Depending on the situation and the use of the area, there are a number of plants that can be used to create non-grass lawns or areas of slightly taller ground cover. Non-grass lawns will usually only cope with a small amount of traffic and will probably need hand weeding until the plants are established.For these reasons they are best suited to fairly small areas. Ground-cover plants do exactly what they say and cover the ground. They thereby prevent weeds and fill an area that you don’t want to devote too much time to but, equally, that you don’t want full of weeds. Be careful as many ground-cover plants tend to be invasive and can take over the garden and become weeds themselves.
Ground-cover plants for sun
Aubrietia – evergreen, carpet-forming perennial with small pink or purple flowers in spring.
Erigeron karvinskianus – perennial with grey-green foliage and daisy flowers throughout the summer that start white and turn pink as they age.
Saponaria ocymoides (Tumbling Ted) – perennial with hairy green leaves and an abundance of little pink flowers in summer.
Stachys byzantina (Rabbits’ ears) – mat-forming perennial with soft, woolly, greeny-white leaves. In summer there are spires of woolly purple flowers.
Ground-cover plants for shade
Ajuga reptans (Bugle) – evergreen perennial with upright spires of dark blue flowers in late spring and early summer.
Hosta – evergreen perennial with decorative lance- or heart-shaped leaves in varying shades of greens and blues. Small bell-shaped flowers in shades of lavender in summer are more abundant if there is some light.
Omphalodes cappadocica – clump-forming, semi-evergreen perennial with dainty blue and white flowers in spring.
Pachysandra terminalis – spreading evergreen perennial with glossy dark green leaves and spikes of little white flowers in early summer.
Pulmonaria – low-growing perennial with hairy, attractively mottled leaves. Small spring flowers come in shades of pink, purple, blue or all three.
Ground-cover plants for any position
Alchemilla mollis – hummocky perennial with crinkly leaves that look lovely with raindrops on them. Tiny greenish-yellow flowers in summer.
Campanula – low-growing varieties of this perennial form good ground cover and have cup- or bell-shaped blue or purple flowers in summer. C. carpactica, C. cochlearifolia (Fairies’ thimbles), C. portenschalagiana, and C. poscharskyana are all suitable.
Hedera helix (Ivy) – small-leaved ivies provide good year-round cover.
Persicaria affinis – mat-forming evergreen perennial with little spires of pink or red flowers in summer which turn brown in winter.
Vinca minor (Periwinkle) – low-growing evergreen shrub with bluey-purple or white propeller-like flowers from spring to autumn. They flower best given reasonable light levels.