Published on 09/10/98

Great Ground Covers for Fall Planting

A recent landscape trend is to use more ground covers to provide a low-maintenance, naturalized look.

Ground covers are excellent plants for beds under trees, where most shrubs do poorly due to competition.

Planting ground covers -- or anything else -- in the fall allows the roots to establish during a relatively cool, wet time. With early fall planting, the roots may have six to eight months to establish before the typically hot, dry summer.

Fall planting can increase the number of plants that survive and the growth in the first year following planting. Fall and winter are also the best time to transplant.

Ground covers may require weeding at first, but that is usually greatly reduced once they're established. In fact, once established, many ground covers don't have to be watered, either.

Three such easy-to-maintain ground covers -- ivy, Liriope and Vinca -- can be found in many attractive varieties. Here are some of the best.

Ivy (Hedera helix)

  • 'Chester' has yellow and green variegated form.
  • 'English' has dark green, heavily veined leaves.
  • 'Glacier' has variegated leaves with white edges.
  • 'Gold Dust' has light green leaves dusted with yellow variegation.
  • 'Hahn's' is a self-branching ivy. It's similar to 'English' but tolerates sun better.
  • 'Needlepoint' is green with sharp-point lobes.
  • 'Thorndale' has green foliage with showy, creamy-white veins.
  • 'Wilsonii' has dark green leaves with curly edges.


  • 'Aztec Grass' is upright and clump- forming, with variegated growth.
  • 'Big Blue' has clumps of coarse, dark green leaves up to 18 inches long. It's the most commonly used liriope, blooming in midsummer with lavender flowers.
  • 'Evergreen Giant' is clump-forming, with leaves 24 to 30 inches long and lavender blooms. It prefers shade in hot areas. It's not as cold hardy as other Liriopes and should be considered an annual above Macon. It does best in well-drained soils.
  • 'Majestic' has deep violet flowers above dark green leaves 12 inches high.
  • 'Monroe's White' has green leaves with white flowers. It requires shade.
  • 'Silver Midget' has grass-like foliage up to 12 inches tall with a thin band of variegation along the leaf edge.
  • 'Silver Dragon' has bright white variegated leaves on a spreading plant. It maintains its variegation in shade.
  • 'Royal Purple' looks much like Big Blue, except the flowers are a dark purple instead of light lavender.


  • Vinca major 'Green' has green foliage and large leaves.
  • Vinca major 'Variegata' has green and white foliage, with the same growing habit as Green.
  • Vinca minor 'Alba' has evergreen, dark green foliage with white flowers.
  • Vinca minor 'Bowles' has small leaves with deep blue flowers.

Mel Garber is a professor in the Office of Environmental Science of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.