The topic of a succulent ground cover is an interesting one.
If you’ve been thinking of using succulents as a water-saving, easy-care groundcover, you’re in good company.
These versatile plants are an excellent choice for many uses in your home, yard, and garden, so why not try them as a water-saving lawn and landscape alternative?
There are many types of succulents available for use in the landscape.
However, some succulents are better for use as a ground cover than others.
In this article, we will introduce you to a wide variety of choices and succulents making excellent ground covers. Read on to learn more.
Stonecrop or Sedum
These evergreen perennial succulents make an excellent groundcover because they are low growing and tend to sprawl and spread enthusiastically.
There are many different types of Sedum plants to choose from, and they can all do quite well in a wide variety of light settings.
Generally speaking, sedum prefers full sun, but you do have some wiggle room with some types.
There is also some variation in their temperature tolerance.
Some types of Stonecrop are very frost hardy and can live in the northernmost settings in the United States.
Other types are better suited to more temperate zones.
Some of the best choices in sedum groundcovers include:
Sedum Spurium Or Red Carpet
Sedum spurium or Red Carpet is also known as Caucasian Stonecrop or Dragon’s Blood Stonecrop.
This native of Eastern Europe is one of the cold-hardy varieties, and its leaves turn a beautiful shade of burgundy or reddish-purple with the changing of the seasons.
It can tolerate both extreme heat and extreme cold, and it is cold hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 3.
Even after extreme winters with temperatures as low as -40° degrees Fahrenheit (-40° C), this rugged plant will return.
Throughout the growing season, this pretty groundcover is blanketed with pink, star-shaped flowers which are quite attractive to pollinators.
Caucasian Stonecrop attains a height of no more than 6” inches and may attain a spread as wide as 2’ feet.
Sedum Reflexum Blue Stonecrop or Jenny Stonecrop
Sedum reflexum Blue Stonecrop is also called Jenny Stonecrop or Blue Spruce.
The foliage is bluish-green and transitions to attractive shades of yellow and pink in the cooler months.
Full sunlight will also cause this transition. These low growing succulents attain a height of no more than 5” inches.
They are good companions for Red Carpet because they, too, are quite frost hardy.
Sedum Japonicum Or Tokyo Sun
Sedum Japonicum or Tokyo Sun is a lime green variety of sedum only growing to be about 3” inches high.
This attractive, eye-catching sedum is best suited for more temperate climates as it is not particularly cold hardy and cannot tolerate very extreme winters.
Hen & Chicks is a common name for Sempervivum of all sorts.
These plants propagate themselves easily and enthusiastically by sending out miniatures of themselves all around, hence the common name, Hen & Chicks.
These hardy, easy-care plants do their very best in full sunlight but can tolerate some shade.
There are many different types of sempervivum in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and shapes.
All of them are very good as groundcovers. Some Sempervivums exceling as ground covers are:
Sempervivum Arachnoideum Cobweb Hen & Chicks
Sempervivum arachnoideum Cobweb Hen & Chicks are easy to recognize because it is covered by fine white hairs which look like cobweb covering the entire plant.
The rosettes of this attractive plant change colors as winter approaches and become a very pretty shade of burgundy.
This sempervivum can tolerate very high and very low temperatures and thrives in full sunlight.
Sempervivum Moss Rose
Sempervivum Moss Rose has very pale green leaves edged by a little bit of magenta.
This sempervivum also has very small, fine soft hairs along the leaf edges.
Moss Rose grows to be about 6” inches high, and each plant may spread as far as a foot.
This is a frost hardy succulent which likes to be planted in very bright light or full sun.
Sempervivum Calcareum Or Fire Dragon
Sempervivum Calcareum or Fire Dragon has very good looking bluish-green rosettes with deep burgundy tips.
This succulent is a little bit taller and typically grows to be about 4” – 6” inches high.
Fire Dragon likes to be planted in full sun and is frost tolerant.
Agave plants are a genus of desert plants coming in a wide variety of sizes and colors. All grow in a distinctive rosette shape and have very pointed leaves.
Some desert species can grow to be 10’ feet high and are a bit of a threat to be around.
Many dwarf species are small, easily managed, and make good ground covers.
Care of agaves varies depending upon the climate and condition in which the plant originated.
Good groundcover agaves include:
Agave Parryi Or Parry’s Agave
Agave parryi or Parry’s agave makes a very interesting groundcover, especially for a xeriscaped yard.
This native of Mexico and the American Southwest is an excellent choice as a groundcover in a desert yard.
It does very well planted in full sun and is extremely tolerant of intense heat.
Even so, it is also quite cold tolerant and can survive temperatures as low as -20° degrees Fahrenheit (-29° C).
Parry’s agave grows to be about a foot high and may spread as wide as 3’ feet.
Blue Glow Agave
Agave Blue Glow is a small type of agave forming a solitary rosette.
This attractive garden plant likes to be placed in full sunlight and is tolerant of frost.
The bluish-green leaves are quite wide and have attractive red margins.
These plants can grow to be 2’ feet high and may spread as far as 3’ feet.
In a large area without any foot traffic or with paths cut through, they can make an interesting groundcover.
