Mother Earth Living

Drought Tolerant Groundcovers

By Chris McLaughlin
February/March 2010
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Wooly yarrow does best in full sun.
Photo by Jerry Pavia
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Note: While a plant may be labeled as "drought-tolerant," this always describes the plant after it's been established. New plantings require regular watering for a couple of months.

Sunny areas require extra ground coverage to keep moisture in the soil. These nine herbal groundcovers will thrive in hot areas while keeping moisture close to plant roots.

Wooly yarrow (Achillea tomentosa). 10 inches tall and wide; Zones 3-8; pull your shoes off and let your feet enjoy. Yarrow does best in full sun.

Persian catmint (Nepeta racemosa). 6 to 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide; Zones 4-8; gray-green leaves. Grows best in full sun.

Creeping golden marjoram (Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’). 6 inches tall; Zones 4-9; golden, bright foliage; white with pink bracts flowers in spring. Likes sun; leaves  will burn if the sun is too intense.

Platinum sage (Salvia daghestanica). 8 to 10 inches tall; Zones 5-10; silvery leaves with blue flowers in spring. This is a lovely and unusual herb. Platinum sage is at its best in areas that receive half sun and half shade.

Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantine and cultivars). 12 to 18 inches tall and 2 feet wide; Zones 4-8; excellent for crowding out weeds; delightful in a children’s garden; plant it where you can stroke it as you walk by. Lamb’s ears grows well in full sun and partial shade.

Wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys var. compactum). 5 inches tall and 16 inches wide; Zones 5-9; lavender flowers; glossy, deep green leaves. This herb prefers a sunny spot in the yard.

Wooly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus). About 3 inches, spreads indefinitely; Zones 5-9; tiny tubular flowers; spills nicely over walls, pavers and stones. Thymes are sun-worshippers, but they’ll tolerate part shade.

Creeping thyme (T. serpyllum). 6 inches tall and 18 inches wide; Zones 4-9; dark foliage; pink or lavender flowers. 

Periwinkle (Vinca major or V. minor and cultivars of both). Up to 12 inches tall and spreads indefinitely; Zones 4-9; excellent choice for sloping ground as it binds well to the soil; whorled purple flowers. This pretty groundcover thrives in shady or semi-shady areas.


Chris McLaughlin’s book on composting, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting (Alpha/Penguin, 2010), will be published in April.

Click here for the main article,  5 Reasons to Plant Herbal Groundcovers .








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