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10 Best Ground Cover Plants for North Carolina: Low-maintenance, Full Sun, and Shade-Loving

North Carolina, with its diverse climate and soil types, offers a wide range of opportunities for gardeners to explore different ground cover plants. From the mountains to the coast, the state’s gardeners seek the 10 best ground cover plants for North Carolina that are low maintenance, suited for full sun or shade, and preferably evergreen. 

Selecting the best ground cover for shade in North Carolina or finding low-maintenance ground cover for shade can be a challenge. However, there are plenty of options, including ground cover plants NC native to the area. This article will guide you through various categories, including drought-tolerant and flowering ground covers, suitable for North Carolina’s varied environments.

10 Best Ground Cover Plants for North Carolina

Shade-Loving Ground Covers for North Carolina

In the cool, dappled shade of North Carolina’s wooded areas, certain plants thrive beautifully. Hostas, with their lush foliage, are a top choice, offering a variety of colors and patterns. They are complemented by the delicate, heart-shaped leaves of Ajuga, which adds a carpet of green and purple to the understory. 

Best Ground Cover Plants for North Carolina: Ajuga reptans Atropurpurea

For those seeking evergreen options, Ferns are a timeless choice, with their feathery fronds creating a prehistoric ambiance. Finally, Pachysandra stands out as a durable and dense cover, its glossy leaves forming an evergreen carpet even in challenging conditions, making it a top pick for low-maintenance ground cover for shade.

Full Sun Ground Cover Plants in North Carolina

The bright, sunny areas of North Carolina are perfect for a range of ground covers that thrive in full sun. Sedum, with its succulent leaves, not only endures the sun but also adds vibrant colors and textures to the landscape.

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Jelly beans sedum cactus

Likewise, Periwinkle, with its glossy leaves and starry flowers, provides a stunning display while withstanding full sunlight. Daylilies are another excellent choice, offering a variety of colors and easy care for sunny spots. And for those who prefer native plants, the Carolina Jessamine, with its brilliant yellow flowers, not only tolerates full sun but also brings a local flair to gardens.

Low-Maintenance Ground Covers for North Carolina Landscapes

For gardeners seeking to reduce their workload, several ground covers offer beauty without high maintenance. Vinca Minor is widely chosen for its lovely flowers and ability to spread quickly, covering large areas with minimal care. Asiatic Jasmine is another robust option, providing a dense mat of foliage with little need for attention. Creeping Jenny, with its bright green leaves, thrives in various conditions and requires minimal upkeep. Lastly, the hardy Ice Plant, with its drought-resistant qualities and vibrant flowers, is perfect for busy gardeners in North Carolina.

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periwinkle flowers

Native Ground Covers for North Carolina Shade Gardens

Incorporating native plants into the garden is an excellent way to support local ecosystems. For shade gardens, the Wild Ginger is a superb choice, with its unique, heart-shaped leaves adding a lush feel. Partridgeberry is another native gem, offering delicate, evergreen foliage and charming small flowers. For a touch of color, the native Foamflower showcases lovely white blooms that brighten shady spots. Lastly, the Dwarf Crested Iris, native to North Carolina, provides beautiful flowers and is particularly well-suited to shaded garden areas.

Drought-Tolerant Ground Covers for North Carolina Full Sun Areas

For areas that experience dry spells, selecting drought-tolerant ground covers is crucial. Stonecrop is an ideal candidate, thriving in dry conditions with its succulent leaves and colorful flowers. Lamb’s Ear, with its soft, silvery foliage, is not only drought-tolerant but also adds texture to the landscape. The vigorous Bearberry stands up to dry conditions while providing a dense, evergreen mat. And for a burst of color, the Blanket Flower flourishes in full sun and dry soil, showcasing vibrant blooms throughout the summer.

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Lamb's ear gardening

Evergreen Ground Covers for North Carolina Shade and Sun

Evergreen plants provide year-round interest in gardens. For both shade and sun areas in North Carolina, the Wintercreeper is a versatile choice, offering dense foliage and adaptability to various conditions. Another excellent evergreen is the English Ivy, known for its classic look and ability to cover large areas swiftly. In sunny spots, the robust Mondo Grass forms a lush, green carpet throughout the year. In shaded areas, the Japanese Spurge is a favored evergreen, providing a low, dense cover with glossy leaves.

Flowering Ground Covers for North Carolina Shade Gardens

For those who desire flowers in their shade gardens, several ground covers provide colorful blooms. The Bleeding Heart is a stunning plant with its heart-shaped pink flowers dangling beneath arching stems. Similarly, the Bunchberry offers charming white flowers, followed by bright red berries, adding multiple seasons of interest.

The perennial Columbine, with its unique bell-shaped flowers, brings elegance and color to shady spots. Lastly, the Hellebore, or Lenten Rose, brightens the late winter and early spring with its beautiful, cup-shaped flowers, making it a favorite among North Carolina gardeners.

Ground Covers That Thrive in Both Shade and Full Sun in North Carolina

Finding ground covers that can thrive in both shade and full sun in North Carolina is a valuable asset for versatile landscaping. Ajuga is a top contender, with its ability to adapt to varying light conditions while providing a dense, colorful mat. Another excellent choice is the Sweet Woodruff, known for its fragrant, star-shaped flowers and tolerance to different light environments.

For a touch of elegance, the variegated leaves of Liriope make it a standout, flourishing equally well in sun and shade. Finally, the ever-popular Ivy proves its worth by adapting seamlessly to both bright and dim areas, making it a go-to plant for challenging spots in the garden.

Ground Covers for Erosion Control in North Carolina Landscapes

Erosion control is a critical aspect of landscape management in North Carolina, and certain ground covers excel in this role. The vigorous growth of Creeping Phlox makes it ideal for stabilizing soil, especially on slopes, while its springtime bloom adds beauty. Juniper varieties, with their dense, mat-forming habit, are excellent for holding soil in place and providing year-round greenery.

Crown Vetch, often used in roadside plantings, is effective in preventing soil erosion and adds a burst of flowers to the mix. For wetter areas, the robust growth of the Swamp Milkweed not only controls erosion but also attracts pollinators, serving a dual purpose in the landscape.

Ground Covers to Attract Pollinators in North Carolina Gardens

To attract pollinators in North Carolina gardens, selecting flowering ground covers that provide nectar and pollen is key. Bee Balm is a favorite among bees and butterflies, offering vibrant flowers and a pleasant fragrance. The low-growing Thyme, when in bloom, is irresistible to bees, and its culinary uses are a bonus for gardeners.

The Butterfly Weed, true to its name, is a magnet for butterflies with its bright orange blossoms. Lastly, Sedum, particularly the Autumn Joy variety, attracts a wide range of pollinators with its late-season flowers, providing nectar when other sources are scarce.


North Carolina’s diverse climate and terrain offer a unique canvas for gardeners to experiment with a variety of ground covers. From the evergreen options that provide year-round beauty to the drought-tolerant varieties that withstand the sun’s full force, there is a ground cover for every need. The choice of plants that thrive in both shade and full sun, those that control erosion, and those that attract pollinators further underscore the versatility and importance of ground covers in North Carolina landscapes. 


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