As spring begins, it may be a good time to think about how to reduce the weeding you have to do in future years – and good ground cover is essential if you want to lessen the backbreaking work of constant weeding. Choosing the best ground cover plants for each spot in your garden is essential.

Densely-planted areas should keep weeds at bay as the dark stops seeds from germinating. Well-chosen ground cover plants can also give a softer appearance to hard surfaces such as brickwork and paving.

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Here are a few pointers to keep in mind…

Use the best ground cover plants

Geranium - a beautiful flower in the garden
Wild geranium provides good ground cover.

There are many obvious perennials to use, which will quickly take up space and add colour to the border, such as the wild geranium (cranesbill), but some need more work than others. Many make excellent permanent edging, such as Alchemilla mollis, Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ and Saxifraga x urbium.

Check first, however, that such plants will be suitable for your soil. And remember that deciduous ground cover plants lose their leaves in autumn, so if you are using them in abundance you may find yourself with some ugly gaps in your border during the winter months.

Fast-growing ground cover plants

Light pink and crimson blooms of  commonly known as Himalayan Knotweed or Fleece Flower
Persicaria Affinis

Other quick-growing varieties include Persicaria affinis, which thrives in sun or light shade and provides up to a 24-inch evergreen carpet, with pinkish-purple flowers emerging in summer.

Helianthemum ‘Praecox’ produces small yellow flowers above a 6-inch evergreen carpet of grey-green leaves, flowering between June and August.

Other relatively trouble-free ground cover plants include Ajuga reptans, astilbe, Calluna vulgaris, Erica carnea and Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’.

Watch out for invasive species

Common Periwinkle, (Vinca minor), covers the ground.
Periwinkle (vinca) covers the ground quickly but can be difficult to get rid of once established

Vigorous ground cover has its pros and cons. The advantage is that vigorous plants will fill an area quickly at less cost – but if you ever decide to change your scheme, they may be difficult to get rid of.

Periwinkle (vinca) is extremely hard to get rid of, snow-in-summer will fill a sunny site in just one season but will also take over everything else. And lily-of-the-valley, while wonderfully fragrant, has deep vein-like roots which are almost impossible to eradicate should you wish to do so.

Perennial geraniums are also quite vigorous, but they are easier to contain and do provide some welcome colour during the summer.

Fill difficult spots with ground cover plants

Ajuga reptans will tolerate shade
Ajuga reptans will tolerate shade (iStock/PA)

If you have a difficult spot to fill, such as a steep bank in shade, Ajuga reptans (bugle) is a strong evergreen, which carries spikes of blue flowers from late spring to midsummer. It spreads quickly, forming a carpet which will easily act as ground cover under shrubs and trees.

Other shade-lovers that make good ground cover include heucheras, which come in a range of colours from almost black to acid green. Their flowers are also a magnet to bees.

Infill with reliable favourites

Black-eyed susans (rudbeckia serotina) in the fall garden.
Infill with plants like black-eyed susans (rudbeckia serotina)

When planting a border and graduating it from taller plants at the back to lower-growing varieties at the front, you can always add interest by placing a number of taller species forward into the middle ground, which applies particularly to tall hardy perennials such as lupins and delphiniums.

Good infill plants, once you have established the framework of your border, include potentilla, rosemary, spiraea, cystus, acanthus and rudbeckia, while at the lowest level towards the front of the border you could use dwarf hebes, alchemilla, epimedium and lamium.

Plant carefully enough and you should soon have a riot of colour, without the need for too much hoeing or hand-weeding.

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Last update on 2022-08-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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