Alternately, a blue glow agave makes a nice specimen plant amidst smaller groundcover succulents.
Agave Victoriae-Reginae or Queen Victoria Agave
Agave Victoriae-Reginae is a more compact plant with an interesting green, geometrical rosettes marked in white.
The slow-growing agave only attains a height of about 1’ foot and may spread as far as 2’ feet.
They do well in full sun and cannot tolerate harsh winters.
Mild frost is tolerable.
Agave Titanota or Rancho Tambor Agave
Agave Titanota or Rancho Tambor Agave has a solitary growth habit, so it is ideal as a specimen plant.
It does not produce pups aggressively.
This attractive agave has wide bluish-green/silvery leaves with serrated edges.
This plant is tall and slim, growing to a height of about 2’ feet but a width of only about 6” inches.
Plant this attractive agave in full sunlight, but shelter it from frost.
We are all familiar with Aloe Vera plant, which makes a nice house plant in most North American climates.
There are also many outdoor aloes which are dwarves of an abundant species of tree-like plants growing to be as tall as 30’ feet.
The smaller Aloe species do well both as container plants and in the landscape, planted in full sunlight.
Smaller species tend to be less frost tolerant than larger species.
Good groundcover Aloes include:
Aloe Cameronii or Red Aloe
Aloe Cameronii or Red Aloe hails from Zimbabwe and Malawi.
This plant grows to be about 1’ – 2’ feet high and can spread as far as 4’ feet.
The leaves are pale green when kept in a shaded location with ample water.
If kept in a sunny location and given less water, the leaves turn an attractive shade of coppery red.
In full sunlight, this Aloe will stay red year-round.
The plant is quite cold hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
Aloe Nobilis or Gold Tooth Aloe
Aloe Nobilis or Gold Tooth Aloe is a South African native.
It grows in an attractive, compact rosette shape and produces beautiful blossoms during the growing season.
The serrated leaves are lime green with white edges.
Although this white edging looks a bit dangerous, it is quite soft and harmless.
Given a full sun setting or a very hot ambient temperature, the leaves change color and become an attractive shade of orangish-red.
Gold tooth Aloe tolerates both very high and very low temperatures and is cold hardy down to 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
Aloe Humilis or Spider Aloe
Aloe Humilis or Spider Aloe is a remarkably hardy member of this family.
Hailing from South Africa, this plant has very pale, bluish-green leaves edged with white serration.
The plant grows in low, compact clusters spreading as far as a foot.
Spider Aloe is an extremely carefree succulent which does well when left pretty much to its own devices.
These succulents are available in many sizes, shapes, and colors.
They grow well in extremely harsh growing environments and thrive when left on their own as a groundcover.
Here are some of the best choices in Crassula plants as groundcovers:
Crassula Muscosa Or Lizard’s Tail
Crassula muscosa or Watch Chain plant is a South African native sometimes called Lizard’s Tail.
This plant has a branching and creeping growth habit and may reach a height of one foot.
It produces very small yellow blooms during the growing season.
The small leaves are pale green and grow very close together in a chainlike or scale pattern.
They are tolerant of both heat and cold, prefer a full sun setting yet can withstand winter temperatures as low as 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
Crassula Capitella or Red Pagoda
Crassula Capitella or Red Pagoda is sometimes called Campfire Crassula or Crassula Erosula.
The growth habit of this Crassula is very similar to Lizards Tail, but the plant only grows to be about 5” inches high.
The leaves of this plant are quite long and are an attractive shade of lime green when the plant is kept in a shaded or partial shade setting.
More sunlight or exposure to cold temperatures cause the foliage to transition to a reddish-purple color.
Red Pagoda is cold hardy down to 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
Crassula Multicava or Fairy Crassula
Crassula Multicava or Fairy Crassula is an excellent, Evergreen groundcover producing a very thick carpet of glossy foliage in various shades of green.
Flowers are star-shaped, pink and quite small.
Fairy Crassula does well in all lighting conditions ranging from shade to all-day sunlight.
This drought-resistant, hardy little plant tolerates both high and low temperatures and is cold hardy to 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
There are more than 2000 different Euphorbia species within the genus which is also known as “spurge”.
These rugged plants adapt well to a wide variety of settings.
They are intriguing plants which are unusually attractive; however, they are also a bit hostile as all of them are just filled with toxic sap, and many bristles with dangerous thorns.
Even so, if you have a remote setting and do not have kids or pets, Euphorbia may be the succulent ground cover for you.
Some Euphorbias suitable as ground covers are:
Euphorbia Myrsinites Or Donkey Tail Spurge
Euphorbia myrsinites or Donkey Tail Spurge is a succulent, perennial evergreen with a sprawling and trailing growth habit.
The attractive leaves are bluish-green and grow in a spiral formation along the stems.
This plant adds lots of texture and interest to any garden and does well as a groundcover or as a container plant.
During the growing season, Donkey Tail Spurge produces pretty yellowish-green flowers transitioning to an attractive shade of red with maturity.
This drought and cold resistant plant likes to be positioned in a full sun setting and is cold hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 4.
