17 Perennial Ground Cover Plants That Will Come Back Every Year

Are you looking for some perennial ground cover plants that will come back each season? There are many different ground covers you can choose from, but the key is finding the right plant. In this article, we take a look at our favorite perennial ground cover plants, with names and pictures of each!

perennial groundcover

This season, many gardeners have started making the switch from traditional grass to perennial ground cover plants. If you’re thinking of making the change but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place!

The benefits of adding a perennial ground cover to your landscape are numerous! These types of ground cover require less maintenance than grass, which means less time mowing and more water saved each season. Even if you plan on keeping a traditional lawn, adding these plants can help cover spaces unsuitable for grass or mowing. They are also fantastic for pollinators!

One of the best things about choosing perennial ground cover plants is that you have many options suitable for many tastes and purposes. We’ve gathered some of our favorite plants from choices native to North America to garden favorites from around the world. Let’s look at these great options for perennial ground cover plants!

Bugleweed

Ajuga reptans
Bugleweed is a groundcover plant that produces beautiful blue-purple flowers.
Scientific Name: Ajuga reptans
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eurasia, Africa, Australia
  • Plant Size: 6-9”
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

Bugleweed exists as many species around the world, and there are many choices to consider. All varieties have evergreen leaves, creating an attractive perennial flowering ground cover that stays beautiful all year. Leaves range from bronzey blue to purple-black to light gray-green. Flowers vary from blue to purple.

A member of the mint family, Bugleweed is a non-native species to North America, so if you use this in your yard, make sure it stays where you intended. The plant has been classified as invasive in some regions, so take care when growing it. Bugleweed is an excellent option for areas where the ground-covering plant can receive full sun.

Common Blue Violet

Viola sororia
Common Blue Violet blooms with gentle purple flowers.
Scientific Name: Viola sororia
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern North America
  • Plant Size: 4-6”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Sun, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4-9

The Common Blue Violet, a North American native plant, provides a leafy sprawl of ground covering dotted with purplish flowers. Violet nectar attracts bees and butterflies that act as pollinators for the flower. These plants are non-toxic, making them a food source for many creatures, including humans!

Violets are self-seeding, spreading rapidly across the ground. You may want to observe these plants carefully if you’re just looking to fill in a spot on your lawn. This plant prefers slightly shaded areas but flourishes in full sun if you can get enough water. Because of this growth, some consider it a weed, but to us, it is a great option to fill in space in the yard.

Eastern Hay-Scented Fern

Dennstaedtia punctilobula
Eastern Hay-Scented Fern grows well in full sun and moist soil.
Scientific Name: Dennstaedtia punctilobula
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern North America
  • Plant Size: 18-24”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Sun, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3-8

Eastern Hay-Scented Ferns grow all over the United States and Canada, playing an essential part in the undergrowth in forests of these areas. These ferns flourish under many conditions, including full sun, if they are provided enough moisture. An adaptable species, Eastern Hay-Scented Fern, tolerates most types of soil and can grow successfully in hilly terrain.

The ferns make for an appealing ground cover with pinnae-toothed fronds with irregular patterns. Eastern Hay-Scented Ferns are vibrant green and produce no flowers, releasing spores close to the fall season instead. Though they are low-maintenance, thinning your ferns once every few years helps keep this fast spreader under control.

Heartleaf Bergenia 

Bergenia crassifolia
Heartleaf Bergenia has large leaves and blooms in clusters of pink flowers.
Scientific Name: Bergenia crassifolia
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Northwestern Asia
  • Plant Size: 12-18”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Sun, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3-8

The most familiar member of the genus Bergenia, Heartleaf Bergenia grows tall and wide with distinctive broad leaves and fascia stems that produce clusters of pink flowers. In areas where this plant is native, it has been frequently used as a tea substitute. Positive medicinal properties have also been colloquially reported.

Though Heartleaf Bergenia is a non-native plant, it isn’t particularly considered invasive. If you want ornamental plants for your ground covering, this plant provides an excellent pick for sensitive environments. If the Heartleaf Bergenia isn’t suitable for your climate, though it is pretty hardy, consider other species in the same genus.

Heartleaf Brunnera

Brunnera macrophylla
This groundcover prefers to grow in shady places.
Scientific Name: Brunnera macrophylla
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Central Eurasia
  • Plant Size: 14-16”
  • Sun Exposure: Full Shade, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3-8

A subset of a larger family, Heartleaf Brunnera serves as an efficient low growing plant in shady areas. These plants are often mistaken for Forget-Me-Not since they are so similar in appearance, particularly the tiny blue flowers in both plants.

However, the flowers can help you tell them apart—Heartleaf Brunnera’s flowers grow on leafless stems and are usually higher than Forget-Me-Not flowers.

The low-maintenance Heartleaf Brunnera has several varieties, some with variegated foliage. Plants with this leaf variety tend to be more sensitive to sunlight. If you’re working with more sun, go with a dark-leafed species. Either way, you should pick a primarily shady spot for Heartleaf Brunnera.

