grower, so it does best in confined gardens with a solid border. The cool green foliage has a distinct cream-coloured trim, giving it gorgeous definition that really pops.  

Ajuga: Also known as Bugleweed, this evergreen perennial has spiky, deep indigo blooms that reach up to nearly a foot tall. It tends prefer slightly acidic soil, with good drainage and lots of compost or organic matter. 

Ground cover plants may not stand as tall or boast massive blooms like many garden showstoppers, but there’s still plenty of eye-catching low growers that help balance out the proportions of your garden. Pick a lush ground cover plant with a foliage colour that blends seamlessly within your chosen colour palette, and you’ll love how streamlined and put-together the finished product looks!

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