Groundcovers for Sunny Sites

 


Cerastium found at the MU. Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Haynes. 

Groundcovers, by definition, are plants that spread. They are often low-growing perennials or shrubs that unify or define landscape beds and borders. Choosing the right groundcover for a landscape is important as they often consume large areas.  There are several species to consider when selecting groundcovers for sunny sites.  There are also several species of groundcovers for shady sites (Groundcovers for Shade).  Some of the shade-loving species such as bugleweed and vinca perform equally as well in both shady and sunny sites. 

Of the sun-loving species listed below, all prefer well-drained or dry soils.  There are often several cultivars available for each species. Flower color and mature height may be dependent on cultivar.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Mature Height

Comments

Artemisia

 

Artemisia schmidtiana

Artemisia ludoviciana

1 foot tall to

2-3 feet tall

Gray/silver foliage

Basket of gold

Aurinia saxatilis

6-12 inches tall

Yellow flowers in spring

Catmint

Nepeta x faassenii

1-3 feet tall

Blue/purple flowers in summer; fragrant leaves

Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster horizontalis

2-3 feet tall

Pink flowers in spring; red berries

Daylily

Hemerocallis hybrids

 

Many flower colors and heights

Creeping Juniper

Juniperus horizontalis

1-2 feet tall

Adaptable evergreen

Creeping Phlox

Phlox subulata

6 inches tall

Pink, white, blue/purple, red, and bicolor flowers in spring

Ice Plant

Delosperma cooperi

6 inches tall

Bright pink, yellow or purple flowers in summer; succulent leaves; dry soil best; zone 5 hardy

Lamb’s ear

Stachys byzantina

6 – 18 inches tall

Soft, gray leaves; dry soils best

Sedum

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ and other species or cultivars

6 inches tall

Yellow, succulent leaves that turn reddish in fall; other species with many leaf colors; dry soils best

Snow-in-Summer

Cerastium tomentosum

6-12 inches tall

White flowers in late spring; gray leaves

Sumac

Rhus aromatic ‘Gro-Low’

2-3 feet tall

Fragrant leaves; reddish fall color

Thyme

Thymus species

 

Fragrant, dark green, gray or variegated leaves; purple flowers in early summer

Ornamental Grasses

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium)

Switchgrass (Panicum)

 

2-4 feet tall

Both with gray leaves and reddish fall color


Stachys found in Ankeny. Photo Courtesy of Cynthis Haynes. 

 

Some groundcovers can be considered too aggressive in the home landscape.  Avoid plants like ribbon grass (Phalaris), gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides), and creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) as they may become difficult to manage or control in the home landscape.

Other G terms

Groundcovers for shade https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2018/05/groundcovers-shade

Geraniums – common name for annual (Pelargonium) and perennial (Geranium) flowers that are popular landscape plants

            annual https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2017/06/growing-annual-geraniums

            perennial https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2019/05/perennial-geraniums-or-cranesbills

Germination – growing plants from seed

            native perennials FAQs https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/yard-and-garden-germinating- seeds-future-growth

            common annual flowers and vegetable seeds     https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2017/01/seed-germination-guide

            tree seed https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2000/8-11-2000/germtreeseed.html

            establishing a lawn from seed https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/4396

Gesneriads – group of mostly tropical plants such as African violets and gloxinia  https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2020/03/growing-gesneriads

Grafting – means of propagating woody plants by combining a scion (upper portion) with a rootstock (lower portion); whip and tongue grafts https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2004/2-13-2004/graftapple.html

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