Inside-Out Flower

Vancouveria hexandra
Inside-Out Flower produces small, bluish flowers in groups of six.
Scientific Name: Vancouveria hexandra
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Northwestern North America
  • Plant Size: 12-18”
  • Sun Exposure: Parietal Shade to Full Shade
  • Plant Zone: 5-8

A native plant to the Pacific Northwest, the Inside-Out Flower has been named for the unique appeal of its flowers. These small white flowers grow opposite most flowers and grow in clusters of around six. In mild enough areas, the Inside-Out Flower can be evergreen and will last all year.

These plants are slow spreaders, so they’re perfect for filling in gaps in the yard without getting out of hand. They are exceptionally well acclimated to cool, moist areas.

If you have a spot too shady for most things to grow, consider the Inside-Out Flower as a solution. To spread these plants fast, divide them in the spring or fall to encourage new growth.

Lamb’s Ear

Stachys byzantina
Lamb’s Ear is a perennial groundcover that prefers to grow in full sun.
Scientific Name: Stachys byzantina
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Central Eurasia
  • Plant Size: 6-12”
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 4-8

Do you have a bare patch of ground with full sun conditions that you find challenging to cultivate? Try Lamb’s Ear—a perennial ground cover solution that is evergreen as long as winter conditions aren’t too harsh. These plants may die back during colder months, but new growth appears during the spring.

Lamb’s Ear is a popular choice and a favorite option to be planted in children’s gardens. The name of this plant refers to the soft texture of its silvery green leaves. Lamb’s Ear produces clustered flowers at the top of the stem. These purple flowers encourage pollinators and hummingbirds to stop in your yard.

Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalis
Lily of the Valley is a beautiful flowering groundcover, but can be considered invasive.
Scientific Name: Convallaria majalis
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eurasia
  • Plant Size: 6-12”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

A garden favorite, Lily of the Valley, grew across the Eurasian continent and was brought to North America. Broad leaves with pointed tips and small white bell-shaped flowers characterize this plant. These perennials will tolerate shady conditions where other plants will not grow.

Some native species occur in the United States, but debate exists about whether these varieties originated on the continent. The plant has also become invasive in certain regions.

No matter the variety, there are crucial factors to consider before adding these beautiful plants as a perennial ground on your property. If you have curious kids or pets, remember these plants are toxic. There’s a benefit to this: free pest control!

Pacific Bleeding Heart

Pacific Bleeding Heart Plant
Pacific Bleeding Heart attracts hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden.
Scientific Name: Dicentra formosa
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Pacific Coast of North America
  • Plant Size: 10-20”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade, Full Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

There are lots to love about the Pacific Bleeding Heart, with lush leaves reminiscent of ferns and small, delicate perennial flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white. These plants can take root in rockier soils and grows best with lots of shade but can tolerate more sun if the temperature is cool and enough moisture is given.

Pacific Bleeding Hearts attract wildlife like hummingbirds and butterflies when the flowers bloom during the spring. Even after the flowers are gone, the plant will stay fresh and green if it receives the proper shade. This native option is excellent for people living in the western United States.

Snow in Summer

Cerastium tomentosum
Snow in Summer blooms from May to July with snow-white star-shaped flowers.
Scientific Name: Cerastium tomentosum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Alpine Europe
  • Plant Size: 6-12”
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-7

Snow in Summer is a good option for rocky or sandy gardens that get full or partial sun in warm climates. While it can tolerate some heat, persistently hot weather paired with humidity can damage these plants.

The name derives from the delicate white perennial flowers that bloom from the plant from May to July.

The foliage of Snow in Summer is a light green, almost silvery. People choose this attractive plant because of its distinct color and ability to grow in most soil types. It is a popular option globally, providing a thick covering where it is cultivated. Snow in Summer is also relatively low maintenance as long as the soil is well drained. 

Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum
Sweet Woodruff grows well in shade and in rich, moist soil.
Scientific Name: Galium odoratum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eurasia
  • Plant Size: 6-8”
  • Sun Exposure: Full Shade, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4-8

Sweet Woodruff is fragrant, a shade-loving plant with notes of fresh-cut grass. The plant’s preference is for rich soil with lots of provided moisture. Simple leaves and bright white flowers characterize this beautiful plant. The star-shaped flowers grow in clusters and bloom in spring.

These plants have long been a favorite of shady gardens for their ease of care in addition to their pleasing aesthetic. Sweet Woodruff has long been used as an edible herb. The dried leaves and flowers may be used for potpourri, while the stems and roots can be used to produce dye.

