Top 10 groundcovers for Calgary

10: Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata): This is a low growing plant with fine needle like leaves, that becomes smothered in flowers in late spring.  If you’d like inspiration on how to use it, just google “Shibazakura”.  It does well in hot and dry areas once established, and is available with flowers in white, white and pink bicolor, mauve, pink and purple.

9: Kinnikinick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): This is a native plant, and is very hardy, with glossy green leaves and red berries in the fall.  It would be the perfect groundcover in a wooded area, and could be underplanted with spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils.

8: Sweet woodruff: (Gallium odoratum) One of my favorites for shady spots.  It has interesting 10 part leaves, white flowers, and a scent that is reminiscent of vanilla!  It is a great to use against the house, under benches, and around trees.  I cut it and bring it inside to enjoy the scent too.  Sweet woodruff, once established, can be left alone to slowly expand in area.

7: Scotch Moss/Irish Moss (Sagina subulata): Have fun with this plant!  It is not a true moss, but it sure looks like one.  There are two varieties, one light green and one dark green.  I’m partly of Scottish descent, so I can tell you the joke that to remember which is which; remember that the Scottish variety is light green because it was too cheap to buy more chlorophyll. This is a somewhat delicate plant that does best with rich soil and even watering.  It makes an amazing living checker board for occasional use.

6: Sedum species: There are ground cover sedums galore!  They are all easy to grow, tolerant of drought and poor soil, and easily reproduced by digging up rooted stems. Some of my favorites include: Sedum kamtschaticum ‘variegatum’, with variegated leaves, yellow flower and orange buds.  It has tons of colour throughout the summer, Sedum spurium ‘Fuldaglut’, also known as ‘Dragon’s Blood Sedum’ with it’s rosy red flowers, and Sedum sieboldii, with it’s cloudy blue leaves.  You could plant an entire garden with sedums, and it would look varied and interesting.

A variety of Sedums ready to be planted as ground-covers.

Sedum ground-covers

5: Lamium species: The Lamiums come in leaf colours in combinations of green, silver, gray, white and yellow, and generally have punk or white flowers.  They are excellent for dry areas or shade, and spread rapidly without becoming invasive, although they do self-seed.  The can look messy after flowering, but can be rejuvenated by cutting them back.

4: Dianthus (Dianthus ‘Flashing Lights’):  This is a member of the carnation family, and smells beautifully.  Also known as maiden pinks, it forms a low matt of mossy leaves, and in late spring and early summer is covered in bright red, tiny flowers, held 2 inches or so off the foliage.  When mass planted, it forms a big swath of red, and is one of the best true red flowers available. Other members of this family, such as Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ and Dianthus ‘Arctic Fire’ are also good choices.

3: Golden Creeping Jenny: I have a thing for acid green in the garden.  It makes all the other colours pop, and I try to include acid green and purple leaves in almost every garden I plant.  This is a great plant to use for that colour.  It grows as a trailing vine, with long long stems with two rows of round leaves.  It flowers in yellow, but I use it mainly for the leaf colour.  If it gets too leggy, just chop the stems back.  (They root as they go.)  If you have a raised bed or pond, Golden creeping jenny is amazing trailing over the edge of a wall or into a pond. This is also a great plant used in your container plantings.

Golden Creeping Jenny

Golden Creeping Jenny

2: Ajuga reptans: If Golden creeping jenny is my go-to for acid green, ajuga is my go-to for purple.  This is a newer plant for most people, and it’s a great groundcover.  It forms very tight mats, with heights from one to 4 inches tall.  The leaves come in amazing shades of purple, brownish purple, greenish purple and a variegated purple that looks somewhat pink.  The flowers are small, but a lovely shade of periwinkle blue.  It seems to be happy in full sun or part shade, as long as the soil is rich. Growers are coming out with new hybrids every year.

1:  Creeping thyme: Drought tolerant, smells amazing, bees love it!  What more can I say?  There are many varieties of creeping thyme from the very miniature and dense Thymus minimus to the wooly Thymus pseudolanuginosus.  Creeping thyme is beautiful for almost the entire year, flowers in shades of white, mauve and pink, and can tolerate pretty extreme heat and drought.  It is also a great lawn substitute and can tolerate some foot traffic.

Wooly Thyme

Wooly Thyme; a great ground-cover for hot dry areas

Posted Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 under Gardening ideas, Quick tips.

7 comments

  1. Is creeping thyme edible?

  2. Is there anywhere in Calgary that sells Creeping Thyme as seeds? I want to use it as a replacement for grass in my backyard so buying the individual plants will be far too expensive. Also, once planted, is this a perennial?

    • katekennedy says:

      I have seen the seeds at several garden centres. The only catch is that the ones available from seed is the species Thymus serphyllum, and not any of the varieties. I prefer the varieties “Minimus” “Elfin” and “Pink Chintz” as they are lower growing and more dense than the common variety. I also see 10 packs of the nice varieties available at Superstore and Rona in the springs. They are more economical than buying 4 inch pots. Creeping thyme is not as tolerant of foot traffic as lawn grass, and it needs full sun. If they are happy, they are a good perennial in our climate.

  3. Hey there. Can you suggest a good garden Center to purchase thyme in bulk. I see places online that sell plugs in batches of 128. I’m hoping to plant different types of thyme as a lawn replacement this spring.

    Thanks!

    • katekennedy says:

      Hi Ryley,
      I have not seen plug trays of thyme available at a garden centre. The best I’ve seen is the 10 packs of “steppable plants”, usually available at places like Superstore, Rona, and HomeDepot. These are about a 2″ plug, which is a nice size for transplanting.
      Kate

  4. Hi Kate. Thanks again. I keep coming back to this post. I’ve purchased some healthy big 6 inch pots of whoolly thyme at Costco for under 8 bucks. I cut these up into 6 smaller plugs and planted them about 4 weeks ago. They arent doing all that well. I guess we will see how they do. I’m concerned the spot they are in wouldn’t be considered well drained soil. I’ve planted more yesterday in a different location and backfilled with some sand and organic soil mixture. We will see!

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