15 Cold Hardy Ground Cover Plants For Cool Weather

Looking for a cold hardy ground cover plant to dress up your garden in cooler weather? There are plenty of different options to choose from, even in colder hardiness zones. In this article, certified master gardener Laura Elsner looks at her favorite cold hardy ground cover plants, with names and pictures of each!

cold hardy ground cover


The secret to a great garden is creating layers. A tall layer of trees and shrubs, followed by taller perennials, then some shorter ones, and then finishing off with ground cover plants.

I love to have something blooming at all times in my garden. By adding more varieties of plant material, you have more opportunities for blossoms. Ground covers often have stunning blooms that will attract a lot of attention (and pollinators, of course).

There are other benefits to adding ground covers to your garden besides their beauty. They act as a natural mulch and retain water, so you don’t have to water the garden so much. They also are a thick mat that keeps weeds down or hides them, so you don’t have to be out weeding your garden as often. Finally, they can help prevent erosion, especially in sloped gardens. The roots help hold the soil in place.

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the hardiest ground covers that you should consider adding to your garden this season!

Angelina Sedum

Close-up of Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' in a sunny garden. The plant has short stems covered with pointed, green, fleshy leaves.
This is a delightful low-growing succulent with soft, spring-like foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’
height height 4″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

‘Angelina’ sedum is a succulent ground cover with spires of soft, spiny foliage. When it emerges in the spring, it has bright red and orange tips. It looks like fall in the spring. Then it settles into a bright golden-yellow color in the summer. It blooms stalks of yellow flowers, which are not its main feature (in my opinion), but add interest nonetheless.

‘Angelina’ is perfect for full sun gardens. It forms a thick mat of succulent foliage that keeps weeds down. This sedum bariety also works great on hills and rock gardens. It will pop up from almost any nook and cranny. The shallow roots will help prevent erosion.

‘Angelina’ Sedum also doesn’t require much water and doesn’t care about soil. Rocky sand soil is fine. It won’t tolerate standing water.

Another application for this plant is as a trailer in a container. The bright foliage spills out and looks great. I just dig it out of my garden, place it in a container and then put it back in the garden after the season is over. It doesn’t mind being moved.


Close-up of a flowering plant Iberis sempervirens in a sunny garden in a flower bed. The plant has alternate, simple, linear-oblong leaves, dark green in color. Candytuft produces small, snow-white, 4-petalled flowers in dense, flattened, globular florets.
This evergreen low-growing plant blooms with delicate white flowers in the shape of a ball.
botanical-name botanical name Iberis sempervirens
height height 12″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Candytuft is a creeping evergreen perennial. It explodes into a carpet of white ball-shaped flowers in the early spring. It prefers part sun-part shade conditions and does not like sitting in water. Plant in loose well-drained soil.

After it blooms in the spring, it looks green and scrubby. It has narrow leaves. You will barely notice it when it’s not blooming. I recommend planting some other flowers near it to take over after it blooms. It’s kind of a scraggly plant, in my opinion. But I do think that the spectacular spring blooms make it worth planting.

Creeping Jenny

Close-up of many vines of the plant Lysimachia nummularia in the garden. Creepers are covered with small, round, bright green leaves.
This plant is a low-growing plant that grows in all sunny conditions.
botanical-name botanical name Lysimachia nummularia
height height 4″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Creeping Jenny is my go-to ground cover. It can be a bit aggressive, but it’s low-growing and easy to rip out if it starts swallowing other plants. It will grow in almost any soil and sun conditions making it one versatile little plant.

Creeping Jenny is a green vine-like perennial plant. It has small circular leaves that line the long stems. It creeps and trails through garden beds. There is a green variety that is covered in small yellow flowers in the summer. Or there is a golden variety, which is my favorite, which has bright chartreuse foliage.

I use creeping Jenny in gardens as a natural mulch. It keeps the weeds down, the water in, and the soil in place. I love planting the golden variety ‘Aurea’ underneath a hosta garden. The bright golden color plays off the green and gold accents in hosta foliage.

