Ground Covers for a Super Low-Maintenance Garden

Geranium Macrorrhizum, Bevan's Variety, a stalwart perennial groundcover.

Geranium Macrorrhizum, Bevan’s Variety, a stalwart perennial groundcover, blooms in early spring and summer.

Are you the kind of busy person who might not go so far as pouring concrete on your front yard, but you want something almost as low-maintenance? I urge anyone with self-described “black thumbs” not go the concrete route, because help is at hand in the form of spreading ground covers. They can take the place of grass on your front yard and require almost nothing from you. The thick growth of the two ground cover plants listed below will shade out weed seeds, making weed growth minimal to none.


Macrorrhizum geranium leafs out early in spring, while hostas, behind are barely up. Here it spills over a stone wall.

Geranium Macrorrhizum“Bevans variety”

The perennial ground cover, Geranium Macrorrhizum is tough. It grows in my shady garden and never complains about the dry, nutrient-deficient soil. The attractive, cut leaves create an interesting textured mound, and are fragrant when crushed, or walked on. It spreads in the garden with ease, filling in to cover a large area. Planted in a sunny spot, it flowers with pink blooms in early summer. In fall, the leaves are touched with bright red, giving you another season of beauty. I never water this plant, even in the drought of summer.


This trailing ground cover, with the common name of Periwinkle,  grows on vines that spread and take root where they touch the ground, making a thick glossy mat. In early spring, the periwinkle blue, or wine purple flowers are very welcome, flowering before most other perennials. The thick, shiny leaves make vinca very drought resistant; as well as partially evergreen, adding a bit of winter interest. It also gets no water from me in my garden.

Blue scillas and white hyacinths blooming with vinca and geranium macrorrhizum in April.

The blooms of blue scillas and white hyacinths poking up through vinca and geranium macrorrhizum in April.

The good thing about ground covers is that if and when you do get the urge (or time) to do a bit more in your garden, (or convince someone else to) fall bulbs can be interplanted amongst the perennials. This gives you some seasonal variety in your garden with a spring display of colour and scent, as in the picture above. After the bulbs die down, you can hide the dying bulb leaves by tucking them underneath the ground cover leaves. Of course, that does smack of a bit of maintenance. Alternatively, leave them alone, while you lie on your hammock, or finish that dissertation.

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