University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
are valuable plants in any landscape. Bluegrass lawns are popular
in full-sun sites where foot traffic is heavy, but other
appropriate for many places. These include slopes where erosion
important, shaded areas where many grasses do not perform well,
more visual interest is desirable, and spaces where a mown lawn
have a large mown area, consider regular mowing for only those areas
set off the home or garden beds, or for recreation. Replace other
space with beds of
groundcovers, particularly around trees where grass struggles. For
groundcovers, consider these six plants native to northern New
England. They are superior landscape plants, growing
well in the region to which they are adapted, and are widely
available at many nurseries
and many garden centers.
(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is one of the most beautiful and
groundcovers available. It is just a few inches tall, but with time
expands to two
feet or more across. Its glossy green leaves form a dense mat. In
produces dainty white/pink bell-shaped flowers. Bright red fruits
follow in the fall. This
plant prefers sandy to gravelly soil, and full to part sun.
(Cornus canadensis) requires moist, acid soil and grows well
in sun or
partial shade. This six-inch plant expands rather slowly into a
groundcover about 12 inches across. Its shiny dark green leaves turn
in fall. The white bracts around the tiny flowers are very showy in
spring, and the clusters of scarlet
fruits in August persist into winter and are eaten by many birds.
can be a bit more challenging in home landscapes.
(Gaultheria procumbens) is also called creeping wintergreen,
a name that
refers to the fragrance released when leaves are crushed.
Checkerberry forms a four-inch
high creeping groundcover to about a foot wide, valued for its
leaves. It grows best in moist, acidic, sandy organic soil.
juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) is perhaps the most popular
juniper in the United States. Plants reach one to two feet in height
four to eight feet across, although many selected cultivars
varieties) vary significantly from that size. Creeping junipers do
best in full
sun and tolerate heat and drought well once established. At least
originated in Maine: 'Bar Harbor' was found in rock crevices on Mt.
Island. 'Blue Rug' was introduced to the industry in 1914 after it
discovered on Vinalhaven Island off the coast of Maine. Avoid
and plant where plenty of air circulation, to lessen the chance of
diseases. Some cultivars may have
disease resistance, but this seems to vary with location.
(Mitchella repens) is a very hardy, two-inch groundcover that
sometimes called Twinberry. Its dark green leaves often have whitish
pinkish flowers are very fragrant in early summer, and the red
fruits add color
to the planting in fall and winter. This plant requires moist, acid
shade. It is often found in woodlands growing among moss.
Partridgeberry is not an aggressive
groundcover for large areas, but it is a delightful shade garden
plant for the
blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is prized for its tasty
August, but it has many other attributes that make it useful as a
It tolerates dry, sandy soils although moisture is important for
size. Growing about a foot high, a lowbush blueberry plant can reach
two feet or more across. They’re often found growing in dense mats
acidic soils, in full sun. Cut back
every few years, or even mow at a high setting, to make plants more
blueberry is truly a plant for all seasons. In spring, its new
foliage is often
bronze. In early summer it produces white or pink flowers. By
dense foliage is beautiful, and in late summer the blue fruits
provide food for
people, birds, and many other animals. In late fall the foliage
forms a mosaic
of red, wine, purple, and orange. In winter, the reddish stem color
with the snow.
Native Americans dried the
berries and pounded them into “moosemeat” -- an ingredient they used
pemmican. Today you can find a few
cultivars with good red fall foliage, such as ‘Brunswick’ or ‘Ruby
Carpet’. ‘Top Hat’ is a popular cultivar
with good fall color, a globe-shaped habit making it good for large
and large berries.