It also is one of my favorite trailing plants to use in containers. It adds a pop of brightness to a variety of container combinations.

Cheddar Pinks

Close-up of a flowering plant Dianthus gratianopolitanus in a garden. The plant produces delightful small, pink, star-shaped flowers with fringed petals. The foliage is narrow and silvery blue.
This low-growing plant produces fragrant, pink, small flowers with fringed petals.
botanical-name botanical name Dianthus gratianopolitanus
height height 8″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Cheddar pinks are a lovely evergreen perennial ground cover. The foliage is narrow and silvery blue. Then in the summer, when it goes into bloom, it explodes into a carpet of little pink star-shaped flowers. You might recognize these flowers as they are a type of dianthus, which are commonly planted as annuals and perennials.

They like full sun conditions and well-drained soil. They cover the soil in a thick mat, which keeps the weeds down and stays green year-round. I like to plant this in rock gardens or along curbs and sidewalks. They are fairly salt tolerant so they won’t mind being along sidewalks.

Creeping Thyme

Close-up of a flowering plant Thymus serpyllum in a salt garden. The plant is low growing, covered with bright pink-purple small flowers collected in inflorescences.
This plant is a low-growing mat of tiny oval leaves and fragrant lilac-pink flowers arranged in inflorescences.
botanical-name botanical name Thymus serpyllum
height height 4″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Creeping thyme is an easy-growing ground cover plant. A creeping thyme lawn is something that many gardeners strive for. It is actually achievable in lower hardiness zone gardens. It is a low-growing mat of tiny leaves, and then in the spring, the entire carpet of it bursts into purple flowers. As a bonus, it smells great when your walk on it or brush it with your hands.

It likes full sun and sandy soil. It can replace grass or creep through pathways and rock gardens. I will say that if you are using it as a grass replacement, do not use it in high-traffic areas. Use it in boulevards with sidewalks to walk on.

Or place it in between flagstone paths. Also, note that it isn’t always in bloom. It will be purple in the spring but green the rest of the season. I recommend layering it with a few other plants that bloom later. Cheddar Pinks, for instance, bloom later and like the same conditions.

Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop

Close-up of a growing succulent plant Sedum spurium 'Schorbuser Blut' in a sunny garden. The plant has beautiful little rosettes of fleshy, rounded, dark burgundy leaves and green centers.
Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop is a hardy succulent with small rosettes of maroon leaves.
botanical-name botanical name Sedum spurium ‘Schorbuser Blut’
height height 6″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

This hardy little ground cover is my go-to plant for tough full-sun areas. Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop needs little water, sandy soil, and lots of sunshine. This succulent plant grows little rosettes of deep maroon clusters with green centers. It forms a thick mat that weeds have trouble growing through. It blooms pink in the late summer.

This is a great plant for rock gardens, along rocky garden paths, or anywhere else that you want to keep the weeds down with minimal effort. It will spill out and creep through any small nook or cranny. The purplish foliage is a great way to add color to your garden as well.

Chequers Spotted Dead Nettle

Close-up of Lamium maculatum 'Checkers' in the garden. The plant has evergreen, heart-shaped, serrated, dark green leaves with a white spot in the center. Masses of beautiful thorns of purple flowers rise above the foliage.
Checkers Spotted Dead Nettle is a fairly aggressive low-growing plant with green-white foliage and purple flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Lamium maculatum ‘Chequers’
height height 8″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Dead nettle is a love or hate plant. It is quite aggressive and can swallow up other plants if you don’t keep it under control. But the green and white foliage with purple flowers of chequers spotted dead nettle are lovely. If you have an area not much will grow, or you’re looking to cover a large area, dead nettle will do the trick.

It can take a variety of sun conditions, however, I think part sun is the sweet spot. It likes well-drained soil. Dead nettle needs water to be established, and then it will grow and spread freely with little extra water.

