Best Ground Covers and 9 Places To Plant Them

19 December 2019

Mountain landscapes are difficult for plants, especially if you want to keep them low maintenance.

In an arid climate where rock lawns are the norm because growing conditions are challenging, ground- hugging plants are the perfect solutions.

Check the 'net, and you will find a lot of bad advice for mountain gardens. You really must verify the sources and confirm that info with local garden centers. But, hey, that's why this column has so many loyal readers every week! Thank you:)

This list of the best groundcovers is based on selections of local gardeners who shop here at Watters. This is not an all-encompassing plant list, merely the most popular ones found in many of our area neighborhoods. Botanical name and online links are provided so you can reference more varieties and even buy online for 2020 delivery when necessary.

Sunny Spots

This is the most challenging growing spot in every local yard. High altitude sun, persistent wind, and extra heat reflected off of retaining walls and rock lawns make sunny spots especially challenging.

· Friesland meadow Sage, Salvia nemorosa

· Gro-Low Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica

· Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle, Lonicera x brownii

· Tom Thumb Creeping Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster adpressus

· Blue Chip Juniper, Juniperus horizontalis

· Emerald Gaiety Wintercreeper, Euonymus fortunei

Fragrance Where People Gather

Whether from their foliage or blooms, some plants just give off more pleasing scents than others. Fragrant plants should be used in specific parts of our yards/gardens. They always please guests visiting over a glass of wine on the patio, at a backyard BBQ, and, this time of year, sitting by the fire pit. Here are my favorite locals that smell better than most.

· Corsican mint, Mentha requienii

· Walker's Low Catmint, Nepeta faassenii

· Red Creeping Thyme, Thymus praecox

· Firewitch Dianthus, Dianthus gratianopolitanus

· Hall's Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica

· Flower Carpet Red Groundcover Rose

· Arp Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

· Star Jasmine: Trachelospermum jasminoides

· Halo Violet Perennial Violet, Viola cornuta


A backyard that is a sheer wall, or a hill covered in granite boulders has its own challenges. Choose plants with strong roots, and they will help hold the soil together and in place, controlling erosion.

· Honeybelle Honeysuckle, Lonicera x brownii

· Coral Beauty Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri

· Blueberry Delight Juniper, Juniperus communis

· Eichholz Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri

· Wine Periwinkle, Vinca minor

· Huntington Carpet Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

· Star Showers Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

· Atomic Red Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans

· Bearberry Kinnikinnick, Arctostaphylos

To Soften Walls

So many raised beds and walls are sterile and in need of softening. These ground covers ease and can even disguise too strong lines of hardscaping elements.

· Blue Uniform Bellflower, Campanula carpatica

· Illumination Dwarf Periwinkle,Vinca minor

· Rokey's Purple Aubrieta

· Snow Hill Meadow Sage, Salvia sylvestris

· Sunsparkler Dazzleberry Sedum, Sedum Dazzleberry

· Raspberry Surprise Dianthus

· Thorndale English Ivy, Hedera helix

· Roman Beauty Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

· Cranberry Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster apiculatus

Where Weeds Grow

The goal in areas with a high concentration of weeds is to use plants that will overtake and squeeze out weeds. Here's a list of some ground covers that are so hardy they can choke out all weeds, even the most persistent.

· Pink Cat Catmint, Nepeta nervosa

· Golden Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia

· Red Wings Creeping Phlox

· Elfin Thyme, Thymus serpyllum

· Angelina Stonecrop, Sedum rupestre

· Bowles Periwinkle, Vinca minor

· Creeping Oregon Grape, Mahonia repens

Fire Protection: Reduced Fuel Zone

These plants have high moisture contents, so are far less prone to catch fire. Growing a ground cover for the purpose of fuel reduction is often overlooked, but definitely should be worked into the gardens in areas that are prone to wildfires.

