by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Evergreen groundcovers benefit your garden in two ways, each of which has significant value even when found separately on plants!
Evergreen foliage provides visual interest every month of the year.
Evergreen groundcovers lower yard maintenance, fight erosion, suppress weeds, and more.
Search Google, and you’ll be overwhelmed by numerous pieces of advice, much of it tainted for high-altitude gardens. The local gardeners here at Watters Garden Center put this list together of the Best evergreens used as groundcovers, from perennials to shrubs. Each is proven to thrive in the Central Highlands of Arizona.
Here’s the Go-To list of the 12 Best Evergreen Groundcover
Angelina Stonecrop, Sedums, is considered a hardy succulent that thrives locally. Your grandmother ripely named this perennial flower Autumn Joy Sedum. Chocolate Drop Sedum is a plant she only dreamed of, with deliciously dark leaves and the same bright pink flower that stand knee-high. Many trailing varieties grow well in rock gardens and shallow bowl containers.
Blue Star Juniper, Juniperus squamata, isn’t really a creeping juniper, but it does stay under 3′ x 5′ feet at maturity. A pleasing evergreen cover when grown in a mass. Valued for its blue, awl-shaped, evergreen needles. The bush displays resistance to drought once established.
Candytuft, Iberis, grows evergreen wild through many gardens in full sun and Semi-Evergreen on the darker Northern gardens. Few animals like the taste of this garden favorite; perfect for those interfacing with forest wildlife and prairie Antelope.
Coral Beauty Cotoneaster is ideally suited to flow over embankments and raised beds. An outstanding groundcover with dense foot tall branches covered with shiny evergreen leaves. The foliage is tinged in purple through autumn, enhancing cranberry-type berries’ profusion. Give this low water user plenty of room because she spreads over 6 feet wide by one foot tall. Good on banks and to cover large open areas of rock in hot sunny locations. This cute evergreen rarely gets bugs, while rabbit, deer, and other vermin don’t like the taste either.
Creeping Myrtle, Vinca, often displays five-petal flowers of intense blue, with newer varieties showing off in white and wine colors. This plant thrives in dry shade, where few plants grow. It’s a real problem solver in the garden. The plant creeps and crawls through the gardens that choke even the toughest weeds. So much so it may need annual maintenance to prevent it from jumping from garden to garden.
Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata, is a ground cover for the blistering sun. It prefers the soil to be kept evenly moist but tolerates dry soil. The needle-like leaves prevent moisture loss on dry, windy days. A thick mat of bright flowers covers this perennial through spring and early summer. Red, pink, white, lavender, and purple are possible flower choices. This semi-evergreen grows in garden zones 3 to 9. Grow masses of the plant on a hillside, where they double as erosion-control plants. When this plant spreads in excess, divide them and spread their beauty to other parts of your garden.
Creeping Thyme, Thymus citriodorus, is low water, low care plant that thrives perennially in the blistering sun. Like most Mediterranean herbs, it thrives in dry, well-drained soil and is impervious to rabbits and Javelina. Thyme forms a thick carpet covered in pink flowers through summer. The fragrant leaves fill the garden air with beauty and the perfect plant to walk, step, and stroll on. Even your dogs smell better after rumbling through this mountain bloomer.
Groundcover Juniper, Juniperus horizontalis, is classified as a shrub. Its creeping form bridges the gap between sub-shrubs and most shrubs. Often used to hold back erosion-prone hillsides with their robust root system. Best of all, the animals detest the taste of juniper. They love lots of sun, low water, and even lower maintenance.
Honeysuckle, Lonicera, is an excellent mountain vine with fragrant yellow flowers that loves blooming in the summer heat. Wind, drought, deer, Javelina are no problem. Ideal at growing up fences, walls, or as a groundcover. An excellent solution for a fast-growing screen, even in the poorest of soil.
Lenten Rose, Helleborus orientalis, is a sure sign of spring when this low perennial blooms in March. Added benefits with Lenten rose are that it reseeds well and is as gopher resistant as gopher spurge. This shade lover needs an average amount of water. The leathery leaves is unique to this hardy shade lover with flowers that bow and nod through the coldest days of spring. They look best planted on a berm and even better when in a glazed container next to the front door.
Moonshadow Euonymus, Euonymus fortunei, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub for Garden Zones 5 to 8. Variegated leaves are the trademark of these ornamental shrubs. The bicolored pattern is a reverse version of the ever-popular Emerald’ n’ Gold Euonymus. The green is in the middle of the leaf, with the brighter color is on the edge. The best color shows brighter in full sun gardens growing 2′ feet x 4′ feet.
Wall Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys, is a tough plant, evergreen, and a true groundcover. Transitions locally from perennial to sub-shrubs, with woody stems. It is an excellent choice when planted along walkways in sunny areas.
Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners grow better evergreens here at Watters Garden Center.