Ground Covers I use here at Fishtail Cottage…

Using ground covers in my landscape has been such a tough obstacle for me!   I see them in other gardens, and they look so fantastic ~ so I go out and snatch some up for myself and plant them.  Find that they do a nice job filling in locations in my landscape that would otherwise be dirt, which here in the northwest means ‘weeds’.  After a few years, I realize that they are so invasive and horrible, winding their way into the roots of other plants and / or climbing up the stocks of trees and shrubs…so then I spend hours, which turn into hours and weeks digging them out!  I understand that all areas are different and the happiness of a plant depends on the soil, amount of sunshine etc.  However, I have found over time there are a few ground covers that I have tried that I am willing to keep around!  So if you live in the Northwest and are looking for some great groundcovers here are my recommendations!


My absolute new favorite ground cover that I just cannot seem to get enough of is Sedum kamtschaticum variegatum. It is so colorful throughout the spring/summer and fall months~ it is a mounding variegated wax like foliage plant and starts out with an pink like bud which changes to a yellow flower and then get’s an orange like berry on it. It is semi-evergreen in my landscape and easy to divide. I have had a lot of luck just digging out a section of it to place in other parts of the landscape. It is very low growing. 8” in height and 16” to 20” wide. I have planted it in full sun to part sun and seems happy in either! I have lined my grass area with it along with heuchera and is very showy from a distance.


330I absolutely love ~ Silene Uniflora ‘Druett’s Variegated’.  The information I have read on the internet says it is an evergreen, although for me it dies all the way back but happily returns in the spring.  The variegated foliage and cheerful tubular flowers are so attractive!  It seems to be happy in the drier areas of my landscape.  The plant itself after three years has spread about 8” wide and to 2” in height. If I decide I don’t like it ~ it’s easy to dig up and move or toss out! It is not invasive and is very delicate looking in the garden. I find it perfect for placing it here and there in the garden beds!

334Lithodora is another fantastic ground cover that I has a sweet spot in my heart! It covers a lot of ground, but seems to grow around plants instead of choking them out.  It is happiest in full sun ~ but has done alright in full shade in my garden as well (just doesn’t flower as prolifically in the shade). It stays green all year long in my garden.  It can get ‘leggy’ on the parts of the plant that are not exposed to full sunshine.   Blue flowers appear all summer long but are the most vibrant in mid-spring. If you decide to prune, do so yearly in winter to help refresh growth.

336Variegated Algerian Ivy ~ was purchased for an outdoor pot, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out at the end of the season, so I planted it in my rockery area. I know, I know, I hear it can be invasive ~ but it has only been in this area of the garden for 5 years and is still quite small. I still see both weeds and plants growing through it and seems to be slow growing ~ it is very pretty growing in this one space that I have allowed it to grow ~ it   is planted in shade (morning sun) in my garden and the light color is so nice to see. 

This is probably not considered by most a ground cover ~ however here at Fishtail Cottage – it is spread by seed and is a happy little groundcover in several parts of the landscape ~ especially around my roses.  They are sweet little addition that seed freely in the garden – not invasive and do not invade the roots of any plants I have in the gardens!  Easy to dig up and toss or move to another location in your landscape.  They do from time to time need to be cut down to the base of the plant when they become ‘leggy’…These Johnny Jump Ups love full sunshine & seem to prefer dryer soil.



Another fantastic plant that makes a good ground cover here in the Seattle Landscape is Sandwort.  I love allowing this sweet bloom to appear throughout my garden beds.  it is such a cheerful plant and the white blooms are striking against the green foliage. It can start and be spread by the little seedlings that are dropped at the end of the bloom cycle. But I find that here in my landscape the creeping Sandwort is how it spreads best.  Easily dug up and moved or separated if I desire. It is easy to maintain, I don’t notice slugs and snails or any sort of garden pests  attracted to it. Seems to stay somewhat evergreen all year and it is happiest in sun or part sun.

342A great addition to the family of plants that spread like a ground cover here at Fishtail Cottage is “Dead Nettle” ~ although, I do watch it closely so that it doesn’t become invasive.  It spreads its roots by going under  the dirt (ever so slightly) and coming up to sprout.  Such a pretty filler in the gardens ~ however I would consider it somewhat invasive.  I only have it in a few places and keep it in check by not allowing it to spread to wide.  When I read the plant tag, it says to grow in shade – however it is happy in full sunshine.  Is it because we have so many grey days here in the Northwest?  

338Another plant that is considered a ground cover here in my landscape is the Alyssum.  Definitely dies back in the winter months, but comes back on the same plant from the previous year.  It also seeds freely by seed. The Alyssum is fragrant and delicate looking flower and I love that it will pop up in full sun and or shade.  It makes a great filler in any garden.  there really is not trick to growing this fabulous plant – just identifying it as a plant instead of a weed while it is in its small stages of growth.

imageSweet Woodruff is one of my favorite ground covers – it grows in both the hot areas and the shaded parts of my garden beds.  It spreads both by the root and by the seed after the blooms have finished.  The fragrance of this darling little flower is what keeps it in my garden.  It has become somewhat too happy in my gardens and seems to have spread like wildfire ~ but I haven’t noticed any loss of other plants in the landscape due to the presence of Sweet Woodruff. I would say it definitely does much better in moist soil.