Euphorbia Milii Or Crown Of Thorns
Euphorbia Milii or Crown of Thorns hails from Madagascar but has adapted quite well to many different growing environments.
This plant makes a good house plant, container plant, bedding plant or rather threatening groundcover.
It can grow to be 2’ – 3’ feet high, and as the name implies, it is covered with thorns about half an inch long.
The plant is adaptable to all lighting conditions, but it is not cold hardy.
It can thrive outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11 year-round.
Otherwise, it must be kept as a houseplant, covered or moved indoors during cold weather.
Euphorbia Rigida Or Upright Myrtle Spurge
Euphorbia Rigida or Upright Myrtle Spurge is also known as Silver Spurge.
This blue-gray, perennial evergreen hails from the Mediterranean.
Like Donkey Tail Spurge, its leaves grow in an interesting spiral fashion around the long stems.
Leaves transition from bluish-gray to brownish red during the autumn months.
During spring and summer, pretty, pale greenish-yellow flowers emerge above the leaves.
These plants can grow to be 1’ – 2’ feet high and make a nice low growing shrub or groundcover.
They grow best in full sun and are winter hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 7.
Euphorbia Rainier Or Resin Spurge
Euphorbia rainier or Resin spurge is a native of Africa which looks rather like a columnar cactus.
The thick stems are light green and square-shaped with brown spines along the stems’ sides.
These perennial plants are extremely drought tolerant and do well in a desert setting in full sun.
They can tolerate extremes in both high and low temperatures and are winter hardy to 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
Plants attain a height of no more than 3’ feet and may spread to 5’ feet.
Euphorbia Antisyphilitica Or Candelilla
Euphorbia antisyphilitica or Candelilla is a slow-growing Euphorbia spreading by sending shoots and stems out along the edges of the plant.
It has an upright growth habit and adds a great deal of interest to your yard and garden with its waxy stems adorned by very small, pale pink flowers on the upper halves of the stems.
Interestingly, the plants’ leaves are so small as to be unnoticeable and are dropped almost as soon as they appear.
This drought-tolerant plant is a native of Mexico and Southwest Texas.
It grows to be 1’ – 2’ feet high and may spread as wide as 3’ feet.
The plant likes full sun or bright light and is cold tolerant to 10° degrees Fahrenheit (-12° C).
Miscellaneous Flowering Succulent Groundcovers
Carpobrotus, Drosanthemum, Malephora, are all commonly called Ice Plant and can generally be described as pretty, trailing succulents with grayish-green, fleshy leaves.
These plants produce abundant daisy-like blooms in shades of red, yellow, and orange throughout the springtime and the summer.
This plant is an excellent choice as a groundcover for sunny slopes, and it is often used alongside highways in the warmer parts of the United States.
This drought-resistant plant likes full sun, tolerates extreme heat and is also quite cold tolerant.
Although it may freeze back during extreme winters, it typically returns cheerily in the springtime even in USDA hardiness zone 3.
Drosanthemum Speciosum or Royal Dewflower
Drosanthemum speciosum or Royal Dewflower is a South African native producing a dense groundcover 6” – 12” inches high.
The leaves are narrow and grayish-green, and the flowers are abundant and eye-catching in shades of red, purple, and pink.
This ice plant ground cover spreads and propagates enthusiastically as it takes root anywhere the leaves or stems come in contact with the soil.
Royal Dewflower likes full sun to partial shade setting and is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures from extreme heat to extreme cold.
It can tolerate temperatures as low as 20° degrees Fahrenheit (-7° C).
The Rosea ice plant (Drosanthemum floribundum) is another low-growing Drosanthemum suitable as a succulent ground cover.
Senecio Serpens or Bluechalk Sticks
Senecio serpens or Bluechalk sticks is a South African native with a spreading, low growing growth habit.
It’s long, and chalk stick-shaped leaves are an attractive shade of silvery blue-green.
This drought-tolerant plant does well in extreme heat and bright sunlight, but it cannot tolerate cold.
It is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones down to 9.
Calandrinia Spectabilis Or Rock Purslane
Calandrinia spectabilis or Rock Purslane has a mounding growth habit and may grow to be a foot high and 3’ feet wide.
Its grayish-green leaves grow in dense clumps, and the plant produces pretty magenta flowers throughout its growing season, which lasts from early in the springtime until deep into the autumn.
Short-lived blossoms appear in rapid succession with old ones taking the place of new ones every day.
Deadheading is unnecessary.
This native of Chile is tolerant of heat and likes full sun but is not at all frost tolerant and does best in hardiness zones no lower than USDA zone 9.
Use Succulent Ground Cover Plants To Create A Water Saving Lawn Alternative
All of the succulents included in this guide make good groundcovers on their own or in combination as they are all quite tough and able to withstand a wide variety of growing conditions.
Choose to cover your entire yard or garden with one type or mix-and-match for an interesting, easy-care lawn alternative.
Choose from any of the interesting choices listed here, secure in the knowledge as long as you provide high quality, well-draining soil the right ambient temperature, plenty of sun and supplementary water as needed you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful, interesting groundcover which is far less labor and resource-intensive than grass.
Succulents also make excellent groundcovers in desert settings.