10 Creeping Plants for Your Garden
Creeping plants can be both beautiful and useful in a garden. Here are some of our favorites
Creeping plants fulfil several tasks in a garden. First and foremost, they provide the visually pleasing effect of tree undergrowth, flowerbeds, carpeting rockeries or overhanging elements on walls and various terrains. Groundcover plants are not only useful because they protect the soil from erosion and drying out, but they also prevent weeds from growing, and last but not least, they’re generally low-maintenance. This is why these plants are frequently used as an easy to care for alternative to lawns, as a functional slope stabilization plant or to cover open areas in gardens.
The best creeping plants must meet several criteria:
• They should be low, ground-cover perennials with creeping, not vining, growth.
• Creeping plants should also be evergreens so they can perform their visual and functional roles throughout the year.
• Creeping perennials should be hardy and low-maintenance.
All of the creeping plants in our list meet these requirements, and are beautiful as well. Here you can find creeping plants suitable for both sunny and shady locations.
1. Creeping myrtle/Periwinkle Vinca minor
If you’re looking for an ideal creeping plant for your garden, don't overlook the creeping myrtle, which perfectly meets all the requirements for this type of plant. Creeping myrtle is evergreen, resistant to frost, wildlife and physical damage and it thrives in full sun as well as in partial shade. Periwinkle is distinguished by its lovely flowering at the turn of spring and summer.
This creeping plant is so hardy and adaptable that it grows quickly and covers a large area with its dense growth. Periwinkle is considered an invasive species, so it needs to be kept under control and prevented from growing where you don't want it. Creeping myrtle is ideal for planting around tree trunks, on slopes and over walls where it will overhang.
Hardiness: USDA 4 - 9
2. Creeping phlox Phlox stolonifera and phlox subulata
Creeping plants are usually chosen for the texture of their leaves, but creeping phlox is also a beautiful flowering plant. Few flowering plants can compete with the vibrant, spring-flowering carpets of this creeping perennial. That's why creeping phlox is often used as a rockery plant, balcony flower or undemanding perennial in flower beds. Creeping phlox comes in a wide range of flower colors (red, pink, white, blue, purple, multicolored...).
Creeping phlox requires a sunny and dry location. It can easily withstand hot weather, and also frosts, pests and wildlife. This creeping perennial is semi-deciduous, so its needle-like leaf texture is attractive all year round. It is ideal for covering and stabilizing slopes and other exposed sites with all-day sun. Creeping phlox can spread over time without being an invasive plant.
Hardiness: USDA 5 - 9
3. Japanese spurge Pachysandra terminalis
Japanese spurge is an ideal evergreen creeping plant suitable for a shady spot in a garden. It has a wonderful texture all year round, with leaves that are broader, brighter and denser than those of most creeping plants. Japanese spurge is frost and wildlife resistant and can cope with dry soil, where it serves a water-retaining function. It also thrives in heavy clay soils, which are problematic for most plants.
This creeping perennial likes partial shade or shade, and if given the right conditions, it can spread rapidly by root suckers, so it can also be an invasive plant if not kept under control. Japanese spurge also known as Pachysandra is an excellent creeping plant around tree trunks, around walkways and in defined areas in the garden.
Hardiness: USDA 4 - 8
4. Creeping juniper Juniperus horizontalis
Conifers can also make great creeping plants. The creeping juniper is proof, as it does the job to perfection. This light-loving ground-cover conifer is virtually maintenance-free and very resistant to both frost and drought. All it needs is well-drained soil in a sunny location, and its growth can cover a large area over time. Creeping juniper grows to a maximum height of 45 cm (16 inches), but can spread up to 3 m (10 feet).
Thanks to their strong root system, these creeping conifers can strengthen any slope, preventing erosion. Creeping juniper is an attractive coniferous plant that doesn’t die back even in winter, so it is often used as an evergreen foundation in garden design. It can be found in rockeries, front yards and in mixed plantings.
