Weeds are a gardener's worst enemy, particularly when it comes to well-kept lawns. These invincible plants can pop up anywhere, from your flower beds to the space between your paving stones, and besides being unsightly, they're a pain to get rid of, too. If you're looking for a natural, low-maintenance, and eco-friendly way of banishing them, perennial groundcovers could be the solution to your problem.
These low-growing plants create a mat of foliage on the ground, some of which produce a pretty carpet of colorful flowers. Compared to more traditional groundcover, such as grass, they also need little care to thrive and will do so where few other plants will even grow. The best part? They grow thickly and quickly, helping to choke out weeds as they spread.
'Groundcover plants play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy garden by preventing weed growth,' explains Zahid Adnan, gardening expert at The Plant Bible. 'Not only do they suppress weeds, but they also provide aesthetic benefits, enhance soil health, and reduce maintenance efforts.' Here, we list eight of the best options to help rid weeds from your backyard.
1. Ground Clover
Clover lawns have been rising in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. A far more low-maintenance, cost-effective, and eco-friendly alternative to your standard grass, they offer a bed of soft foliage underfoot and do a great job of suppressing weeds, too.
'Clover is a natural fertilizer for soil, by absorbing nitrogen from the atmosphere and transforming it into nitrogen usable by other plants,' explains Matthew Koch Ph.D., Product Development Lead of the Seed and Biotech Teams at Scotts Miracle-Gro. 'Since nitrogen is a key nutrient that encourages plant growth, it can help to crowd out weeds.'
Matthew recommends planting clover on its own or mixing seeds with more traditional turf grass varieties for even stronger foot traffic tolerance. If you're not especially green-thumbed, it's probably the safest option you can choose. As Matthew explains: 'It requires very low maintenance, no fertilizer or mowing, and is more water conscious than traditional grass lawns.'
2. Creeping Phlox
For another whimsical-looking groundcover idea that keeps weeds at bay, try Creeping Phlox, also known as phlox subulata. This carpet of colorful and fragrant flowers also doubles up as a great pollinator, making it a brilliant option for wildlife gardening.
'Creeping Phlox can help to reduce weed growth due to its dense growth which often forms a mat-like ground covering that tends to smother weeds by blocking sunlight from plants attempting to grow underneath,' says Matthew. 'You can plant Phlox closer together to encourage density of growth, too.'
As a groundcover, it's also relatively low-maintenance. As Matthew notes, although young plants need more frequent watering, once the plants are established they tend to be quite drought resistant. 'When not in bloom, the leaves of the plants resemble green, needle-like small leaves,' he says.
3. Creeping Juniper (Blue Rug)
A great choice for rock gardens, Creeping Juniper produces a mass of green or blue-ish-toned foliage with a textured, feathery appearance. It's often used on sloped or rocky areas where it can help control soil erosion as well as suppress common weeds.
'This low-growing evergreen variety spreads quickly, smothering weed growth beneath its dense foliage,' says Tony. 'Its beautiful blue-green needles provide year-round color, even in winter, adding an appealing touch to the landscape.'
Caring for this groundcover is really simple. 'Plant the nursery plants in well-drained soil and provide full sun to partial shade,' says Zahid Adnan of The Plant Bible. 'Prune lightly in spring to maintain its shape and remove any dead branches over time.'
One of the best walkable groundcover plants for paths, stonecrop - also known as sedum - is a small, low-growing succulent. It comes in a host of different varieties and spreads across dry ground quickly, smothering weeds in its path.
As Matthew explains: 'This low-maintenance succulent forms a dense mat, inhibiting weed growth. With a variety of species boasting different leaf shapes and colors, Sedum provides an appealing mix of aesthetics and practical weed suppression.' Since it's a type of succulent it prefers full sun and well-drained soil, so just be sure to avoid using it in any damp or shady areas.
5. Creeping Thyme
The fragrant foliage of creeping thyme has made it a popular groundcover plant. It's super hardy, drought-tolerant, and prefers full sun, making it a practical choice for keeping weeds at bay in a dry garden.
Thanks to its woody stems, Creeping Thyme can withstand foot traffic, too. As Zahid explains: 'Its low-growing habit creates a lush carpet-like effect, adding visual interest to pathways or rock gardens.'
Besides its aesthetic appeal, it has some superhero properties when it comes to suppressing weeds as well. 'Creeping Thyme helps to choke out weeds due to its dense growth habits that create a physical barrier, preventing weed seedlings from growing,' notes Matthew. 'It also has allelopathic properties, meaning it releases naturally occurring chemicals that can prevent the growth of certain weeds.'
6. Irish Moss
'Irish moss forms a dense carpet of tiny, moss-like foliage that effectively prevents weed emergence,' says Zahid.The fast-growing evergreen perennial will soon form a dense carpet of foliage wherever you plant it, resulting in a soft cushioned effect
This lush plant prefers moist soil and partial shade, so it's a great option for the dark corners of your shady garden. Zahid suggests regular misting or watering during dry spells to maintain optimal growth.
'It covers bare ground easily, helping to reduce weed seed germination,' he adds. 'Its delicate white flowers also provide charming accents, making it an excellent choice for borders or between stepping stones.'
7. Creeping Jenny
This hardy perennial forms spreading mats of long stems that do an excellent job of smothering weeds. Green, oval-shaped leaves adorn the stems and make an attractive backdrop to five-petalled yellow flowers in summer, giving your garden a forest-like feel.
'Its quick spreading habit makes it a particularly effective weed deterrent,' says Tony. It's also super versatile, thriving in most lighting conditions as long as the soil is moist. Use it on the edge of your modern garden borders for a burst of color that will creep onto your path.
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Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.
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