10 of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds – with growing tips from the experts

Grow these plants to cut down on weeding time

Best ground cover plants to prevent weeds including heuchera and bugleweed or bugle
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ground cover plants offer a host of benefits in the garden, but perhaps most important is their ability to suppress weed growth. But what are the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds?

From flowering varieties to evergreen stalwarts, there are options for all garden ideas – and besides knowing how to trim ground cover plants, you'll be able to enjoy attractive, low-maintenance borders.

‘Ground cover plants form a dense mat over the soil by spreading low,’ says Jane Dobbs, Team Lead for Gardening at Allan’s Gardeners. ‘Gardeners love these plants because they prevent weeds, reduce soil erosion, and make gardens look great.’

We asked the experts for their top picks for the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds.

Purple creeping thyme in garden is an example of best ground cover plants to prevent weeds

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Jane Dobbs from Allan's Gardeners
Jane Dobbs

Jane has been working in gardening for ten years, now managing a fantastic group of gardeners. Her favourite aspect of gardening is that it teaches patience.

Jane currently lives in London and has a small flower oasis on her balcony.

1. Bugleweed

First on the list of best ground cover plants to prevent weeds is bugleweed.

'Also known as Ajuga, bugleweed is a fast-spreading ground cover with attractive foliage and blue flower spikes,' says Jane from Allan's Gardeners. 'Sun and partial shade are both suitable for it.'

There are a couple of factors to consider before planting. 'Bugle requires moisture so it doesn't always do well beneath trees and shrubs as the ground can be too rooty and dry,' says Annelise, horticultural expert for Thompson & Morgan. 'In moist conditions, Ajuga spreads rapidly, creating a loose mat of creeping stolons. Simply cut off sections and replant them to spread it around the garden.'

Where to buy bugleweed:

Purple bugleweed or bugle growing in garden as ground cover plant

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Annelise Brilli
Annelise Brilli

Annelise Brilli is the horticultural copywriter for Thompson & Morgan. Annelise caught the gardening bug from her mother, whose tiny backyard was crammed with a huge collection of plants.

She is passionate about sustainable gardening and has developed her own wildlife-friendly garden which she has opened as part of Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail.

2. Creeping thyme

Creeping thyme is an attractive feature to consider when brainstorming garden border ideas, so we're glad to see it make the list of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds.

'With its small purple flowers and fragrant leaves, creeping thyme is a low-growing perennial,' says Jane from Allan's Gardeners. 'Well-drained soil and sunshine are best for this plant.'

Creeping thyme is also a popular low-maintenance lawn alternative, and it's drought-tolerant, too.

Where to buy creeping thyme:

Purple creeping thyme is an example of best ground cover plants to prevent weeds

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Lesser periwinkle

There are ground cover plants to suit every soil type, meaning you'll find at least one match even in more challenging conditions.

'For drier soils in trickier, shadier locations such as under trees or on slopes and banks I would choose the lesser periwinkle, Vinca minor 'Variegata Alba',' says Kate Turner, gardening guru at Miracle-Gro. 'They have pretty, evergreen glossy leaves that have white edges and star-shaped white flowers.

'Unlike its cousin, the major periwinkle, this is easier to control and prettier, and it's one of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds.'

Where to buy lesser periwinkle:

Blue purple lesser periwinkle growing in garden as ground cover plant to prevent weeds

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Hardy geraniums

Hardy geraniums don't just look good in a garden border or raised flower bed – they're also one of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds.

'For gorgeous spring to late summer flowering cover, go for cottage garden geraniums,' says Kate, for whom hardy geraniums are a number one choice.

'Not the big blowsy Mediterranean types used in containers and hanging baskets, but the lower growing, pinks, whites and blues of the perennial geranium such as Geranium Clarkeii 'Kashmir White' or Geranium Sanguineum. Pretty cup-shaped flowers on delicate foliage belies their toughness and these spread beautifully without becoming invasive.'

Purple flowers of Mrs Kendall Clark geranium as one of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Annelise from Thompson & Morgan also recommends hardy geraniums as one of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds: 'Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is the longest flowering ground cover geranium I know. It’s a vigorous and resilient plant, capable of bouncing back from the summer droughts we have been having while also coping well with winter wet.

'It has fairly lax, wiry stems, flopping nicely over edges or propping itself up against adjacent plants. Its flowering period is astounding and – provided it has sufficient moisture, sun and food – it will keep pumping out blooms from May to October.'

Where to buy hardy geraniums:

5. Lady's mantle

Lady's mantle is a popular choice for garden borders, and it also makes the list of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds – especially when coupled with catmint.

'Alchemilla mollis, or lady's mantle, is especially effective when partnered with varieties of catmint (Nepeta),' says Annelise.

