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February 13, 2013 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for a flowering groundcover for my garage-side garden to fill in the spaces between the dwarf reblooming lilacs and Widow's Tears already growing there. The current groundcover is Snow in Summer which has pretty flowers and foliage, but is oh-my-god too invasive and fast growing. I feel like I'm constantly ripping chunks of it out so it doesn't climb up the lilacs or spill over onto the lawn. I'd like to put in something that is either white or some shade of purple, doesn't require much maintenance, but is far better behaved than the Snow in Summer. We live in USDA zone 5 and the garden in question gets afternoon sun. (I know nothing about the Ph or the type of soil; I'm hoping that it will be apparent to the cognoscenti from my location and the other plants that are thriving in the same garden.)
posted by DrGail to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Widow's tears thrive in any soil while lilacs like plain old well-drained, rich, neutral pH soil, so you're pretty much good to go with anything!

Some good zone 5 groundcovers, with purple and/or white blooms:
Vinca minor/Periwinkle vine (purple)
Galium odoratum/Sweet woodruff (white)
Phlox subulata/Creeping phlox (purple or white)
Convallaria majalis /Lily of the valley (white)
Thymus serpyllum/Creeping thyme (purple or white)
Lamium maculatum/Spotted deadnettle (purple or white)
Stachys byzantina/Lamb's ear (purple or white)

Your local Master Gardeners would likely be more than happy to lend you a hand that is more nuanced to your particular soil/geographic location, and a Master Gardener plant sale is a fantastic way to find the exact groundcover/plant you are looking for, as the Masters will be selling plants from their own gardens and immediately available to answer any questions you might have.

I am not sure whether you might consider some of these to require more maintenance than you'd like -- working in the garden is very meditative to me so my tolerance for plant-based drudge work may be higher than yours -- but hopefully these suggestions will help get you started, or at least give you an idea of what sort of inflorescence you prefer (spikes? vines? small blooms?). In my zone 5 garden, I use sweet woodruff and thyme as ground covers. They do spread quite a bit, but both has been very manageable overall, they smell amazing, and both can be used as teas/herbs!
posted by divined by radio at 1:20 PM on February 13, 2013

I've had good luck with blue star creeper. It doesn't seem invasive in my really good soil here in NC (moderate sun), unlike the yarrow I planted a few years ago.

Note also that the link goes to the web site for "Stepables", which specializes in a variety creeping plants in general.

Note that you can purchase a pH testing kit for really cheap, and it's easy to do (and fun).
posted by amtho at 1:27 PM on February 13, 2013

Just as a heads up, in the right conditions, spotted deadnettle, lily of the valley and vinca minor can be crazy invasive.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:46 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

My last house (NE Ohio, also zone 5) had beds of creeping phlox and sweet woodruff. Both were very nice.
posted by jon1270 at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2013

You could also consider pachysandra. It does have small white flowers but they are not super conspicuous.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:47 PM on February 13, 2013

White Clover! Do it for the bees!
posted by TheTingTangTong at 6:29 PM on February 13, 2013

Daves Garden is a great website for gardeners. Doing a search for Sweet Woodruff in articles returned this great article. Searching Sweet wooddruff by plant files
returns this page. I like to read other gardeners' comments near the bottom of this page, this plant's profile is mostly positive.
posted by JujuB at 6:41 PM on February 13, 2013

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