· White Flowered Chocolate Vine, Akebia quinata

· Streibs Findling Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster dammeri

· De La Mina Verbena, Verbena lilacina

· Prostrate Rock Cotoneaster, Cotoneaster horizontalis

· Madison Star Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides

· Bronze Carpet Stonecrop, Sedum spurium

· Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans

· Red Wall Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

In a High-Traffic Area

Ground covers make excellent replacements for the classic green lawn, but they can't tolerate the amount of traffic for sports and other activities as turfgrass will. How often do you use that patch of grass for a rousing game of croquet? Do your dogs patrol your yard until a path is worn into their routes? Here are the plants that can withstand a certain amount of traffic and still keep a landscape looking good.

· English Thyme, Thymus vulgaris

· Wilton Blue Rug Juniper, Juniperus horizontalis

· Chocolate Mint, Mentha piperita

· Wine Common Periwinkle, Vinca minor

· Hot & Spicy Oregano, Origanum vulgare

· Green Showers Boston Ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Animal Resistant/Proof

As we build ever more deeply into the forest and mountain valleys, we encounter wild creatures that see our gardens as their personal buffets! This list is of low-profile plants that mountain-dwelling animals find utterly distasteful. Some even have a repellant effect.

· Woolly Thyme, Thymus pseudolanuginosus

· Compact Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia aquifolium

· Big Ears Lamb's Ears, Stachys byzantina

· Pineapple Mint, Mentha suaveolens

· Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon japonicus

· Huntington Carpet Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis

· Cherry Truffle Sedum

· Variegated Lemon Thyme, Thymus citriodorus

· EnduraScape Dark Purple Verbena

· Engelman Ivy, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Shady Spots

Spots under a tree, or a deck, or eaves need something that 'pops' to bring darkened spaces alive. Here are my local favorites that outshine the rest in a shady spot.

· Burgundy Glow Carpet Bugle, Ajuga reptans

· Creeping Bramble, Rubus calycinoides

· Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum

· Duckfoot Ivy, Hedera helix

· Royal Cape Plumbago

· Tidal Pool Speedwell, Veronica

· Grace Ward Lithodora, Lithodora diffusa

· Bowles' Common Periwinkle, Vinca minor

Garden Alert! Tree Breakage - So many gardeners have asked how to handle the trees mangled by the last snowstorm. If you need help, bring a digital photo of your problem, and have Watters' tree experts direct your recovery efforts. For really big jobs, I use Jonny's Tree & Landscape Service (928) 830-4977. Let them know Ken sent you:)

2020 Free Garden Classes Announcement for next year is very exciting. January classes and instructors are finalized, and the rest of the Spring schedule is coming together nicely. Next year's classes are going to be good! Here are the topics for the first classes of 2020.

January 11 @ 9:30 am: Houseplant Designs with Professional Style

January 18 @ 9:30 am: Top Landscape Designs with Flare

January 25 @ 9:30 am: Why January is the Month to Plant Wildflowers

Until next week I'll be helping local gardeners with gift cards and selecting groundcovers here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter

Watters: Website | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram | Pinterest

Watters Garden Center 2020 Spring Garden Classes

Each Saturday @ 9:30am, Watters hosts a FREE garden class, open to the public!

January 11 @ 9:30 am: Better Houseplant Design with Professional Style

Houseplants brighten your lives, clean the air we breathe, but not all are created equal when growing in an arid climate. You'll have a list of the top houseplants best grown indoors and how to care for each.

January 18 @ 9:30 am: Top Landscape Designs with Flare

Design flare is all it takes with the right plants. We'll cover the right local designs, right plants, and the right place for an easy to care for landscape. Bring a pencil and paper for lots of notes and pictures of your landscape project for local design advice.

January 25 @ 9:30 am: Why January is the Month to Plant Wildflowers

January is the ideal window to start wild seed outdoors, but you can't just chuck them in the landscape and expect success. We share Watters unique mountain blends that ensure these bloomers blossom beautifully.



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Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener

Ken Lain is attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, success and health through gardening, and wishes to point the way to others. Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com

Website: hwww.wattersgardencenter.com