Ground Covering Plants for Ottawa-Carleton
There are many alternatives to grass if you want to cover ground
with a single kind of plant, especially in shady areas. Here are
some of the best.
- Thyme (Thymus montanus or
T. serphyllum) A cover for full sun and dry sandy
soil, especially useful between patio stones, leaves scented, has
tiny flowers late spring, several good varieties.
- Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) A
fast-spreading ground cover, sun to light shade and moist soil,
10 cm high, spikes of deep blue flowers in late spring over shiny
rosettes of leaves, multi-coloured leaf cultivars available.
'Braunherz' is especially resistant to insect attacks.
- Sweet Woodruff (Galium
odoratum) Best in moist shady spots where grass won't
grow, whorled green foliage, tiny white flowers in spring.
- Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria
majalis) Thick-growing upright leaves 10 cm high,
suppresses almost all other plants if grown in moist soil and
medium to deep shade, fragrant flowers in spring. The
bright-orange berries in summer are sufficiently poisonous that
children should be prevented from eating them.
- Periwinkle (Vinca minor) Medium
to dark shade, 15 cm high with shiny green leaves, many blue
flowers in spring, withstands drought once established but young
plants must be watered, some weeding required.
- Goutweed (Ægopodium
podagraria) Sun to medium shade, spreads very rapidly
(even invasively) by underground roots, cream-coloured leaves, 15
cm high. Control by mowing along edge of patch three times a
- Japanese spurge (Pachysandra
terminalis) Best in light to dark shade and well-drained
soil, 15 cm high, some have variegated leaves, excellent to
combine with bulb plantings to hide the ripening bulb leaves
after flowering. Control by mowing.
- Creeping phlox (Phlox
stolonifera) Forms dense clumps of spreading stems, many
small blue, pink or white flowers in spring, best in light to
medium shade such as under trees, moist soil. Phlox
subulata, also called creeping phlox, forms a moss-like
mat 15 cm thick with flowers in early spring, needs full sun,
well-drained soil, and some weeding, the middle of large
plantings tends to die off.
- Creeping juniper (Juniperus
horizontalis) Grows slowly, but excellent for covering
rocky slopes, requires full sun, dry even rocky soil, good air
circulation. Cultivars available for heights from 20 cm
('Wiltonii') to 60 cm.
- Three-toothed cinquefoil (Potentilla
tridentata) A creeper for rocky sites and dry sunny
slopes, 25 cm high, small white flowers early summer, leaves turn
reddish in fall.
- Foam flower (Tiarella
cordifolia) Grows 25 cm tall in medium to heavy shade and
rich moist soil, white flower spikes in spring.
- Crown vetch (Coronilla varia)
The cover for sunny banks that are too dry for grass, forms an
intertwined mass up to 30 cm thick, flowers all summer.
See our separate information sheet on
Ecological Lawn Care. We thank
Artistic Landscape Designs Ltd. for expert assistance in
compiling this fact sheet.
Provided by the Health Dangers of Urban Use of Pesticides Working Group
of the Region of Ottawa-Carleton, Ontario Canada.
Approved by Regional government and by the Ottawa-Carleton Health Department.
Please feel free to copy.