Winter Groundcover

It’s the beginning of Winter and the landscape has some terrible bare spots.  Winter in East Tennessee can be wet and muddy.  Even large beds that are freshly mulched can look drab without some evergreen foliage.  Here are several perennial plants that can be added as winter groundcover for color, texture and will help control soil erosion.

For The Shade

For shade areas use Pachysandra, Vinca (Periwinkle), Dwarf Mondo Grass or Monkey Grass (Liriope).

  • Pachysandra stands 6″-8″ tall and has glossy leaves.  Planted in mass, it looks very clean and neat all year long.  Due to its heighth, it is not a good plant for areas that receive foot traffic (human or four legged friends).
  • Periwinkle (Vinca) grows low to the ground and has a vining effect, so it is also not good for foot traffic.  Perwinkle has small green leaves along the rooting stem.  It has beautiful periwinkle blue flowers in the Spring.  It also looks good all year with little or no maintenance.
  • Monkey Grass (Liriope) is a commonly used grass-like plant that spreads rapidly and grows 10-12″ tall.  It will grow anywhere, but can be invasive and difficult to control sometimes.  It also benefits from a trimming in February to remove Winter foliage.  You can trim with a lawn mower or weed eater, as long as it’s done before the new growth emerges.
  • Dwarf Mondo Grass is a nice tight, low growing grass-like plant that will fill in like a turf grass without needing the constant maintenance of a lawn.  It also looks great all year long.
winter groundcover

Monkey Grass

For The Sun

Sunny areas that are too steep to mow or too hard to maintain can be planted with prostrate types of Junipers or Cotoneaster.

  • Junipers called Blue Rug, Japanese Garden or Blue Pacific Shore are three great evergreen that will create a blue-green carpet.  Each plant spreads 5′ or so and only gets 2-6″ tall.  It doesn’t take a lot of plants to cover a muddy slope!  Please mulch between them to maintain moisture, deter weeds and keep the soil from eroding until they completely grow together.


  • Cotoneaster has tiny leaves, red berries and white flowers in the Spring.  Two of our favorite evergreen varieties are Striebs Findling & Scarlet Leader.  Striebs Findling grows flat on the ground forming a nice tight, dense carpet.  Scarlet Leader which can grow two feet tall and spreads 4-5′ wide.  Cotoneasters also get a reddish tint to the leaves that lasts all winter long for additional color.
Winter Groundcover


An evergreen carpet of groundcover goes a long way toward brightening the winter landscape and covering up those muddy bare spots.  Winter groundcover can be planted during the winter, as long as the ground is not frozen.  Make sure to apply a layer of mulch to protect them.  Don’t mix varieties of groundcover plants in a bed.  Stick to one type for a cohesive and maintainable look.   Pick a nice sunny day in the winter and get out and play in the dirt!