Ground cover plants help fill in space between permanent features, gardens and other areas of the garden. In Southern California the best choices are plants that accept a hot, sunny summer without rain and a mild, but wetter summer. This article is a continuation of the previous Ground cover plants for Southern California article with more suggestions for some good plants to use.

Rosemary flowers

Close up of rosemary flowers

Rosemary has several creeping varieties that offer an evergreen flooring studded with pale or bright blue flowers. Trail some over walls, spill them out of pots or let them ramble across hillsides or flat ground. They won’t be fazed by either hot sun or temperatures that slip a bit under freezing. The old standby, creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus prostratus) is a sure thing to fill in almost any place in full sun. R. ‘Collingswood’ is a variety that will give you brighter colored flowers. For one of the most intensely colorful prostrate varieties R. ‘Irene’ can’t be beat. Rosemary plants are easy, low-maintenance, drought-tolerant,  ground covers for most any area, doing well even on difficult soils, however, they do draw bees, so you might want to think twice before using too much rosemary close to bathing areas. Another benefit of planting rosemary is that even the most decorative variety will serve well for cooking. And if you have wandering pets on your land, they just might return to you smelling wonderfully herbal after meandering around your property!


Purple flowers of the Verbena rigida

Verbena comes in not only a choice of colors, but a selection of varieties. There is the annual verbena that allows you to choose almost any color you want, but only for the short life span of any annual. Or there are perennial versions of reasonably drought-tolerant verbena usually seen in lavender colors. Verbena tenuisecta is a tougher variety, also in the lavender purple color range.  Verbena rigida, with its slightly taller and more course appearance is tougher still. This latter variety is very drought-tolerant and will do well in full sun, sometimes becoming mildly invasive with a little extra water. It runs with underground roots and pushes its rough-leaved shoots between other plants to show off its bright purple flowers over a long season. Verbenas are ideal for water conscious landscapes.

You can always find the ubiquitous Gazania daisy in affordable flats as a ground cover for large areas.

Gazania flowers

Gazania flowers almost look painted

The interior kalidescopic designs are fascinating and they do come in a wide assortment of colors.  Other ground covers may be less colorful, like using creeping red fescue to give a long shiny green-grass effect, particularly effective on hills. Flat areas can be seeded with mixed low-growing wildflowers to create meadows. Low growing succulents like some small sedums as well as the low mounding blue grass of the Festuca ovata glauca are drought tolerant and work wonderfully in Southwestern, Cactus or natural-styled gardens. Some of the prostrate junipers will give you evergreen coverage that will require hardly any upkeep. 

Consider some of the low-growing thymes or the yellow-flowering Dymondia to fill in between stepping stones or flagstones in the Southern California garden. You can plant drifts of different plants to cover large areas. And feel free to mix different sized plants to get a rolling feel to a design. You might want to use several different plants with various colored foliage, or different height plants that all bloom with similar colors. Some, like many Achilleas (yarrows) and salvias tend to grow a little taller, and some, like ice plants and thymes are ground-huggers.

There are many more living ground cover plants available that can enhance the Southern Californial landscape. The style of your garden, your personal taste, your micro-climate, budget and the availability of material will all influence your choice.

Check for some more suggestions in Ground cover plants for Southern California: Part 3.