19 Ground Cover Plants For Full Sun

Looking for some ground cover plants that can tolerate full sun? We'll show you which ones to consider.

When you want to cover bare soil in your yard, you don’t have to choose the traditional method of planting grass. Be creative and design a space full of color and texture by planting ground cover plants that thrive in full sun. Your yard will look stunning, and the plants will use less fertilizer and water than turf.

These nineteen plants are suited for yards that get a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sun every day.

Benefits of Ground Cover Plants In Full Sun

Beyond needing less water than turfgrass, there are other benefits of using ground cover plants in full sun areas across the yard. The benefits all stem from the plants shading the soil. Creating this shade can help keep the soil temperature slightly cooler, helps retain soil moisture, and cuts down on weed problems by inhibiting germination.

Things to Consider When Choosing Ground Cover Plants

Before choosing sun-loving plants to use as ground cover in your yard, think about a couple of things. First off, you always want to select plants suited for your USDA growing zone. Making sure they are suitable for your climate means they will handle hot summer temps or freezing winters if applicable.

Other factors to consider:

  • If you want flowering or non-flowering plants.
  • How tall they become when fully mature. Not all ground covers are low-growing.
  • Your soil type and how it affects drainage.
  • The pH level of your soil. 
  • A plant’s maintenance requirements, i.e., how much upkeep you’ll need to do.
  • If you need deer or rabbit-resistant plants.

Sun-Loving Ground Cover Plants

To get you going on your search for ground covers that tolerate full sun, here are nineteen different plants that thrive when they get lots of light. This list contains flowering plants, non-flowering plants, shrubs, herbaceous options, plants of different heights, a range of foliage colors, and even some edible varieties. You’ll indeed find one (or more) that catches your attention!

1. Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

USDA Zones: 3 to 7

Cotoneaster isn’t your standard ground cover. Classified as a shrub, cotoneasters grow up to a couple of feet tall. With pruning, you can train it to stay shorter. Small pink or white flowers bloom from May to September, giving way to bright red berries. The dark green foliage changes to red, orange, and bronze hues in the fall.

A group of autumn shrubs in rich red colors.

2. Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)

USDA Zones: 3 to 8

If you’re looking for a unique ground cover, put soapwort on your list. The best variety for full sun landscaping needs is the ‘Max Frei’ with brilliant pink or purple blooms that stay all summer and fall. This fast-growing plant reaches about 12″ in height when fully mature and withstands a lot of sunshine and hot temperatures. Soapwort prefers neutral to acidic soils.

A soapwort max plant with blooming flower.

3. Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)

USDA Zones: 3 to 9

Creeping phlox is hardy across most of the United States, so it’s perfect for almost any climate. It tolerates slightly acidic, neutral, and slightly alkaline soils and grows well in rock gardens and foundation plantings. The 6 to 12-inch tall mat of evergreen foliage erupts into a stunning pink, white, purple, or blue carpet in the late spring.

A stolonifera moss plant with a pink flower surrounded by leaves and grass.

4. Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)

USDA Zones: 4 to 8

With fuzzy, velvety leaves in shades of silvery-green, the lamb’s ear creates a unique ground cover when planted in masses. Plants grow up to 18″ tall, including a flower spike topped with delicate blooms of light purplish pink. The light coloring of this herbaceous perennial makes a great border in front of deep red roses, bougainvillea, hibiscus, or azaleas.

Velvety silvery green leaves of a lamb ear flower.

5. Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis)

USDA Zones: 3 to 7

Yellow alyssum, also known as “Basket of Gold,” is a top-notch choice for a low-maintenance, repeat bloomer. Blue-green foliage gives way to brilliant bright yellow flowers in late spring. After blooming, cut the plant back by one-third to encourage a second flush. The Basket of Gold plant is tolerant of dry conditions and does best in climates with cooler summer temperatures.

A yellow alyssum flowering plant blooming in the garden.

6. Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

USDA Zones: 4 to 9

While this could seem like a drawback to some, these plants give you the aesthetic of strawberry plants with their beautiful green leaves without attracting birds to your yard. Barren strawberries are easy-to-grow and create dense mats of 3 to 6-inch tall foliage with yellow flowers. As autumn sets in, the leaves change to a beautiful shade of bronze.

Growing yellow waldsteinia flowers in a barren land

7. Ice Plant (Delosperma spp.)

USDA Zones: 5 to 9

You don’t need cold temperatures to grow these daisy-like flowers. They get their name because the foliage and red-purple, pink, orange, or yellow flowers appear to shimmer in the sunlight like they’re covered in ice crystals. Ice plants are great if you’re looking for a bold pop of color, and plants only get 6″ tall to create a low ground cover.  

A flowering ice plant with pink petals.

8. Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)

USDA Zones: 3 to 10

Needing soil erosion control on a sunny hillside? Look no further than the surface-hugging creeping juniper or creeping cedar. Dark green, blue-green, or yellow-green foliage spreads for an impressive 10-20′, creating a soft mat between 4 and 8″ tall. Plants are relatively low maintenance are tolerant of salt, making them great for coastal areas. Creeping juniper is also deer-resistant.