'Both make excellent ground cover for border edges, are drought tolerant and enjoy free-draining, sunny sites. They have nicely contrasting foliage and flower in perfect unison with the lime-green frothy flowers of the Alchemilla, beautifully highlighting the blue spikes of the Nepeta.

'Once flowering is over, both can be cut right down to the ground and fed and watered, producing fresh foliage and hopefully a second flush of flowers.'

Where to buy lady's mantle and catmint:

  • Thompson & Morgan: several varieties of lady's mantle to choose from.
  • Sarah Raven: purple varieties of catmint to add to your garden border.

6. Heucheras

Green and purple heuchera leaves with pink flowers as example of ground cover plants which prevent weeds

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Heuchera are another popular ground cover plant that helps to prevent weeds. Not only do they make stunning winter flowers for hanging baskets and shade-loving plants for pots, but they also thrive in the ground.

‘Heucheras are excellent at any time of year, bringing unusual colour and stunning low mounds of foliage to borders and beds,’ says Stephanie Harrod, founder of Harrod Horticultural.

Where to buy heucheras:

Founder of Harrod Horticultural Stephanie Harrod in garden next to vegetable plants
Stephanie Harrod

Founder of Harrod Horticultural, the UK’s leading manufacturer of garden supplies, tools and equipment, Stephanie is a keen gardener with a vision to transform outdoor spaces into havens of beauty and functionality. Combining her love for nature with innovative designs, Stephanie has cultivated a brand synonymous with quality and style, empowering gardeners to flourish in their craft.

7. English ivy

Borders are a great place to test your ivy garden ideas, and English ivy also happens to be one of the best ground cover plants to prevent weeds.

'English ivy is a tough, climbing ground cover that can grow under all kinds of conditions,' says Jane from Allan's Gardeners.

'With its evergreen foliage, it offers year-round greenery.'

Where to buy English ivy:

  • Gardening Express: pick from several varieties of English ivy.
  • Thompson & Morgan: try this non-climbing English ivy plant to help prevent weeds.

8. Japanese spurge

Japanese spurge or pachysandra growing in garden as ground cover plant to prevent weeds

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pachysandra isn't just a great option for living wall ideas - you can grow it as ground cover to prevent weeds, too.

'Pachysandra terminalis, or Japanese spurge, is another evergreen ground cover that performs well in shade,' says Jane from Allan's Gardeners. 'Due to its dense growth habit, it is effective at suppressing weeds.'

Where to buy Japanese spurge:

9. Anemones

Anemone flowers in full bloom

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Anemones are a nice perennial option for late summer shows,' says Stephanie from Harrod Horticultural. 'They boast a carpet of foliage covering the ground and tall, narrow flowers emerging from the top.'

Where to buy anemones:

10. The ice plant

Sprinkle some colour into your border by adding the ice plant to your garden.

'The ice plant has bright, daisy-like flowers,' says Jane from Allan's Gardeners. 'It's highly drought-tolerant, perfect for sunny, dry spots.'

It's a succulent, and also a perennial plant, meaning it will stick around for years to come.

Where to buy the ice plant:

  • Dobies: choose from a bright range of ice plant varieties.
  • Thompson & Morgan: hot pink ice plants to feature in your ground cover.

Ice plant or Delosperma growing as ground cover plant to prevent weeds

(Image credit: Getty Images)


Do ground cover plants suppress weeds?

If you're wondering if ground cover plants will stop weeds growing in your garden, you'll be pleased to know it's one of several advantages they offer.

'Ground cover plants are traditionally used as weed cover and to help bind soil, especially on a slope,' says Kate Turner from Miracle-Gro. 'They are generally easy to maintain as well as being starters in their own right.

'Try not to choose anything too vigorous such as a low, fast-growing bamboo, which will take over your garden, or the classic Cotoneaster horizontalis, as this can look straggly very quickly and weeds always seem to find a way through!'

What is the best low maintenance ground cover?

'Creeping thyme, sedums, bugleweed, creeping Jenny, lesser periwinkle and Pachysandra are great examples of low-maintenance groundcovers,' says Jane from Allan's Gardeners.

'These fast-growing plants all provide unique benefits, like easily tolerating foot traffic, and can thrive with little care, making them excellent ground covers for low-maintenance gardens.'

Grow these ground cover plants to prevent weeds

Hopefully, this list will give you plenty of inspiration for adding ground cover plants to prevent weeds in your garden. Which varieties will you be trying?

Sophie King
Gardens Editor

I joined the Ideal Home team as Gardens Editor in June 2024. After studying English at Royal Holloway, University of London, I began writing for Grow Your Own, which spurred on my love of gardening. I’ve tried growing almost every vegetable under the sun, and I have a soft spot for roses and dinnerplate dahlias.

As Gardens Editor, I’m always on the lookout for the latest garden trend. I love sharing growing hacks for every space, from herbaceous borders to balconies.

When I haven’t got my hands in the soil, I can be found curled up on the sofa with my cat and a good book.