339Strawberries first came to the gardens here at Fishtail Cottage by throwing out the rotten ones into the gardens for the chickens.  Well somehow they seeded themselves and began popping up all over! they are fine in both full sun to part sun.  The flowers have arrived and berries should be just around the corner.  I don’t eat them ~ I do however, let the birds have them. They are easy for me to remove if I choose. 

Two ground covers that I have tried and absolutely cannot keep here in my gardens is the Creeping Jenny and Vinca.  Although pretty when I first put them in ~ I cannot get rid of them no matter how hard I try.  It seems the roots go deeper than my shovel and continuously appear wherever they were once planted.  Both of these pants are on my list of noxious weeds in my gardens and destroy everything in its pathway!  Definitely do not recommend either in your northwest gardens!


To see what else I am linking to this week – please check my “Cottage Links” label…xoxo, tracie

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funny - here in georgia Creeping Jenny ( I always thought it was Johnny) does fantastic!
Unknown said…
Gosh Tracie, it all looks so beautiful no one would ever know that you were challenged. It just takes a few years to get set and then it's so so easy. That is what we have done here is the natural ground bed covering, no mulch and very little rock. I love it all natural like that. We use mostly ivy and we have a lot of strawberrys that get there somehow or another. Beautiful photos and gardens. :D
awal.ny said…
Thank you so much for your comments and for the feature. I love your choices for ground covers. Sweet woodruff is one of my favorites too. I have been planting it in the wrong spot, so I will be getting some from my MIL and trying again.
What great information! I have a hillside full of pachysandra and vinca-the problem is the poison ivy keeps creeping into the ground covers and I can't get that out! I love all the ground covers you've mentioned-I'll have to check them out for other areas in my yard. Getting rid of the pachysandra would be a major undertaking, so I guess I'll leave it for now at least!
NanaDiana said…
Great info here, Tracie. I love to know all about all kinds of things and I do need some groundcovers. I am looking for something that will grow in kind of rocky conditions, full sun along the bay where it gets lots of wind. It can't be too tall because we don't want to block the water view from the house. Any ideas? xo Diana
Gatsbys Gardens said…
I love the algerian ivy but I use it in containers not in the ground. I have creeping jenny and it does winter over here but I use it where it does not come in contact with the lawn as it does spread.

Marsha said…
I grow Creeping Jenny as a water garden plant so it is a favorite for that reason but have never planted it in the ground. I was intrigued by the Silene Uniflora "Druiett's Variegated" as I have never heard of that one before. A quick search found it via mail order but I will look local first.

Thanks for a fun and informative post.
Wow this was SO informative- thank you! I wish I lived in the NW now, haha!

I wish that someone as knowledgeable from Ohio would do the same. I too have invasive ground cover and my gardens really need some professional advice....but have the added concern of DEER.
Vinca has been my enemy as well! I didn't even plant it! I bought a pre made potter that had it cascading over the edge.....5 years ago! It grew into the ground and I am still pulling it up. Thanks for sharing all of this, your gardens are gorgeous.

HeatherF1 said…
I have quite a few of those, as well, and am in the PNW. The one I would say to absolutely stay away from are violets. They spread by runners and seeds and I have never been able to get rid of them in my yard.
Your garden is lovely with a beautiful array of ground covers.
Thanks for all the information on ground covers Tracie. I'll have to check them out and see which ones will winter over here in Minnesota.
Donna said…
Tracie, I found this so helpful! Even though I'm from the Northeast and we get much hotter summers and colder winters than you do in the Northwest, it was very interesting reading your 'reviews' of ground covers. We have given up trying to grow grass in our overly shady, tree-rooted backyard and have decided that a ground cover with stepping stones is the way to go. So I'll now research some of the ones you mentioned that did well in the shade and see if they will work in our zone! Thanks for this perfectly timed blogpost!... Donna
deb said…
Your gardens are gorgeous! Love the Johhy Jump Ups!! They were my fav flower when I was little.
Larry said…
You've shared several groundcover choices that I am totally unfamiliar with... great post! Larry
Sunray Gardens said…
Nice groundcovers and they help make a garden complete.
Unknown said…
Love that first photo Tracie. I just let the most of my sedum do whatever it wants...alyssum is welcome to reseed as well and is everygreen here for the most part.
Victoria said…
Wow..such beauties...gorgeous photos..I too love ivy..yours looks fab..i also love dead nettle..and sweet woodroof. Gorgeous post..wishing you a magical wkd!
I loved this post--so informative. Thank you for all of the wonderful data and beautiful pictures!
Sue said…
As always, I love all of your gardens. I have a small yard, so I don't get an opportunity to have as large as a garden as you. I do however, because of our great weather here in Southern CA, get to enjoy gardening almost all year. I've got sedum, and I love it! Great photos today!!

Take care,
Andrea said…
Wow, all of your groundcover choices are so beautiful. Weeds can be controlled if they are covered, so when the covers are as beautiful as those, they are not covers anymore but lovely ornamentals. I hope they wont get invasive as well.
CailinMarie said…
stopped by via Outdoor Wednesday- I love this post! I found it very interesting and informative and I do not live in the NorthWest but in a very wet/humid part of Virginia. I love that you included the happy little Johnny Jump UPs! And I'm going to look up the sedum kamtschaticum variegatum and see if they'll grow here. They are very interesting-
Ann said…
That sedum ground cover is just gorgeous. I would love to find some of this. All of your gardens are so lovely.

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