A golden carpet creeping juniper plant spreading around rocks.

9. Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)

USDA Zones: 3 to 9

Dangling round leaves of the Golden Creeping Jenny grow on trailing stems that reach up to 18-inches in length, and star-shaped yellow flowers brighten the garden in summer. Plants tolerate drier soils but also enjoy wet areas. Golden Creeping Jenny is the perfect ground cover along rocky water features where the pest and disease-free stems can drape across the rocks.

A yellow bell shape flower creeping out of a wooden space.

10. Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalida)

USDA Zones: 4 to 9

When the tag on this plant says it grows low to the ground, believe it! Purplish ferny foliage reaches no more than 2″ in height and pops with splotches of bright yellow when its button-shaped flowers bloom. Native to New Zealand, plants grow well in neutral to slightly acidic soils and are perfect for cool, drizzly areas like the Pacific Northwest. 

Green brass buttons specifically cotula leptinella spreading the ground.

11. Snow-In-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum

USDA Zones: 3 to 7

This plant looks like snowdrifts of flowers cascading across sandy soils or rocky outcrops in early summer. The mat-forming, light-green foliage grows densely to 6-12″ tall and spreads rapidly, but a 5″ high border will easily keep it in place. Plants are drought-tolerant and don’t like high humidity. It’s best to grow snow-in-summer if you live in a cool, dry climate.

A blooming  snow in summer white flowers.

12. Showy Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)

USDA Zones: 5 to 9

Primrose isn’t a plant you’d normally consider, but it works well as a ground cover! This drought-tolerant perennial grows 10″ tall in neutral to alkaline soils making it excellent for homeowners in the West! During the middle of June, delightful bowl-shaped satiny pink blossoms appear that last until the fall. Flowers close during the day, opening in the evening or when overcast.

A Oenothera speciosa flowering plant growing in between rocks.

13. Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)

USDA Zones: 4 to 9 

Both edible and highly aromatic, creeping thyme provides a dense cushion of evergreen foliage. This easy to care for herb is best for neutral to slightly alkaline soils. It erupts into a fantastic carpet of pink, purple, white, or red flowers when it blooms. Take a walk across the 1 to 2″ tall ground cover to release its minty or lemony scent.

A pink Thymus serpyllum flowering plant spread into the garden.

14. Angelina Sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’)

USDA Zones: 5 to 9 

A member of the stonecrop family, Angelina Sedum is perfect for dry, rocky areas with lots of sun. It is classified as a succulent, but the plant isn’t grown for its flowers but the golden to chartreuse needle-like foliage that takes on reddish tints in the fall. Plants are pest and disease-resistant and typically left alone by deer and rabbits. 

A closeup of Angelina Sedum flowering plant.

15. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)

USDA Zones: 3 to 9 

Contrary to their beauty, the small clusters of white flowers on the candytuft plant give off an unpleasant scent that deters deer and javelina. These drought-resistant woody plants grow about a foot tall to create a beautiful mat of white in the garden. Plants are frost tolerant and prefer dry conditions making them an excellent specimen in rock gardens or xeriscapes.

A blooming Iberis sempervirens of white flowers.

16. Prostrate Speedwell (Veronica prostrata)

USDA Zones: 5 to 9

One of the few blue flowering ground covers on the list, prostrate speedwell is a low-growing, semi-herbaceous plant that grows in most soils and will withstand an occasional bit of drought. The low-maintenance plants grow well in the cold and continuously spread until they get to be 2-feet wide. Blue flowers adorn the 6 to 8″ tall mat-forming plants in early summer. 

The bluish purple flowers of a veronica prostrata.

17. Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis)

USDA Zones: 5 to 9

Blue star creepers plants are often grown as an alternative for traditional lawns. Plants only reach 3″ tall and don’t require regular fertilization or deadheading of the tiny pale blue or purple blooms. Also known as ‘swamp isotome,’ it can handle temperatures down to -4°F and grows even in sandy, gravelly soils. Plants prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soils.

A purple flower of the blue star creeper plant.

18. Creeping Potentilla (Potentilla reptans)

USDA Zones: 4 to 8

Yet another full-sun plant with yellow flowers, the creeping potentilla is excellent for homes with pets and small children. These non-toxic plants have a long medicinal history, but the mat-forming foliage and clusters of sauce-shaped flowers make a beautiful ground cover. Also known as spring cinquefoil, they grow about 6″ tall and are highly resistant to most insects and diseases.

A Potetilla with yellow flowers creeping into soil and rocks.

19. Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa)

USDA Zones: 5 to 10

Strawberries grow in most climates, naturalize easily, and survive for years when you take care of them. The beautiful green leaves and demure white flowers stay low to the ground and creep around anything else in the garden bed, so you don’t have to mulch. Then, you’re rewarded with a sweet, flavorful treat when the berries ripen.

The white flowers of a strawberry plant.
Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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