10 Best Ground Cover Plants for Around Ponds

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Pond with ground cover plants around the edges
Ground cover plants around your pond provide many benefits, including stifling the growth of weeds. Photo by icon0com from PxHere

Ground cover plants are a great way to naturalize your pond and enhance its appearance. The list of choices is endless, but the right selection of species can ease maintenance, effectively fill in the gaps, and grow seamlessly alongside other plants and pond ornaments. Plants around a pond would ideally serve many purposes; some obvious ones include increasing the organic attractiveness of your pond, disguising pond liner material, and attracting pollinators.

There are many secondary benefits that go far beyond these, however, and are associated with making your pondside environment more hospitable to friendly visitors. Low-growing ground cover plants keep the sediments around your pond cool and welcoming. The shade they provide can draw in amphibians, such as turtles and salamanders, that you may want to attract to diversify your pond community.

Moreover, ground cover plants can help stifle the growth of weeds around your pond, saving you precious maintenance time. They are also great for softening the overall look of your pond, especially if your pond border is clad in rocks and pebbles or if you have a footpath of stepping stones leading up to the water’s edge.

When selecting species, consider how heavy foot traffic would be around your pond and try to look into how quickly certain types of plants can spread both vertically and horizontally. If you’d like your ground cover to stay green throughout the seasons, you must also look into temperature tolerances. If you’re drawn to the look of a lush pondside environment, here are some fantastic species to play around with.

 Ground Cover Plants Around Ponds

1) Blue moneywort (Lindernia grandiflora)

Blue moneywort in bloom
Blue moneywort is a modest perennial that grows to just 3 inches tall. Jim Duggan / CC BY 2.0

Native to Southeast USA

For a dense splash of green and irresistible hints of lavender-blue, Lindernia grandiflora is a prime candidate for ground cover. Also known as blue moneywort or angel’s tears, this low-growing plant produces glossy heart-shaped leaves that arise from trailing shoots. It is a modest perennial that blooms every summer and grows to just 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall, yet reaches a spread of up to 20 inches (51 cm) wide. Fortunately, it is a non-aggressive grower and can easily be controlled even if rooted freely outside of pots.

This species has a preference for moist soil and can be planted directly into very shallow streams. If in direct contact with your pond water, it would not need additional fertilizer and should be able to pull necessary nutrients straight out of your pond! Hardy to USDA zones 7 – 11, blue moneywort is generally deciduous, but can continuously sustain a green underlayer through mild winters. It can also withstand moderate foot traffic! Prune this species regularly to encourage healthy growth. 

2) Elfin thyme (Thymus serpyllum)

Elfin thyme growing by a rock
Elfin thyme is a small yet hardy plant and can even retain its foliage throughout winter in mild cool climates. Krzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe and North Africa

Thymus serpyllum, also known as Breckland thyme, creeping thyme, or elfin thyme, is a spectacular filler plant. Unlike many other thyme cultivars, this miniature version is principally cultivated as ornamental groundcover. It produces aromatic green leaves and almost impossibly delicate pink-lilac flowers! If you’d like to attract bees and butterflies to your pond and maintain year-round interest, this plant would undoubtedly be an effective addition.

In mild cool climates, such as that of USDA zone 4, elfin thyme may even retain its foliage throughout winter. When provided with full sun exposure and well-draining soil, each individual plant can spread to 4 – 8 inches wide (10 – 20 cm). It typically reaches heights of just 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm), making it an ideal accent to stepping stones and footpaths. Due to its tolerance for relatively heavy foot traffic, it can even serve as a substitute for lawn grass!

This small yet hardy plant is known for having little demand. It does not require fertilizer or consistent irrigation, and can tolerate both hot and chilly weather. It truly is the ideal creeping plant and would pleasantly dapple your pond’s surroundings without much of a fuss. By simply cutting back the shoots every now and then, its neat carpet-like appearance can be maintained.

3) Silver carpet (Dymondia margaretae)

Silver carpet plants with a yellow flower
Silver mat produces dense mats of silvery green leaves and even small yellow flowers, given the right conditions. Plant Right / CC BY 2.0

Native to South Africa

For a muted accent plant that can hug the landscape around your pond, look for Dymondia margaretae. Also known as silver carpet, this versatile perennial produces dense mats of silvery green leaves. Bold and expressive, it even lets you know when it could use a drink by curling its leaves to reveal a fuzzy underside! Growing up to just 1 – 3 inches tall (2.5 – 7.6 cm), this slow-growing plant does not have the potential for being invasive. Given the right conditions, it will produce small yellow flowers (similar to daisies) to greet the summer months.

To cultivate this ground cover plant, ensure that its roots have access to well-draining soil. For this reason, it should perhaps be situated a few feet from the very edge of your pond. Around rocks or stepping stones would be a more ideal place for it, as it can withstand light foot traffic. Unfortunately, this plant is unable to compete with particularly strong weeds and is sensitive to frost. It can easily be replanted in early spring, however, with the use of root offsets.