Virginia Creeper

Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia Creeper is a flowering vine that grows in any soil and is resistant to most conditions.
Scientific Name: Parthenocissus quinquefolia
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern and Central North America
  • Plant Size: 3-40’
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

A North American native, Virginia Creeper has also been known by many other names like Victoria Creeper and Fire-leaved Ivy. This species is a flowering vine that will climb high if given a chance. Otherwise, it spreads outwards. The growth of the Virginia Creeper is rapid and serves as a quick ground cover for space.

This plant grows well in almost any soil and will tolerate most conditions, even drought. Virginia Creeper can easily be mistaken for Poison Ivy due to the similar shape of their leaves.

However, Virginia Creeper leaves typically have five leaflets instead of three. The plant also flowers and produces berries, which are toxic to humans but an excellent food source for wildlife like birds.

White Wood Aster

Eurybia divaricata
White Wood Aster blooms with miniature white flowers from August to September.
Scientific Name: Eurybia divaricata
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern North America
  • Plant Size: 12”-36”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Sun, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4-9

Are you looking for a late bloomer to liven up your lawn during the late summer? White Wood Aster flowers from August to September provide a pop of color just when many plants die out for the season. The native plant prefers drier areas and woodlands and grows fairly tall.

White Wood Aster is most at home in mountainous and wooded areas. A benefit of using this plant as ground covering is despite the heights they can grow to. They don’t require extra support from stakes. However, the plant is more susceptible to insects and disease than other options.

Wild Ginger

Asarum
This plant produces large green leaves that create a green carpet in your garden.
Scientific Name: Asarum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Northern Hemisphere
  • Plant Size: 3-6”
  • Sun Exposure: Full Shade, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 2-8

Wild Ginger varieties thrive wherever there’s shade and moist but well-draining soil. These plants spread out, creating a green carpet for bare space in areas it’s used as a ground cover. Though not always visible, small flowers bloom under the foliage, usually dark purple to maroon in color.

The scent produced by Wild Ginger smells like the root that shares its name. It cannot be eaten in the same way. These plants contain aristolochic acid, a carcinogen the FDA warns against consuming.

With proper consideration, Wild Ginger remains an attractive option that comes back yearly. This perennial is another option with local varieties perfect for where you live! There are also some varieties that are native wildflowers to North America.

Wild Strawberries

Fragaria vesca
Wild Strawberry is a perennial groundcover that produces edible sweet fruits.
Scientific Name: Fragaria vesca
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Northern Hemisphere
  • Plant Size: 1-6”
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-10

Types of wild strawberries grow all over the Northern Hemisphere. They grow low, close to the earth, and bloom early, usually producing berries around June. Not only does this perennial ground cover have edible produce, but the trifoliate leaves and white flowers make this an eye-pleasing option to cover bare spots.

Wild strawberries have a history shared with people dating back to ancient times. Farmed strawberries today are the result of crossing wild species.

Humans cultivated other types before this, so wide varieties are available, from ornamental options to great fruit producers. Research which species will be successful in your region; with wild strawberries, you have a plethora of options.

Woodland Stonecrop

Sedum ternatum
Woodland Stonecrop produces small star-shaped white flowers and beautiful succulent-like leaves.
Scientific Name: Sedum ternatum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern North America
  • Plant Size: 7-12”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Sun, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4-8

One of the most adaptable stonecrop varieties, Woodland Stonecrop, can tolerate shade and prefers some sun. This is a great native wildflower choice even though there are other species to choose from in the stonecrop family. What’s excellent about Woodland Stonecrop is its ability to grow up through rocky and shallow soils.

Unlike other members of the stonecrop family, this plant has small star-like white flowers with four petals. Other species, native and cultivated, have five petals.

Woodland Stonecrop has beautiful leaves, similar to those of a succulent. The leaves are present in a distinct whorled pattern. Overall, this is an excellent choice for for rocky or shaded areas.

Wood Sorrel

Oxalis
Wood Sorrel is an edible plant that has a sour and tart taste.
Scientific Name: Oxalis
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Global
  • Plant Size: 5-15”
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-10

Species of wood sorrel flourish around the globe. Often called sourgrass due to their tart taste, these are edible plants from petal to root. Wood sorrel is also a visually attractive choice, with leaves in sets of three and flowers in white, pink, red, and yellow. 

The wide spread of this plant across the globe means regional varieties exist in most places. Not all species are perennial, but many are, and there are more than five hundred species to choose from. In addition to native types, wood sorrel has also been grown in ornamental varieties, including some four-leaf species that look reminiscent of lucky four-leaf clovers.

Final Thoughts

No matter the conditions near you, there are plenty of native and ornamental options for perennial ground cover for your region.

If you want to make an impact, plant native species to encourage pollinators and natural ecosystems to flourish. Certain ground coverings help repair soil, prevent erosion, and even slow the spread of fire. Not only are these plants useful, but many are also aesthetically pleasing, creating pops of color in your yard.

From full shade to full sun, we hope you’ve enjoyed the numerous suggestions we’ve given! There are even more options, but these were just a few of our favorites.

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