2 min read
Monkey Grass

Ground covers are used to provide edgings to pathways, control erosion, and add interest to landscape design.

In agriculture, ground cover is the name given to plants that are low growing and are used to cover a large area, giving a carpeted effect. Using several ground covers can add variety to the landscape and prevent soil erosion. Many ground covers also grow well in shady areas where turfgrass will not grow.

Landscape Uses

Ground covers used as edging for pathways help regulate foot traffic in the garden. They also visually tie unrelated shrubs and flowerbeds together in the landscape. They can be used between steppingstones to provide color and for accent areas under trees where turf does not grow very well. For steep hillsides or banks where mowing is difficult, ground covers may be a solution. A homeowner trying to create an interesting landscape design will find the use of ground covers rewarding.

Planting Ground Cover

Plan to install ground cover plantings 6 weeks before the first fall frost. To prepare the soil, simply till up the entire area you expect to cover and work in 3 inches of soil conditioner, compost, or peat moss. Apply fertilizers according to soil test recommendations and work them in well. After planting, water the area thoroughly, and apply 2 inches of mulch. Once established, ground covers usually maintain themselves with minimal care.

Plants No Longer Recommended as Ground Covers

There are a handful of ground cover plants that were recommended in previous years, but are now viewed as poor choices. These plants easily invade nearby wooded or naturalized areas and take over ground that should be populated with native plant species. A complete listing of all invasive plants in your county or state can be found at www.invasive.org. Some of these species not recommended for Alabama landscapes include:

  • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Vinca (Vinca major)
  • Lantana (Lantana camera)
  • Wintercreeper euonymus (Euonymus fortunei)

Recommended Plants

Many perennials or shrubs serve as ground covers. Choose those that are adapted to your soil type and fit with the area’s sunlight and water availability. The following is a partial list of plants that work well as ground covers in Alabama landscapes.


Table 1. Ground Covers for Alabama Landscapes

Ajuga reptans
Creeping perennial; bears blue or purple flowers4 to 8 inchesPart sun to shade
Hemerocallis sp.
Perennial, dies back in winter24 to 36 inchesFull sun
Dwarf Mondo Grass
Ophiopogon japonicus
Grass like, evergreen perennialUp to 10 inchesPart sun to shade
Golden Stonecrop
Sedum acre
Perennial evergreen, prefers well-drained soilsUp to 4 inchesFull sun
Shore Juniper
Juniperus conferta ‘Pacific Blue’
EvergreenUp to 24 inchesFull sun
Blue Rug Juniper
Juniperus horizontalis
EvergreenUp to 12 inchesFull sun
Monkey Grass
Liriope muscari
Grass like, evergreen perennial, variegated variety availableUp to 18 inchesFull sun to full shade
St John’s wort
Hypericum calycinum
Semievergreen; turns red in fall; yellow flowers in summer; well drained soils only12 to 18 inches tallSun to part shade
Strawberry Begonia
Saxifraga stolonifera
Perennial; for well drained soils with acidic pH; white spring flowersUp to 12 inchesPart shade to shade
Iberis sempervirens
Perennial; white spring flowersUp to 12 inches tallFull sun to part shade
Groundcover Roses
Rosa x ‘Drift’ or ‘Carpet’ Series
Horizontal-growing shrubUp to 24 inches tallFull sun
Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata
Semi-evergreen perennial; showy spring flowersUp to 8 inchesFull sun
Spotted Deadnettle
Lamium maculatum
Perennial; trailing vine; purple flowers in spring Up to 12 inchesPart shade to shade
Southern Shield Fern
Thelypteris kunthii
Perennial fern with arching fronds; best in moist, acidic soil.Up to 36 inchesPart shade to full shade
Partridge Berry
Mitchella repens
Evergreen perennial groundcover, native, with red berries in fall/winterUp to 5 inchesFull shade


Peer ReviewRevised by Allyson Shabel, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Alabama A&M University. Original authors: Kerry Smith, Extension Home Grounds Program Coordinator, and J. David Williams, former Extension Horticulturist, Professor Emeritus, Auburn University.

Reviewed March 2023, Ground Covers for Alabama Landscapes, ANR-0181


Download this article as a PDF