8 Best Ground Cover Plants for California: A Guide to the Best Plants for Your Yard

Choosing the right ground cover plants for California’s diverse climate is essential for creating a beautiful and sustainable landscape. The 8 best ground cover plants for California are known for their low maintenance and ability to thrive in various conditions, including full sun and shade.

From evergreen varieties to those that are fast-growing and can withstand foot traffic, these ground covers offer a range of options for every Californian garden. This article explores these varieties, focusing on both shaded and sunny areas, and guides you in selecting the most suitable plants for your specific needs.

8 Best Ground Cover Plants for California

Understanding the Best Ground Cover Plants for California

When selecting the best ground cover plants for California, it’s crucial to consider factors like climate, soil type, and water availability. Evergreen varieties are popular choices due to their year-round appeal. Among the top choices are plants like Dwarf Coyote Bush and Carmel Sur Manzanita, which are known for their resilience and low-maintenance requirements. 

These plants not only thrive in California’s climate but also provide a lush, green appearance throughout the year. Additionally, options like Beach Strawberry and Creeping Sage are ideal for those seeking fast-growing ground covers that can quickly fill in bare spots while still being low-maintenance and tolerant of foot traffic. These plants are well-suited for California gardens, providing a beautiful and practical solution for covering ground efficiently.

Top Ground Cover Plants for Shaded Areas in California

For shaded areas in California gardens, selecting ground cover plants that can thrive with limited sunlight is important. The best choices include plants like California Sweet Woodruff, Western Sword Fern, Redwood Sorrel, and Pacific Bleeding Heart. These plants are not only adapted to shaded environments but also add a lush, green look to these cooler, less sunny spots. 

Best Ground Cover Plants for California: Redwood sorrel leaves

California Sweet Woodruff is a fast-growing plant that quickly covers bare patches, while Western Sword Fern adds a unique texture with its feathery fronds. Redwood Sorrel offers a beautiful carpet of green, complementing the shaded areas with its low growth habit. Pacific Bleeding Heart, with its delicate foliage and flowers, adds a touch of beauty to shaded gardens, making these four plants excellent choices for low-light conditions.

Full Sun Ground Cover Plants Suitable for California Climate

In California’s sunny areas, choosing ground cover plants that can tolerate and thrive in full sun is essential. Plants like Creeping Thyme, Woolly Yarrow, Dwarf Coyote Bush, and Deer Grass are perfect for these conditions. Woolly Yarrow offers a splash of color with its yellow flowers and is known for its drought tolerance, making it ideal for California’s climate. 

Dwarf Coyote Bush is another low-maintenance option that thrives in full sun, providing a dense, green cover. Deer Grass, with its tall, graceful blades, adds texture and movement to sunny landscapes. These plants are not only visually appealing but also well-suited to withstand the intense sunlight and occasional drought conditions typical in California.

Choosing the Right Ground Cover Plants for California’s Shade

When it comes to selecting ground cover plants for shaded areas in California, it’s important to choose species that can flourish with minimal sunlight. Plants like Coral Bells, Ferns, Hostas, and Bishop’s Hat are excellent choices for these environments. Coral Bells bring a pop of color with their varied leaf hues, while Ferns offer a classic, lush greenery that thrives in cool, shady spots.

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Sedum in the garden

Hostas are a popular choice for shaded gardens, known for their large, decorative leaves.  Bishop’s Hat, with its unique foliage and resilience, is another great option for adding texture and interest to shaded areas. These plants are not only suitable for California’s varied shade conditions but also add an aesthetic appeal to the garden, creating a serene and inviting outdoor space.

Exploring the Best Ground Cover Plants for Full Sun in California

For areas in California that receive full sun, it’s important to choose ground cover plants that are adapted to thrive in bright and hot conditions. Plants like Sedum, California Fuchsia, Santa Barbara Daisy, and Prostrate Rosemary are excellent for these sunny locations. Sedum, with its succulent leaves and drought tolerance, is a great choice for sunny, dry areas. 

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Fresh fern

California Fuchsia provides vibrant colors with its red or orange flowers, attracting pollinators to the garden. Santa Barbara Daisy offers a carpet of small, cheerful flowers, while Prostrate Rosemary not only survives in full sun but also brings an aromatic quality to the landscape. These plants not only withstand the intense California sun but also contribute to a lively, colorful garden that flourishes throughout the year.

The Ultimate Guide to Ground Cover Plants for California Landscapes

In California, where diverse climates range from sun-drenched coasts to shaded forested areas, choosing the right ground cover plants is vital for a vibrant and sustainable landscape. This comprehensive guide emphasizes the importance of considering factors like sunlight exposure, water requirements, and soil type when selecting ground cover plants. For those looking for evergreen options, plants such as Dwarf Coyote Bush and Creeping Thyme are excellent choices, offering year-round greenery and resilience. 

Fast-growing varieties like Beach Strawberry and California Sweet Woodruff are ideal for quickly covering bare patches. At the same time, plants that can withstand foot traffic, such as Creeping Sage, are perfect for high-traffic areas. Whether you’re dealing with a sunny backyard or a shaded garden nook, this guide offers an array of low-maintenance and visually appealing ground cover plants suitable for every corner of a California landscape.

Shade-Loving Ground Cover Plants Perfect for California Gardens

In the cooler, shaded areas of California gardens, certain ground cover plants stand out for their ability to flourish with limited sunlight. Ideal choices include the lush California Sweet Woodruff, the feathery Western Sword Fern, the green-carpeted Redwood Sorrel, and the charming Pacific Bleeding Heart. These plants not only adapt well to lower light conditions but also enhance the beauty of shaded spaces with their varied textures and foliage.

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Bleeding hearts plant

Ferns and Hostas are particularly adept at creating a verdant undergrowth in shaded areas. Coral Bells and Bishop’s Hat provide unique colors and shapes that brighten up these cooler garden spots. These shade-loving plants are essential for adding depth and interest to areas where sunlight is scarce, making them perfect for creating a layered and lush California garden.

Full Sun Ground Cover Plants That Thrive in California’s Climate

For the sunny parts of California, certain ground cover plants truly shine. Creeping Thyme, Woolly Yarrow, Dwarf Coyote Bush, and Deer Grass are superb choices for withstanding the full sun and occasional drought conditions typical of the region. These plants not only tolerate the intense sunlight but also add beauty and texture to the landscape.

Sedum and California Fuchsia are particularly suited for dry, sunny spots, offering drought resistance and vibrant blooms. Santa Barbara Daisy and Prostrate Rosemary not only survive in these conditions but also contribute significantly to the aesthetic appeal of sunlit gardens. These full-sun ground cover plants are key to creating a thriving, colorful garden that can handle the bright and hot California climate.


The rich diversity of California’s landscapes calls for a thoughtful selection of ground cover plants that can adapt to its unique climate zones. From shade-loving varieties like California Sweet Woodruff and Ferns to sun-thriving species like Creeping Thyme and California Fuchsia, the right ground cover can transform any garden into a lush, low-maintenance, and beautiful space.


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