No More Weeding or Mulching: Ground Covering Shrubs

Typically, when we think about ground covers we tend to think about Ivy (Hedera helix), Pachysandra and Vinca and little else, but there are many good shrubs that fill this same role in the garden. Over the years, I have developed a real appreciation for low growing, spreading, ground covering shrubs. Not only are these shrubs low in stature but they're also low in maintenance. Very little if any pruning is needed to keep them looking good. They keep the weeds at bay and they eliminate the need for mulch. And out of all my gardening chores - weeding and mulching are my least favorite.  

So here are few of my favorite ground covering flowering shrubs.

Lo & Behold 'Purple Haze' Buddleia is the newest release from Dr. Denny Werner at NC state. As you can see it's quite different than Lo & Behold 'Blue Chip'. The flowers are larger, the foliage is darker, and the habit is more spreading in nature. Like 'Blue Chip', it is continuous blooming and puts on a great show in late summer and fall. I love it's texture which is unlike that of any other butterfly bush. It's not yet on the market, but should be available in limited supplies next summer. 

Little Dipper Cotoneaster is a very fine, very low growing shrub that forms a thick, dense mat. Like a good ground cover it crowds out unwanted weeds and eliminates the need for mulch. I love how its dark green foliage looks creeping over my stone edging. I know what you're thinking - you hate how Cotoneasters catches every fallen leaf in sight. Not to worry - leaves just blow right on past this dense, low growing shrub. 

Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of Euonymus fortunei, aka wintercreeper, but I do have a fondness for Gold Splash Euonymus. It has large attractive variegated leaves and its growth habit is very uniform and consistent. Most importantly this Roemer Nursery introduction does not get the leaf spotting diseases that plague other Euonymus cultivars. 

I am a big fan of Bangle, Gensita lydia 'Select'This petite, ground covering shrub is an improved selection developed by Dick Punnett the propagator at Arrowhead Alpine Nursery. It's a (nearly) leafless plant with attractive green, tread-like stems and electric yellow flowers that engulf the plant in early spring. It looks equally great planted in mass or flowing over the edge of a decorative container.    

Indigofera pseudotinctoria 'Rose Carpet' never fails to lift my spirits when its bright green foliage is adorned with bright pink flowers. This is a long blooming shrub that deserves greater use. The blooms appear in late summer and last until fall. This shrub tends to leaf out late in the spring which is typically of many shrubs in the pea family. 

Celtic Pride, Microbiota decussata 'Prides' is new selection of Siberian cypress from Prides Corner Farms. This drought tolerant evergreen has bright green, fern-like foliage which turns a russet brown in winter. Unlike the species it has a greater resistance to tip die-back disease. It is a great little, evergreen, ground covering shrub that grows well in full sun or shade.


  1. It's amazing how they make Buddlejas so compact these days. The ones I have are 15 feet high+! I really like that Cotoneaster too. Gives a much softer appearance than the 'Low Fast' cultivar.

  2. I am so glad you posted this! I just taught a class on waterwise landscape design for homeowners yesterday and we talked about the importance of having some consistent green on the 'ground plane' to keep a low-maintenance landscape from looking barren. There are some great choices on your list.

    I am a FREAK about the "Lo and Behold" series- the 'Blue Chip' Buddleias have performed exactly as promised for 2 seasons now- and plants rarely live up to the nursery-produced hype. I hope I can get my hands on the newest selection soon and that it is as good as 'Blue Chip'. Woot!

  3. Brenda4:44 PM

    Lo & Behold gets much larger than growers state...In jobs where I planned on it being 18-24" 2nd year it is at least 3 feet & was cut back in early Spring. Little Dipper has done great...stays extremely low..a neat & tidy plant unlike the other leaf trap varieties! Zone 6B-7A


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