Although ground covers are typically grown for their dense, fast-spreading foliage, many also put on a breathtaking display of flowers, with some giving you blooms for weeks on end. Shade-loving flowering ground covers, such as Epimedium (barrenwort) or Pachysandra, are invaluable for bringing masses of color to woodland gardens or as understory plantings beneath trees and shrubs. For sun-drenched bare spots in the garden or to blanket areas where grass struggles to grow, try mat-forming creeping bloomers like Sedum or Phlox subulata (creeping phlox).

Note that while most of these ground cover flowers are well-behaved and easy to keep in check, some can spread aggressively and become invasive when planted in certain areas. Lamium (deadnettle), Ajuga (bugleweed), and Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff) are examples of varieties best reserved for locations where you can easily control their spread. Before buying and planting any ground cover, refer to the Invasive Plant Atlas to see if the plant could be invasive in your area.

On this page: Flowering Ground Covers for Shade | Flowering Ground Covers for Sun

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GROUND COVER FLOWERS FOR SHADE

Photo by: Mizy / Shutterstock

BARRENWORT (Epimedium spp. and cultivars)

Zones: 5-9
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Height/Spread: 8 to 12 inches tall, spreading 12 to 36 inches
Bloom time: Early to mid-spring

Valued as a ground cover for dry shade, barrenwort (also known as bishop's hat) has pretty heart-shaped leaves and delicate, nodding flowers in shades of pink, red, violet, or yellow. Red barrenwort (E. x rubrum) is an especially showy plant, with bright crimson blooms and semi-evergreen foliage accented by tinges of red in both spring and fall. It also spreads faster than most epimediums, making it one of the best ground cover species.

'Burgundy Glow' bugleweed. Photo by: Walters Gardens, Inc.

BUGLEWEED (Ajuga reptans)

Zones: 3-10
Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
Height/Spread: 6 to 8 inches tall, spreads to 2 feet or more
Bloom time: Late spring through early summer

This resilient perennial spreads quickly to form a dense mat that will help smother weeds, but avoid growing it in a spot where its aggressive nature could infringe on other plantings. Although the species usually has violet-blue flower spikes and glossy, dark green leaves, a number of cultivars are available that offer variegated or dark burgundy foliage and pink or white blooms.

'Cutting Edge' foamflower. Photo by: Proven Winners

FOAMFLOWER (Tiarella)

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Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Height/Spread: 8 to 10 inches tall, 16 to 19 inches wide
Bloom time: Late spring through early summer

Prized for its frothy flowers that bloom over an exceptionally long time, foamflower also boasts deeply lobed, patterned leaves that remain evergreen in most climates. Although Tiarella are better for deep shade than their cousin Heuchera, they grow best in the dappled sunlight of woodland gardens. Learn more about growing foamflower.

Photo by: Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock

LILYTURF (Liriope muscari)

Zones: 5-10
Exposure: Full shade to full sun
Height/Spread: 12 to 18 inches tall, spreads up to 12 inches
Bloom time: Late summer to fall

Often mistaken for an ornamental grass because of its narrow, arching leaves, Liriope is primarily prized for its showy spikes of purple flowers and ability to thrive in both shady and sunny garden sites. Tolerant of drought and most soil types, its applications are many, ranging from a ground cover in woodland gardens to erosion control on slopes.

Photo by: Gerry Bishop / Shutterstock

PACHYSANDRA (Pachysandra spp.)

Zones: 5-9
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, spreads 12 to 18 inches
Bloom time: Spring

One of the best flowering ground covers for deep shade, forming a lush carpet of glossy, emerald-green foliage topped by short spikes of white flowers in early spring. Although Japanese pachysandra (P. terminalis) is the most commonly grown variety, it can spread aggressively once it becomes established. A better behaved alternative is Allegheny spurge (P. procumbens) (pictured), a slow-growing native American species with blue-green leaves that turn bronze in fall.

Proven Accents® Pink Chablis® dead nettle. Photo by Proven Winners.

SPOTTED DEADNETTLE (Lamium maculatum)

'Pink Chablis' spotted deadnettleBuy now from Proven Winners

Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
Height/Spread: 3 inches to 2 feet tall, spreads 3 feet or more
Bloom time: Late spring to early summer

A versatile ground cover adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions and most soil types. Scalloped leaves come in a variety of color variations and remain attractive all season, while the colorful flower spikes (in pink, white, rose, or violet) bloom for 4 weeks or longer, starting in late spring. Because of their creeping, rooting habit, you should only plant Lamium in areas where they won’t wander out of bounds.

Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH /Shutterstock

SWEET WOODRUFF (Galium odoratum)

Zones: 4-8
Exposure: Partial to full shade
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, spreads 12 to 18 inches
Bloom time: Early spring

Bearing clusters of tiny white flowers in spring, this enchanting ground cover loves heavy shade and rich, loamy soil, making it a top performer in woodland gardens. Can become somewhat aggressive if given the right conditions, so plant where you can limit its growth.

GROUND COVER FLOWERS FOR SUN

Photo by: Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock

BASKET OF GOLD (Aurinia saxatilis)

Zones: 4-7
Exposure: Full sun
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, spreads up to 2 feet
Bloom time: Early to mid-spring

In addition to brightening the spring garden with dense clusters of golden-yellow flowers, Aurinia has handsome silvery gray foliage make it an asset even when it’s not in bloom. After the blooms fade, shear back by about half to help shape the plant and improve its vigor. Requires ample sunlight and well-draining soil to thrive.

