9 Places for the Best Desert Groundcovers

12/15/2021 | Ken Davis Drought, Perennials, Shrubs, Xeriscaping

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

  • What are the best ground cover plants for desert landscapes?
  • Drought tolerant ground cover you can walk on.
  • Where should you plant ground cover?
  • Arizona ground cover plants.
  • Xeriscape ground cover
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Neon Sedum Creeping Ground Cover
Neon Sedum Creeping Ground Cover

Mountain landscapes are difficult for plants, especially if you want to keep them low maintenance. Ground-hugging plants are the perfect solutions in an arid climate where rock lawns are the norm and growing conditions challenging.

Do any search online, and you’ll find a lot of bad advice for mountain gardens. You really must verify the sources and confirm with your local garden centers. But, hey, that’s why this column has so many loyal readers! Thank you:)

This list of the best groundcovers is based on local gardeners who shop here at Watters Garden Center. This is not an all-encompassing plant list, merely the most popular found in many neighborhoods. Botanical names and online links are provided so you can reference more varieties. Ensure you receive the first dibs on next year’s plants and pre-order your spring 2022 delivery. Order now, and they are delivered directly to the garden center with free shipping this spring.

Sunny Spots

This is the most challenging garden spot in every yard. High altitude sun, persistent wind, and extra heat reflected off retaining walls and rock lawns make sunny spots especially hot.

Fragrance Where People Gather

Whether from their foliage or blooms, some plants just give off more pleasing scents than others. Fragrant plants should be used in specific parts of our yards. Use this list of plants where guests visit over a glass of wine, at a backyard BBQ, and sit by the fire pit. Here are our favorite plants that smell better than most.


A backyard with a sheer wall or hill covered in granite boulders has its own challenges. Choose plants with strong roots, and they hold the soil together, controlling erosion.

To Soften Walls

So many raised beds and walls are sterile and in need of softening. These ground covers ease and disguise strong lines in hardscape elements.

Heuchera Marmalade Coral Bells groundcover
Heuchera Marmalade Coral Bells Groundcover

Where Weeds Grow

Choke weeds out with plants that overtake and squeeze them out. Here’s a list of ground covers that are so hardy they choke out weeds, even the most persistent.

Vinca minor as ground cover
Vinca minor as ground cover

Wildfire Protection: Reduced Fuel Zone

These plants have high moisture contents, so far less prone to catch fire. Growing a ground cover for fuel reduction is often overlooked but definitely worked into the gardens in areas prone to wildfires.

For High-Traffic Area

Ground covers make excellent replacements for the traditional lawn. Here are the plants that withstand foot traffic and still look good.

Animal Resistant/Proof

As we build ever deeper into the forest and mountain valleys, we encounter wild creatures that see our gardens as their personal buffets! Here’s a list of low-profile plants mountain-dwellers find utterly distasteful. Some even have a repellant effect.

Shady Spots

Spots under a tree, a deck, or eaves need something that ‘pops’ to bring dark spaces alive. Here are my local favorites that outshine the rest in a shady spot.

Mom and kids at a container garden class

2022 Free Garden Class Announcement for next year is very exciting. January classes and instructors are finalized, and the rest of the Spring schedule is coming together nicely. Next year’s categories are going to be certified organic! Here are the topics for the first classes of 2022.

January 15 @ 9:30 am: Houseplant with Professional Style

January 22 @ 9:30 am: Top Landscape Designs with Flare

January 29 @ 9:30 am: Why January is the Month to Plant Wildflowers

Until next week I’ll be helping local gardeners with gift cards and selecting groundcovers here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or Top10Shrubs.com.