Ground CoversGround cover plants can be very handy. They are like a living mulch, filling in between the other plants, helping the ground stay cool and making every inch of your flower bed or yard look pretty.

Ground cover can be a great choice for difficult spots like steep hills and shady spots. But even if you don’t have one of these trouble spots, a ground cover plant can fill in the blank spots in your existing landscaping with ease.

Ground cover plants aren’t necessarily low to the ground; it is their spreading habit that makes them useful. Mint is a great example. Though mint grows tall, it spreads like crazy. Plant a little in a sunny corner and soon it will be everywhere. I have a friend who fondly remembers the mint gone wild in his childhood yard—whenever he would mow the lawn the mint scent would come out.

Ground covers are planted in the spring or early summer so they have a long time to get established before the cold months. They usually don’t need a lot of care but should be well watered for the first year or so to help them establish strong roots. Ground cover plants are usually spaced about a foot apart, but you can plant them closer together for an instant transformation, or farther apart if you are on a budget. It will all work out in the end.

There are many great ground cover plants for your sunny garden, in addition to mint. Here are just a few that you can choose from.

Creeping juniper: If you’re looking for a evergreen creeping ground cover, creeping juniper is an excellent choice. It has blue or green foliage most of the year, which can turn purple or gray in the winter. Creeping juniper usually grows to a height of one or two feet and spreads two to four feet. This is a great choice for a steep slope that needs erosion control.

Creeping phlox: If you have a sunny dry spot where nothing grows, creeping phlox could be the solution. This dense, moss-like plant has pink, purple or white flowers and it is evergreen in warm climates. Creeping phlox is great for rock gardens, as it will naturally follow the contours of the rocks.

Yucca: If you live in the desert or somewhere that is warm year-round, yucca can be used as an effective ground cover. These plants are usually two or three feet tall, making them a little big for a traditional ground cover, but they look striking in a rock garden or planted with succulents.

Creeping thyme: Like mint, thyme is a creeping herb plant that is a wonderful ground cover. There are even ornamental varieties of thyme that have red flowers and are meant for planting as a ground cover instead of for eating. These plants range from one to four inches tall and can spread 12 to 18 inches, making them an ideal ground cover. Plant creeping thyme in between stepping stones or along a path so that you will smell it when you walk by and rub against it. (You can do this with lavender as well, though it tends to be a little tall for a ground cover.)

Ice plant: With a name like ice plant, you’d guess that this plant would be happy in shade, but this spiky plant that looks sort of like a flowering rosemary is a winner for the sunny garden. The best part is that you can grow it from seed and it will bloom in just four months and stick around as a perennial. Blooms are magenta or other colors and come in the summer. The plant is only about two inches tall and spreads to 12 to 15 inches, and it grows well even in your hottest spots.

There are many other options for ground covers in the sunny garden, including flowers like petunias, lily of the valley and crocuses, herbs like rosemary and chamomile, and small shrubs like sedum and sweet woodruff. Once you get started planting ground covers, you’ll be tempted to pull up all your grass and fill your yard with these reliable beauties. You may never have to mow again!

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