Groundcover Conifers

juniperus horizontalis wiltoniiQuestion: Can you recommend a conifer that makes a good groundcover?

Answer: Low, spreading evergreen conifers are good choices in groundcover, especially where you want to provide some winter interest but leave the spotlight to flowering bulbs, perennials and annuals in other seasons. Groundcover conifers will make a quite background to these showier plants. They can also be a good choice for covering a slope.

Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (shown; Zones 3–9) and J. h. ‘Bar Harbor (Zones 3–9) both stay quite low and send out long branches. Both are a blue-gray color year-round.

Microbiota decussata (Zones 3–7) looks similar to a low juniper but adds the bonus of foliage that changes color through the year. In summer, it is pale green; in iwnter it turns a rich bronze. Juniperus communis var. depressa (Zones 2–7) is a mat-former that looks brownish green in summer and bronze in winter. Such plants are nice because they fade into the background during the warmer months and shine in the cold, just when you need them. Both look great near blue spruce in winter.

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3 thoughts on “Groundcover Conifers

  1. I have the Horitzontal Juniper described above in a semi-shady place and it is doing splendidly. I live in Sunset zone 2 to 3 and we get a lot of sunny days. Shade in a sunny climate is different than shade in Portland Ore, 60 miles away, where there are so many more cloudy days. I’d pick something else for deep shade, as I agree it would be spindly and sad in that environment.

    • With thirty-seven hard worked years as a landscape gardener, I would like to offer my thoughts on “evergreen groundcover conifers”, and how they would do in a shaded yard. My workings with any type of “evergreen groundcover conifer” just as with their many related upright varieties, do best with “the more sunshine the better”. Evergreen conifers in general will “survive” in a shady planting area, but they will not perform to their finest due to lack of sunshine. Planted in shade, an evergreen conifer will show signs of slow growth, thinner growth, and if to dark, a yellowing/browning out of the plant, in seasons to come.
      Don’t be discouraged with a shady yard as there are plenty of shade loving plants that thrive in your yards conditions. Just a few of my favorites that do well in the shade with zone #5. Evergreen ground covers would be pachsyandra,myrtle/periwinkle, and “baltic” ivy. Deciduous shade lovers(perennial)would be, hosta, “lady’s mantle”, daylily,”cranes bill” geranium,liliy of the valley(segregation recommended), and “sweet woodruff”, to name some.
      Hope this helps. Happy gardening.

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