It comes up and blooms in the spring and adds greenery throughout the season. It also spills and looks great in containers. Since you’ll have so much of it, just dig it up from your garden and put it in your pots.


Close-up of a flowering plant Pulmonaria officinalis in a garden. The plant has large pointed leaves with uneven matte spots. Lungwort blooms with small bell-shaped pink, purple and blue flowers.
This plant blooms in spring with small pink, purple and blue bell-shaped flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Pulmonaria officinalis
height height 12″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Lungwort is a great ground cover for tough-to-grow areas. It can grow in dry and shady conditions. For anyone struggling with growing under large evergreens, lungwort will grow here, as this perennial is shade-friendly.

It blooms little bell-shaped pink and purple flowers in the very early spring. This is why I really like this one. When my garden is a brown sleeping mess, the lungwort comes out and reminds me it’s spring. Then it grows large pointed leaves with irregular frosted spots on it. The leaves are fuzzy and irritating so make sure you use gloves while handling it.

I find in late summer, lungwort will often get powdery mildew. I will take clippers and trim off all the leaves, and a small flush of new leaves will appear.

Creeping Phlox

Top view, close-up of a flowering plant Iberis sempervirens in a sunny garden. The flowers are small, star-shaped, bright pink in color with deep pink markings around the centers of the flowers. The leaves are thin, small, dark green.
Creeping Phlox is a perennial plant that produces bright star-shaped flowers in pink, lavender, and white.
botanical-name botanical name Iberis sempervirens
height height 6″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Moss Phlox is a great evergreen perennial ground cover. It has spiky green foliage and creeps low along the ground. It doesn’t look like much most of the time, but in the spring, the whole thing becomes a mat of star-shaped flowers. There are many varieties of colors, including, white, pink, and lavender. There are also multi-colored and candy-striped varieties.

Moss phlox likes part sun-part shade conditions. It forms a thick mat that weeds can’t grow through. It stays green year-round. Any brown bits can be trimmed out.

This plant looks best when creeping through rocks, pathways, or garden borders. I like to plant it as a river flowing through a bed. This quick-growing ground cover is perfect for sloping areas of your yard or garden.

Variegated Bishop’s Goutweed

Close-up of a flowering plant Aegopodium podagraria. The plant has thin long bare stems with white soaring inflorescences of tiny flowers.
Variegated Bishop’s Goutweed forms a large lush mound of variegated foliage and buds of delicate white flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Aegopodium podagraria
height height 24″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

This one might be controversial. It is extremely aggressive and hard to get rid of once it is planted. Some gardeners even consider it a weed. So put a lot of thought into this one before planting it. It will swallow up other plants and even start creeping into your lawn. The roots are tough and hard to remove. It will keep coming back no matter how hard you try to remove it.

Ok, after that glowing review, you may wonder why anyone would even plant this. But there are instances where this might be the ground cover for you, especially if you have areas that are impossible to grow anything.

These might be areas near the foundation of your house, under tree wells, or on narrow strips of garden that are always bare. Goutweed will cover these areas. They will form a big puffy mound of variegated foliage with spikes of white flowers.

Goutweed can handle shade-sun conditions and doesn’t care about soil. They only need water to establish then they will grow rapidly without much extra (except during very dry periods).

I use this sparingly in gardens and make sure it’s not near anything that it can grow into, such as lawn or other perennials. You probably don’t need to purchase this one. You can likely find a neighbor with it and ask to dig some up.

Blue Spruce Stonecrop

Close-up of a growing groundcover Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce' in a sunny garden. The plant has erect stems covered with thin, needle-like, succulent leaves that are grey-green in color.
This variety of stonecrop has beautiful blue-gray succulent foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’
height height 8″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Blue spruce stonecrop has succulent foliage that resembles a blue spruce (obviously). This full-sun creeper grows great in the nooks and crannies of rock gardens. It will pop out of the tiniest crack and add a punch of color and texture.

