Named for the color and shape of their flowers, brass buttons stand out perhaps most of all for their serrated, fern-like leaves. In fact, brass buttons share the same Achilles' heel as ferns—both succumb easily to drought. In moist soil, however, brass buttons spread vigorously, forming two-inch-tall mats of growth strong and thick enough to withstand even regular foot traffic. In the South or West, the ground cover may lose its leaves or die back in the cold months. But in the right climate, brass buttons remain evergreen, beautiful, and low-maintenance all year round. Available on Amazon ; 9.95 for one-quart plant.
Few ground covers ever look as beautiful as creeping phlox in spring, when it produces an explosion of fragrant, star-shaped, pastel-color flowers. Of course, since it matures to a maximum height of only six inches tall, many gardeners choose to plant creeping phlox on a slope, or along the top of a retaining wall. That way, you don't have to be standing directly over the plant in order to appreciate its beauty. That said, precisely because creeping phlox looks so beautiful from the top down, many use the ground cover to define the borders of garden paths. So long as the site affords full sun and good drainage, creeping phlox requires next to nothing in the way of care. Available at Burpee ; $10.95 per plant.
Equally at home hanging from a planter or covering a hillside, Lysimachia (more commonly known as "Creeping Jenny") is a plant known and revered for its trailing branches. Each plant takes on a green fountain-like appearance: Long, lush chutes of chartreuse foliage sprout up from the soil, then softly twist and tangle for full coverage wherever planted. Aside from good exposure to sunlight, these leafy green clusters ask little of their gardener—no need to deadhead branches that lose their vibrance, replant every season, or ward off hungry deer (they're naturally resistant!). Available at HomeDepot.com ; $12.64 per plant.
The dainty purple flowers and evergreen leaves on this vine makes it one of the most popular ground covers in residential and commercial landscaping. Also known as periwinkle, vinca minor will spread wherever it's planted and will even scale trellises or fences if trained. Because vinca has few pests, it can be considered invasive, which is good news if your goal is to keep weeds at bay. If you want your vinca minor to play nice with other plantings, though, you'll need to cut it back on a regular basis. Available at Etsy.com ; $3 for 25 bare-root plants.
Grace Ward Lithodora
Thanks to its bold blue hue and its ability to attract butterflies, the grace ward lithodora will add bursts of color to your landscape from spring throughout summer. The low-lying ground cover is a popular option as a filler for rock gardens or as an accent above retaining walls. In addition to making your garden look good, it also helps it out. The plant works as a natural deer repellent (the animals dislike the taste of the flowers) and works to control erosion. In extremely hot climates it needs a little shade, but otherwise it enjoys being in the sun. Available at Burpee.com ; $10.45 for 1 plant.
The soft, aromatic creeping thyme seems to be a plant that checks off all the boxes for a gardener, plus more. The low-lying ground cover—it grows no more than four inches tall—is able to endure being stepped and stomped on, making it a smart choice for planting between pavers or replacing grass entirely. It’s preferable to moderate climates, but is able to withstand full sun and drought-like conditions. It also works to control weeds from growing and is a natural deer repellent. And while deer might not like the creeping thyme’s pink flowers, it does attract butterflies and honeybees—it’s even believed that it enhances the honey’s flavor. On top of all of that, assuming you take proper care of the plant, it lasts for five to six years, in which during that time you can harvest your own fresh herbs! Available at Burpee.com ; $4.45 for 100 seeds.