Question: I’m looking for an evergreen groundcover—something other than vinca, and it has to stand up to a Zone 4 winter. What do you recommend as a hardy evergreen groundcover?
Answer: There are a number of low-growing plants native to the colder areas of North America that may work for you. Many of these can take summer heat as well as winter cold. Aside from contributing a carpet of green all winter, many offer pretty spring or summer flowers and decorative berries.
Here are a few of the hardiest evergreen groundcovers:
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): Thick green leaves often turn a bright red in cold weather. White flowers and red berries. Best in full sun. USDA Zones 2–6.
Dwarf Oregon grape (Mahonia repens): Spreads by underground stolons to form a 4-by-6-foot, 12-inch-tall mat of bright green, holly-like leaves. Cold weather tints the leaves purple. Bright yellow flowers, blue fruit. Zones 2–6.
Ratstripper (Paxistima canbyi): With its shiny dark green leaves, it resembles a low, spreading yew. Spreads slowly but tolerates everything but soggy soil. Sun or shade. Zones 4–8.
Bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia): Narrow, silvery leaves on unbranched stems to 12 inches tall. White or pink bell flowers appear in spring and sporadically through the summer. Foliage turns darker in winter. Requires sun, peaty soil and even moisture. Zones 2–6.
See our CD on gardening in the shade