Plants suitable as ground cover, but with an ability to generate red berries or berrylike fruits, includes species of deciduous shrubs, vines, broadleaved evergreens and perennials. Some of these ground cover candidates have an ability to thrive even in cold climates, while others do well only where winters are not quite such a hardship. In many cases, the red berries remain on the plant into or through winter, giving the landscape some much-needed colour.
Wild strawberry is a perennial with a range throughout much of the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere. It grows from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9 in North America, developing to 9 inches tall and turning out edible, red strawberries during the summer. Another red-berry perennial suitable as ground cover is bearberry, reliably hardy to zone 3 and evergreen. Bearberry grows to a foot high and resists the effects of salt spray, so use it next to the ocean. Plant pratia, which grows only 2 inches high, in damp sites as ground cover; its red berries are showy.
Creeping cotoneaster is a deciduous shrub for sunny site ground cover. It grows to 12 inches high, but spreads out as much as 6 feet, allowing you to cover an area with it. The red fruits develop during the summer and the foliage often provides a fine colour display in autumn, changing to red as well. Bearberry cotoneaster, growing to 18 inches, has red fruits that stay around through the winter. Coralberry is a cultivar with abundant fruit. Rockspray cotoneaster produces bright scarlet berries late in the summer. These cotoneasters are ground cover options from USDA zone 4 through zone 7.
Bearberry also comes in the form of a broadleaved evergreen shrub. It develops slowly to cover an area, but has great cold tolerance, working in USDA zone 2. Big Bear is a cultivar that becomes 12 inches high and generates brilliant red berries by July, with the fruit eaten by birds. Wintergreen grows in full to part shade, from zones 3 through 8. Wintergreen, from the heath family, matures to 6 inches high in acidic soil, with edible red berries. Partridge berry, another evergreen ground cover, only gets to about 3 inches high. Its red berries are technically edible, but lack any flavour. Leave them for the birds. This species also thrives in the shade.
Consider using vines such as trumpet honeysuckle as ground cover on steep banks. This species features tubular flowers of an orange, yellow and red mix of colours. The vine grows between 10 and 20 feet long and attracts hummingbirds. Another form of honeysuckle vine to cover banks with is the woodbine honeysuckle. It possesses white and purple flowers, is easy to grow and produces red berries by September. Woodbine honeysuckle has cultivars such as Serotina and Berries Jubilee.
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Cotoneaster Adpressus
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Gaultheria Procumbens
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Lonicera Periclymenum
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Lonicera Sempervirens
- Missouri Botanical Garden: PlantFinder Search