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Low-Maintenance Ground Covers That Suppress Weeds

Updated on May 3, 2017
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens & learns about gardening through the MD Native Plant Society & MD Master Gardening Program.

Six Easy-to-Grow Ground Covers That Choke Out Weeds

Hardy ground covers can not only improve the appearance of your yard, but they can also significantly reduce the amount of time you spend weeding.

Need coverage for a dry area that gets full sun? Struggling to grow grass in dry shade? Or perhaps your landscape suffers from boggy patches marred by bald spots and scraggly weeds.

One of the perennial ground covers below could be the perfect solution to your problem. Each grows thickly, choking out weeds as it spreads. And each requires little care to thrive where few other plants will grow.

Low-Maintenance, Weed-Abating, Perennial Ground Covers

name
water requirements
sun needs
zones
special characteristics
Golden Creeping Jenny (aka Moneywart)
lots of water
will grow in shade to full sun
3-9
covers large areas quickly (fast growth)
Mazus
keep soil moist
prefers part shade but will grow in full sun
4-9
in some conditions, it will bloom spring through fall
Phlox Stolonifera
moist conditions
partial sun or shade
5-9
needle-like evergreen leaves form a dense mat to suppress weeds
Phlox Subulata (Creeping Phlox)
dry soil
full sun
3-9
drought-tolerant erosion control
Red Creeping Thyme
dry
full sun
3-9
fairly quick growing; heat-tolerant and deer-resistant; grows like a tightly-knit mat
Dragon's Blood Sedum
occasional water
full or partial sun
3-8
hardiest and most versatile; thrives in poor soil
See full descriptions and photos for each below.
Golden creeping Jenny is also called moneywort. The 'Aurea' cultivar is an ideal ground cover for suppressing weeds.
Golden creeping Jenny is also called moneywort. The 'Aurea' cultivar is an ideal ground cover for suppressing weeds. | Source

Golden Creeping Jenny

Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) is a rugged ground cover hardy in zones 3-9.* It thrives in wet areas. Although it grows in partial shade, for best color, grow it in full sun. Its long, trailing stems have round chartreuse leaves and yellow flowers.

Creeping Jenny covers large areas quickly, putting out roots all along its stems and choking out weeds.

Use it to ring a pond, trail along a wall, or edge a walkway. It even makes a great spiller in mixed container gardens. Although creeping Jenny can be an aggressive grower, the cultivar "Aurea" is relatively well-behaved.

Mazus reptans is a lovely green when not in bloom.
Mazus reptans is a lovely green when not in bloom. | Source

Mazus

Mazus reptans, commonly called mazus, is another low-maintenance perennial ground cover. Suitable for Zones 4-9, it performs best in part shade, but it will grow in full shade, too.

When the weather's hot, keep mazus moist. In mild climates, it remains green year round and begins blooming in early spring. If conditions are right, it will bloom throughout summer, sometimes even into fall.

At just two inches tall, mazus is the perfect ground cover to plant between stepping stones and along walls. And it's easy to propagate; transplant small plugs from established plants in early spring or fall when they're not in bloom, or root cuttings during the summer and plant them in autumn.

Phlox looks deceptively delicate.
Phlox looks deceptively delicate. | Source

Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox is a classic perennial ground cover that's hardy in Zones 3-9. Although it looks delicate, phlox is extremely rugged, and it grows easily in shaded and full-sun areas.

For shady, moist spots, try Phlox stolonifera for weed suppression. In full-sun, dry areas, Phlox subulata forms a thick, pretty carpet that keeps weeds at bay. Read more about these two kinds of phlox below.

Phlox stolonifera is a wonderful weed suppressor for shady spots.
Phlox stolonifera is a wonderful weed suppressor for shady spots. | Source

Phlox Stolonifera

Tufted creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) is a North American native that prefers partial sun or shade and moist soil. It has needle-like evergreen leaves that form a dense mat to effectively suppress weeds.

In early spring, it produces small white or pink flowers. The 'home fires' variety is a fragrant cultivar with hot pink blooms. When flowering, it can reach up to 12 inches high.

Phlox subulata
Phlox subulata | Source

Phlox Subulata

For erosion control, few ground covers work better than creeping phlox (Phlox subulata).

It loves full sun, it's drought-tolerant, and it isn't picky about soil quality. Phlox subulata cultivars come in a variety of flower colors, including white, blue, red, and pink.

Like tufted creeping phlox, Phlox subulata has needle-like evergreen leaves.

Red creeping thyme grows close to the ground, creating a mat that leaves no room for weeds.
Red creeping thyme grows close to the ground, creating a mat that leaves no room for weeds. | Source

Red Creeping Thyme

Red creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum coccineus ) is a heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant ground cover that grows in zones 3 to 9. It likes full sun and grows close to the ground at only two to four-inches tall. It's deer-resistant, too.

Plant it around stepping stones; it gives off a delightful scent when stepped on. Or plant it by walls, along borders, and in other areas that are difficult to weed.

Red creeping thyme adds attractive, deep green color to your landscape throughout spring, but it's most beautiful in summer when it erupts in gorgeous crimson flowers. It really, really chokes out the weeds, forming a thick mat.

We grew our thyme from seed, but you can also purchase organic plug trays for quicker results.

Dragon's Blood Sedum

Dragon's blood sedum may be the hardiest and most versatile of all weed-suppressing ground covers.

A cultivar of the succulent Sedum spurium, dragon's blood ('Schorbuser Blut') is hardy in Zones 3-8. Not only does it grow in full sun as well as partial shade, but it also thrives in poor soil.

Like creeping Jenny, dragon's blood sedum has trailing stems that root easily, so it's a snap to propagate. It does well in containers, rock gardens, and places where little else (besides weeds) will grow.

Dragon's blood sedum looks good year-round. In spring, it produces bright green leaves that turn maroon as temperatures drop. In summer, it has showy red flowers.

Less hardy Sedum spurium cultivars include ‘red carpet,' which has red leaves, and ‘voodoo,' which has mahogany-colored leaves. 'John Creech,' is a smaller, slower growing cultivar that produces pretty pink blossoms in fall. 'Tricolor' has green, pink, and white variegated leaves.

No matter which variety you grow, pollinators will be drawn to its broad flower heads.

FAQs

Can I replace my lawn with a low-maintenance ground cover?

Depending on your soil and situation, any of these ground covers could be used to replace a lawn. Any of these plants would require less maintenance than a lawn would, especially the ones that don't need a lot of water.

Which ground covers don't need mowing?

None of the plants mentioned above needs mowing.

Which ground covers are low-growing and hug the ground?

The tallest mentioned here is Phlox stolonifera, which is 12" at its tallest.

Which weed-suppressors are best for shade?

Mazus works best in shade, but some cultivars of creeping phlox will also work.

Which are the best flowering weed suppressors?

Every type mentioned here is flowering, although mazus and phlox have the showiest blooms. Although the others flower, they don't produce stand-out blooms. Golden creeping Jenny has yellow flowers, mazus and creeping phlox have lavender flowers, phlox stolonifera's are white or pink, phlox subulata's are white, blue, red, or pink, and both creeping thyme and dragon's blood are red.

Which is the fastest-growing ground cover?

Creeping Jenny is a fast grower, and thyme will gain about half its size by the next year, but really how fast any plant spreads depends upon how well it likes the conditions. They are not invasives.

Which Hardiness Zone Do You Live In?

If you don't know your area's plant hardiness zone, go to EdibleLandscapeDesign.com for links to zone maps in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, New Zealand, North America, South America, and the U.S.

More Ground Covers to Consider

Source

About the Author

The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.

She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.

Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.

© 2011 Jill Spencer

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 days ago from United States

      Hi Jan. Sometimes sedum and ice move on me. I plant them in one location, and five years later the patch is four feet away from where it began. When that happens, I take small chunks of established plants and plant them in the bare patches, then water them well. Sedum is fairly easy to start this way. Best! JIll

    • profile image

      Jan 4 days ago

      I have a large sectioned area that I planted 2 types of sedum in several years ago. The soil is more on the sandy side. My problem is that it seems to be cultivating more weeds because the sedum doesn't seem to grow really thick. Any ideas on how to get the sedum to thicken up in order to choke out the weeds? I live in zone 5.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 3 weeks ago from United States

      Hi Stu,

      I'm sending you a link to the CA native plant society website. (I belong to the MD native plant society.) http://www.cnps.org/cnps/grownative/tips/lawn_alte... The site which has recommendations for native plants you might like to use to naturalize that shady area of your property. You might like Mimulus aurantiacus (bush monkey flower). It tolerates shade and has a cheerful yellow bloom. Best to you!

    • profile image

      Stu 7 weeks ago

      Hi There,

      My house in Lake Arrowhead, CA is taken over by weeds. Very shady, drought can be an issue in CA. Oak Trees block the sun. House is at 5,500 elevation, 18 miles south of Big Bear. What covering should I use? My wife does not want weed killing chemical spraying. Help! thanks.

    • profile image

      Ethel 3 months ago

      I'm so very glad to has discovered this site. I live in Tampa Florida..in the City..but still a neighborhood that enjoys a quarterly "Best Yard" notice! My home faces the North and I have plenty of weeds...I keep them mowed to save face...but weeding the entire yard wood leave me with sand. What would you recommend or suggest to help me possibly get thru this heart ache? Except re-sodding, and if I have to do that..I might just cement it! Disparately seeking help!

    • profile image

      LStuart 7 months ago

      Hi, we just bought a new house and there is no landscaping at all, just dirt and weeds starting to grow. I am going to plant some Spring bulbs and some trees and bushes now during Fall here in Northern Utah. And then I want to plant a ground covering to choke out the weeds in the landscaped areas. Is it best to plant the ground covering in Fall or wait til Spring? Also, my main concern, is will the ground covering choke out the bulbs from coming up year after year? And will the ground covering jump the curbing and start growing in the grassy areas? I want to avoid landscape fabric because it doesn't work well from my experience. Thanks so much!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 7 months ago from United States

      Mona, you might want to use a green manure crop, which you grow until just before it blooms and then till into the soil to increase soil fertility. Here's an article about them from Mother Earth News: https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/...

      All the best to you! Jill

    • profile image

      Muna 7 months ago

      Hi, enjoyed the article !! i have a 200sqm area that was a lawn area before i travel.. It has become a weed area, i am planning to design it next year..however i need to clean it and grow land cover in the mean time. What would be a fast growing , yet easy to pull out ground cover in south Australia , full sun , preferably less watering during summer. I hope it can rejuvenate the soil .. I will appreciate feedback on possible options. Many thanks.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 9 months ago from United States

      Hi Melissa! I'm passing along to you a link to your area extension service so that you can ask a gardening expert in your state (mostly likely a professor) about the best choices for that area of your yard. You will probably want to choose native plants, which will require less maintenance than non-natives. Anyway . . . here's the link: http://extension.missouri.edu/main/aae.aspx

      All the best! Jill

    • profile image

      Melissa has no green thump 9 months ago

      I live near Republic, MO and we have a lot of weeds and the front of my house has big bushes I want to pull out, because they just collect a lot of leaves from our 30 trees we have on our 5 acres. I have young baby, so don't want high maintenance, and currently have a lot of wasps living in the front bushes as well... Is there something you would recommend to plant here? It is partial shade or mostly shaded area.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 21 months ago from United States

      Hi "Leafy Splurge." There's a new dragon's blood sedum called Sedum spurium "Fulda Glow" (Fuldaglut ) you might want to try in your Zone 3 garden. I have no practical experience with it, but it's supposed to be hardier than the other varieties and stay somewhat green even in subzero temps. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Leafy Spurge issue 21 months ago

      Do you feel either the dragon's blood sedum or the Red Thyme wood work in fighting Leafy Spurge in sandy / dry soils (Saskatchewan near Saskatoon, Canada)? We are looking for ways to cut down or get rid of chemicals while getting control of this weed.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 2 years ago from United States

      Very true, Sarah. Ground covers that crowd out the weeds are a perfect solution. Thanks for commenting! All the best, Jill

    • profile image

      Sarah Sarich 2 years ago

      I was needing something like this. My kids keep insisting on weeding the places that have no plants in them. This is much easier for them, but makes overall maintenance harder for me. SOMETHING has to fill in the dirt before the weeds come back.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 3 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Patricia. I love the creeping thyme. It's really, really tight and the blooms are pretty, too. Thanks for commenting!--Jill

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      O, Jill, these are lovely enough to used solely for the beauty they impart. But knowing that they serve the purpose of helping them to control weeds makes them all the more appealing.

      Thanks for sharing. This is being bookmarked for later reference.

      Pinned.

      Angels are on the way ps

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Thanks, rbm! Hope the phlox works for you. Thanks for stopping by.

    • rbm profile image

      rbm 4 years ago

      Good information! I really like the creeping phlox, will give this a try in my front yard. Good hub!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Hope the dragon's blood does well for you, quester. It's a good looking plant, even when it's not blooming. Take care, Jill

    • quester.ltd profile image

      quester.ltd 4 years ago

      another great Hub! - going to try the dragon's blood - since we use an herbal med by the same name - works wonders so I see if the plant will work wonders for a poor area - thanks

      q

    • Jakob Barry profile image

      Jakob Barry 5 years ago

      Great choices! Especially the thyme. I use herbs mulching around them for these situations because they are so useful. Thanks for a great hub.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
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      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      So many people seem to dislike mint, but like you I'm really fond of it. Working with it is so pleasant because it smells so good! Thanks for the vote! Take care, Jill

    • Joe Macho profile image

      Zach 5 years ago from Colorado

      Thanks for the information. I've used Creeping Jenny before around the house, and it grows very nicely and I never have weeds around it. I also like to use mint species for ground cover. Spearmint, lemon balm, and other garden mints are perfect. Voted up

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks for reading, fdoleac. Hope you give dragon's blood a try. It really is a remarkable plant!

    • fdoleac profile image

      fdoleac 5 years ago from Hollis, New Hampshire

      Thank you for this information. Of particular interest is the dragon's blood sedum.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      Awesome! Happy you stopped by, MysteryPlanet, and good luck with your gardening project. --DF

    • MysteryPlanet profile image

      MysteryPlanet 5 years ago

      Believe it or not I was looking for just this information. We had an area to get filled in recently and I need a good ground cover to plant in the area

    • Miss Mellie profile image

      M.S. Ross 6 years ago

      Talking too much? Pshaw! Your pearls of knowledge are heartily welcomed! Thank you!! I'll keep you posted on my progress. :)

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      Sounds like we have some of the same issues! I'm in Zone 8. Soil compaction will probably be your greatest challenge. Red creeping thyme would work where you are, and so would ice, although it allows a few weeds to peek through, but it spreads like a dream. On banks, try Scarlet Flame Carpet Phlox or moonbeam coreopsis (drought tolerant and it has a sweet flower). If you want even more color, you could use daylilies, too. Exploded pumpkin daylilies won't choke out all the weeds like a thick groundcover, but deer don't seem to like that particular cultivar, and they bloom more than once. They're easy to naturalize, so they'll spread on their own. Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' (a hardy variety of black-eyed Susan) spreads like a weed here. It blooms a long time and looks interesting in the winter, too, if you don't cut back the flowers. Wow! I'm talking way too much! Wish you luck!

    • Miss Mellie profile image

      M.S. Ross 6 years ago

      Thanks to your Backyard Gardener link, I determined that I'm in a zone 9 region. Dry and dusty hard packed clay soil on a dirt road (lovely!) that is excellent at breeding waves of weeds. I need to put 'em down once and for all with some tenacious ground cover. I'd like to do so with some variety since there's a lot of (ha!) ground to cover.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the positive feedback, Miss Mellie. I really appreciate the encouragement! Tell me your general geographical location, and I'll try to come up with some drought-tolerant groundcovers for you.

    • Miss Mellie profile image

      M.S. Ross 6 years ago

      Voted up and useful: I've been looking for some weed-choking ground cover, and here you supply the very ideas I need! Now: any additional suggestions besides Dragon's Blood for poor soil in dry, sunny spots? I have slope areas to cover, and would love to see more options, particularly plants that get along with minimal to no care aside from watering.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      That's great! Hope it works out.

    • sam3m profile image

      sam3m 6 years ago from New York

      thanks, we were just talking about a problem area in our yard and you may have solved the problem.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Eiddwen. Btw, I really liked your Barley Saturday hub (http://hubpages.com/hub/Join-me-on-Barley-Saturday... The pictures were great!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A very useful hub and well presented.

      Useful/up for this one.

      Thanks for sharing and take care

      Eiddwen.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image
      Author

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      What a great choice! I like burgandy colors in the garden, too. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Esmeowl12 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for these ideas. I'm definitely going to try the dragon's blood sedum. Great hub!

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