Snowsation™ candytuft. Photo by: Proven Winners

CANDYTUFT (Iberis sempervirens)

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Zones: 4-9
Exposure: Full sun
Height/Spread: 6 to 8 inches tall, spreads up to 12 inches
Bloom time: Mid to late spring

This spring-blooming favorite produces a profusion of snowy white flowers that nearly hide the plant’s attractive mounds of glossy, evergreen foliage. The sweetly scented blooms can last a month or longer, and may even return for a short repeat performance in fall. To encourage denser foliage growth, prune back lightly in late spring after the flowers fade.

‘Rapido Blue’ Carpathian bellflower. Photo by: Proven Winners

CARPATHIAN BELLFLOWER (Campanula carpatica)

Zones: 3-8
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Height/Spread: 5 to 7 inches tall, 5 to 8 inches wide
Bloom time: Early spring to summer

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial creates a colorful carpet of violet-blue flowers that last through most of the summer, rising above tidy mounds of dark green foliage. Especially well-suited as a ground cover in rock gardens, borders, and mass plantings. For the best performance, grow in fertile, well-drained soil and shelter from harsh afternoon sun. Learn more about growing bellflower.

‘Purple Sprite’ spring phlox. Photo by: Proven Winners

CREEPING PHLOX (Phlox subulata)

‘Purple Sprite’ spring phloxBuy now from Proven Winners

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Full sun
Height/Spread: 4 to 6 inches tall, spreads 18 to 24 inches
Bloom time: Early to mid-spring

Unlike taller garden phlox, this ground-hugging variety (also called moss phlox) grows to a height of only 6 inches, smothered in spring by cheery flowers in shades of lavender, pink, rose, or purple. Once the blooms fade, they leave behind an attractive mat of needle-like foliage. A light shearing after flowering will encourage lush new growth and prevent plants from becoming leggy.

Red creeping thyme. Photo by: Proven Winners

CREEPING THYME (Thymus spp.)

Coccineus red creeping thymeBuy now from Proven Winners

Zones: 4-10
Exposure: Full sun
Height/Spread: 1 to 4 inches tall, spreads up to 18 inches
Bloom time: Late spring to early summer

Highly resilient to foot traffic, this low-growing aromatic herb is ideal for use as a filler between stepping stones and pathways or as an easy-care lawn substitute. Not only does this drought-tolerant perennial require less water than traditional turf grass, it’s also much more colorful, bursting into a profusion of dainty pink or purple flowers in late spring. Learn more about growing creeping thyme.

Georgia Blue creeping speedwell. Photo by: Maria Papworth / Shutterstock

GEORGIA BLUE CREEPING SPEEDWELL (Veronica peduncularis 'Georgia Blue')

Zones: 6-8
Exposure: Full sun
Height/Spread: 6 to 8 inches tall, spreads up to 18 inches
Bloom time: Early to late spring, reblooming intermittently throughout the summer

Striking sapphire blue flowers with white eyes make this ground cover a real standout in the spring garden and a colorful underplanting for spring-blooming bulbs. To keep plants tidy and encourage rebloom, shear back by about half after flowering. Otherwise, this heat- and drought-tolerant bloomer requires minimal care once established. Learn more about growing speedwell plants.

Fire Spinner ® hardy ice plant. Photo by: Proven Winners

HARDY ICE PLANT (Delosperma cooperi)

Fire Spinner ® hardy ice plantBuy now from Proven Winners

Zones: 6-10
Exposure: Full sun
Height/Spread: 3 to 6 inches tall, spreads up to 2 feet
Bloom time: Early summer to fall

Brightly colored, daisylike flowers over a long bloom season make hardy ice plant a valuable ground cover for filling the garden with brilliant color that lasts all the way until fall. The fleshy, cylindrical leaves are also an asset, forming a shaggy succulent carpet that remains evergreen in milder climates. Requires well-draining soil to flourish, especially in areas with damp, rainy winters. Learn more about growing ice plant.

Photo by: Ball Horticulture Company

LADY'S MANTLE (Alchemilla mollis)

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Height/Spread: 12 to 18 inches tall, spreads 1 to 2 feet
Bloom time: Early to mid-summer

Airy clusters of lime-green flowers, rising above mounds of broad scallop-edged leaves, make Alchemilla a striking ground cover, both in and out of bloom After the flowers fade, cut plants back to promote fresh foliage growth that will remain attractive the rest of the season. Adapts well to light and even moderate shade, but won’t tolerate dry conditions in climates with hot summers.

Rock 'N Low® 'Boogie Woogie' stonecrop. Photo by: Proven Winners

SEDUM (Sedum hybrids)

Rock 'N Low® 'Boogie Woogie' stonecropBuy now from Proven Winners

Zones: 3-9
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Height/Spread: 6 to 8 inches tall, spreads up to 2 feet
Bloom time: Early to mid-summer

Creeping Sedum (also known as stonecrop) is a tough mat-forming ground cover that thrives in dry sites thanks to its thick, succulent leaves that store water and help it cope with drought. Although the leaves can vary greatly in color and shape, the flowers of most varieties are tiny and star-shaped, blooming in shades of pink, red, white, or yellow. An excellent plant for rock gardens, filling gaps between paving stones, or erosion control on sunny slopes and hillsides. Learn more about growing sedum plants.

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