Another option is to use it as an alternative lawn. While it won’t take much actual foot traffic, it is low-growing and green. And as a bonus, it doesn’t need much water, and it doesn’t need mowing.

In the summer, it will shoot up spires of bright yellow flowers, which look great against the blue-gray foliage. This plant looks best when spilling out of containers, as well as creeping along the ground. Or topple over or use a broken terracotta pot and have it spilling out and onto the ground.


Close-up of a Cerastium tomentosum ground cover plant in a garden. The plant has silvery narrow leaves and delightful white five-petalled flowers with greenish-yellow centers.
This is a low-growing perennial plant with delicate white flowers and silvery foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Cerastium tomentosum
height height 8″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

Snow-in-summer is a herbaceous perennial ground cover. It has narrow silvery foliage. It lies flat in the ground and forms a thick mat that keeps the weeds down. This perennial likes sandy soil and full sun. It looks great spilling over ledges and as edging in a perennial bed.

The spectacular show comes in summer when the whole thing is covered in dainty white five-petaled flowers. It looks like a carpet of snow. The silvery foliage looks great when paired with deep purple foliage, like a blackjack sedum.

Sweet Woodruff

Top view, close-up of ground cover plant Galium odorata. The plant has bright green, narrow leaves arranged in whorls around the stems. Sweet Woodruff has tiny 4 petal white flowers.
This plant prefers partial sun and moist, rich, well-drained soil.
botanical-name botanical name Galium odorata
height height 12″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Sweet woodruff is an easy little woodland ground cover.  It prefers partially shaded areas of the garden. It also prefers moist, rich, free-draining soil. The little leaves are shiny green and deeply lobed.  In the late spring, it explodes into tiny white flowers.

I like planting this Sweet woodruff under other perennials, like hostas, rhubarb, and astilbe. It keeps the weeds down, keeps the moisture in, and looks really lush.

It is so easy to transplant in the garden. Simply dig it up and plant it in a new space. It doesn’t even go limp, but rather happily grows in its new location.

‘Tidal Pool’ Creeping Speedwell

Close-up of Veronica 'Tidal Pool' flowering plant in a sunny garden. The plant has many blue, 4 petalled flowers with white centers. Long white stamens protrude from the centers of the flowers.
‘Tidal Pool’ Creeping Speedwell has blue tubular flowers with white centers.
botanical-name botanical name Veronica ‘Tidal Pool’
height height 4″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

True blue is one of the rarest colors in the garden. ‘Tidal Pool’ creeping speedwell has a true blue hue. It is a low-growing wooly plant. Speedwell likes sun-part sun conditions and loose sandy soil.

Speedwell also works great along walkways and driveways. It is fairly salt tolerant, so if you are salting your walkways in the winter, it will survive.

In the early spring, the entire plant is covered in tiny blue trumpet-shaped flowers with white centers. It is spectacular when in bloom. But the wooly green foliage is attractive throughout the season.

Vinca Vine

Top view, close-up of a flowering plant in a garden. The flowers are small, divided, round, purple in color with contrasting white eyes in the center of the flower. The leaves are dark green, glossy, oval with narrowed ends.
Vinca vine is an evergreen ground cover that blooms with delightful purplish-blue flowers with white eyes.
botanical-name botanical name Vinca major
height height 6″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

This particular vine doubles as an evergreen ground cover plant. It can be considered invasive in certain areas, so always check before you plant it. This ground cover is an evergreen vine that creeps along the ground. It blooms periwinkle flowers.

This vine prefers part shade-shade conditions and moist, free-draining soil. It’s a hardy plant and can tolerate drought quite well.

I often plant it underneath my hosta gardens to keep the weeds down and moisture in. It also works great in spring containers as it dangles down like ivy.

Final Thoughts

Ground covers add so much to a garden. They add a layer of interest the the bottom of your garden. They retain water, keep weeds down, and prevent erosion. So when planning your garden, make sure to include a few of these beautiful ground covers this season for some additional foliage and beautiful blooms!