4) “Platt’s Black” brass buttons (Leptinella squalida)

Leptinella squalida in bloom
Leptinella squalida can grow aggressively, so be sure to trim the runners back to control their spread. Meneerke bloem, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to New Zealand

An herbaceous perennial with a lot of character, Leptinella squalida is an appealing ground cover plant that can effectively naturalize your pond’s surroundings. This fern-like evergreen species produces feathery purple/black-tinged leaves. In the spring and summer months, it produces small yellow flowers that are reminiscent of brass buttons, to which it owes its common name. If you’re after low-growing plants with a lot of texture, this one is a must. When grown next to stones and pebbles around your pond, its dramatic foliage can be accentuated even more.

Cultivate this low-growing creeper in evenly moist to well-draining soil and keep in mind that it does not take to standing water. It has a preference for full sun exposure and acidic conditions, will spread to about 8 inches wide (20 cm), and can live up to 8 years when given the proper conditions. If you choose a shaded area for this plant, you’ll be surprised to find that its leaves stay green! Brass buttons may be considered mildly invasive, but should not be confused with another invasive species with the same name (Cotula coronopifolia). Though it can grow aggressively via underground rhizomes, runners can simply be trimmed back to control their spread.

5) Star creeper (Pratia pedunculata)

Star creeper in bloom with white flowers
Star creeper is an attractive ground cover plant that is relatively disease-free, however, it is prone to damage by pests. Ghislain118 http://www.fleurs-des-montagnes.net, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Eastern Australia

Pratia pedunculata is a versatile ground-hugging plant that is commonly known as white or blue star creeper, depending on the cultivar’s bloom color. This perennial plant forms dense carpets of ovate green leaves. Through the summer months, these carpets are speckled with low-growing star-shaped flowers. As male and female flowers are typically found on separate plants, they rarely develop into fruits.

This attractive ground cover plant is prone to damage by pests, such as snails and slugs, but is largely disease-free and will not require constant pruning. On average, its mats reach a height of just 10 cm (4 inches) tall and spread to 30 cm (12 inches) wide after a few years of care. Due to its steady growth, it is ideal as a filler plant for spaces between rocks and stones around your pond.

Hardy to USDA zones 6 – 10 (UK H4), star creeper favors exposed conditions but will benefit from partial shade in notably hot summers. It is impartial to particular soil types, and will gradually spread so long as the soil is kept evenly moist and rich in nutrients. To propagate this hardy plant, its roots can simply be divided. Remember to wear gloves when doing so, as its milky sap contains alkaloids that can cause skin irritations!

6) “John Creech” stonecrop (Phedimus spurius)

Phedimus spurius growing over a rock
Phedimus spurius can withstand a wide variety of conditions, including poor soil as long as drainage is provided. Katrin Schneider, korina.info, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Caucasus region

For areas around the pond that are quite elevated and have well-draining soil, this stonecrop with an interesting name may be the perfect ground cover plant. As a member of the Crassulaceae family of drought-tolerant succulents, this species produces durable scallop-shaped leaves that are eye-catching enough without the help of flowers. That said, this low-growing perennial becomes extra irresistible every summer as it produces clusters of mauve-pink blooms that jut out from a sea of leaves below!

This beginner-level plant is known for attracting pollinators and for being rabbit and deer-resistant. With mats that reach a maximum height of 10 cm (4 inches) and a spread of 10 – 12 inches (25 – 30 cm), it can serve as a lawn substitute and will even withstand poor soils so long as proper drainage is provided. Full sun exposure brings out its colors best and should help prevent foliar diseases.

John Creech stonecrop is able to withstand mild winter conditions without losing its leaves! This is an evergreen plant that you should definitely consider for year-round colors around your pond. Hardy to USDA zones 3 – 11 (UK H4), it can withstand a wide variety of conditions. Propagate by root or shoot divisions, but make sure to handle the plant with care and avoid touching its mildly poisonous sap.

7) Irish moss (Sagina subulata)

Irish moss growing in between stones
Irish moss can be used as an alternative to lawn grass. SB Johnny, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe

This ground cover plant is not actually a type of moss, but has fittingly earned its common name. Its manner of growth resembles that of most true mosses. It is also commonly referred to as Corsican pearlwort and is often confused with Scotch moss (Arenaria verna), another false moss with which it shares many characteristics. Unlike true mosses, Irish moss produces sprightly white flowers that grow slightly taller than the plant’s leafy shoots.

Though this species benefits from light exposure, it will prefer partially shaded areas around your pond. It thrives best when grown in regularly watered, well-draining soil as soggy roots can be detrimental to its survival. