Ground-hugging plants in the landscape will cover large bare areas, reduce soil erosion and replace grass in shady locations. Ground cover is a flexible option for areas that are difficult to plant in and can add colour and texture to the garden. Perennial plants that are low-growing will provide interest year after year in the garden.
The United States Department of Agriculture categorises plants according to their cold hardiness. Further classification includes ornamental features and growing habit. Use plants suitable for a particular growing zone to ensure optimal performance.
The roots and crowns of herbaceous perennials survive winter frost while the tops do not. Returning each year, these plants can survive, with care, for many seasons or only last a few years. Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) grows to 1 to 2 feet high, thrives in dry climates and is hardy to zone 4. Pink flowers appear from May through September and extend up to 6 feet. Well suited for banks or wide open areas, crown vetch spreads rapidly and has invasive tendencies.
Evergreen ground cover plants maintain coloured foliage all year long. Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), for example, is a vibrant evergreen that thrives in shady locations. Ornamental foliage provides seasonal colour, turning from purple in the spring to bright green in the summer to yellow-green in the winter. Pachysandra is hardy in zones 3 to 9 and performs best if planted under taller shrubbery or trees for shade and protection.