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Low-maintenance plants for outdoor living areas

by Karen Lawson, All About Lawns Columnist

Hoping to add some visual interest to your outdoor living area? Look to the ground! Groundcover plants provide an appealing transition between man-made elements and landscaping. You can refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find groundcover that will live and thrive in your region.

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Creeping herbs: groundcover options to please the senses

Thyme grows well between stone, concrete, and bricks. In addition to doing well underfoot, it gives off a pleasing scent when crushed. Creeping thyme is well-suited for use in walkways and outdoor "flooring" areas. Varieties of creeping thyme include woolly - which provides a dense groundcover though has less of an aroma - and variegated. More aromatic varieties include caraway and lemon thyme (Thymus herba-barona). Thyme plants thrive in partial to full sun and well-drained soil kept slightly moist. They require very little maintenance.

If you live in a wetter region where thyme wouldn't do well, Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) is also a great choice for groundcover. It likes to be kept moist (though be careful not to overdo it). It spreads quickly, forming a carpet-like mat of aromatic green leaves that stand up well to foot traffic.

Flowering groundcovers: bring on the color

Flowering groundcovers add color and height to outdoor living areas. Some grow taller than may be ideal for pathways are better utilized as path borders or accent plants.

There's no shortage of flowering groundcover varieties. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), also known as carpenter's weed or comfrey, is an especially popular choice. Varieties include "Burgundy Glow" which has tri-colored red, white, and green leaves, and "Chocolate Chip," which has burgundy brown leaves. Both varieties produce spikes of small blue flowers that contrast well with their foliage.

Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) is another popular option - it's not very particular about what kind of soil it needs and grows quickly. Irish moss (Sagina subulata) only grows to be one or two inches tall, is dense, and spreads quickly, making it another great groundcover choice.

Coordinating your outdoor living areas

In addition to being used in your landscaping, groundcover plants can also be potted and brought onto decks, patios, and balconies for an extra burst of color. They come in such a wide variety of pigments that you can even coordinate groundcover with upholstery, outdoor rugs, and planting containers.

With their winning combination of color, texture, and easy care, any variety is sure to add a pleasing natural touch to your outdoor living space.

About the Author
Karen Lawson is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about home improvement and gardening. She earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from the University of Nevada Reno. Karen lives near Reno,Nevada and is usually working on home and gardening projects with "help" from her four dogs.

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