Hardiness: USDA 3 - 9
5. Bugleweed Ajuga reptans
If you want to quickly cover an area with low vegetation to prevent weed growth, bugleweed is a good choice. This creeping perennial is very hardy and adaptable, so it tends to grow quickly, forming dense carpets of green foliage. Like most creeping plants, bugleweed is invasive and therefore needs to be kept under control with pruning or edging. Bugleweed can withstand even the hardiest frosts, does not attract wildlife, and can survive in full sun or partial shade.
A bonus of growing bugleweed is its beautiful, distinctive flowers that appear on long stems. It blooms throughout the summer in shades of blue or purple, depending on the variety. Different varieties also offer different leaf coloring, including variegated combinations. Variegated bugleweed varieties, along with being visually striking, are a good option because they are less invasive.
Hardiness: USDA 4 - 9
6. Blue spruce stonecrop Sedum reflexum
There are hundreds of species of sedum, most of which are low-growing succulents that are well-suited for exposed rock habitats with plenty of sunshine. This makes them popular plants for rock gardens, green roofs and dry areas with all-day sun. In addition, some species of stonecrops are evergreen and hardy enough to make perfect creeping plants. Proof of this is the blue spruce stonecrop, which forms dense carpets that can cover any area that has dry soil and plenty of sun. The blue spruce stonecrop is hardy but not invasive, so maintenance is simple.
A popular variety of blue spruce stonecrop is 'Angelina,' with its greenish-yellow needle-like leaves that turn orange as winter sets in.
Hardiness: USDA 4 - 9
7. Creeping thyme Thymus spp. (citriodorus, serpyllum, praecox and others)
There are hundreds of species belonging to the genus Thymus, and some of them are excellent evergreen creeping perennials. One such species is Thymus citriodorus, or lemon thyme, which grows up to 10 cm (4 inches) and forms dense carpets that are covered with fragrant flowers during summer. Lemon thyme is considered a maintenance-free, non-invasive perennial, and it’s resistant to pests, frost and drought. Other thyme species (e.g. thymus serpyllum, thymus praecox and others) can also fulfil the role of creeping plants.
These creeping perennials are ideal for covering areas between stepping stones as they release a strong scent when walked on. However, creeping thyme will do well in any sunny spot with dry, rocky soil.
Hardiness: USDA 2 - 9
8. Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Bearberry is a low-growing, evergreen shrub that makes an excellent ground cover. It grows up to 25 cm (10 inches) tall and can spread up to 2 m (7 feet) or more. It is interesting for its leathery, glossy leaves and red berries that resemble cranberries. This hardy creeping evergreen prefers dry, sandy or rocky soils and a sunny to semi-shaded location. It flowers in spring with tiny flowers, which then transform to red berries in late summer/early autumn, favored by birds.
Bearberry is suitable for slopes as well as for planting along paths, under trees or in combination with other plants in beds. This woody plant spreads via runners, but does not grow as fast as other creeping plants.
Hardiness: USDA 2 - 6
9. Wild ginger Asarum europaeum, Asarum canadense
Few evergreen creeping plants are as distinctive as wild ginger. This perennial can also be found in temperate forests, where it often forms continuous undergrowth. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it can thrive even in the shadiest corners of gardens, where it can replace a lawn or be combined with other shade-loving plants. This shade-loving creeping plant is very attractive, with shiny, rounded, dark-green leaves that form dense carpets.
Hardiness: USDA 3 - 7
10. Siberian cypress Microbiota decussate
This creeping conifer is also known as the Russian arborvitae. Its relation to cypress conifers such as yews and cypresses is reflected in the shape and structure of its needles. This creeping conifer is ideal for filling space under trees or for stabilizing and covering shady slopes, where it creates a beautiful texture.
Siberian cypress grows to a height of 45 cm (16 inches), but a single plant can cover up to 2 m (7 feet). The needles of this creeping plant are green during the growing season, but take on a beautiful bronze tint in the fall.
Hardiness: USDA 2 - 8
There are many other types of creeping plants that we have not mentioned in our selection but are noteworthy as well:
For example Rock cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis), Creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea), Creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Evergreen candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis), Wintercreeper Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei ), Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), Dead nettle (Lamium maculatum), Wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus), Liriope muscari, Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and many other creeping plants.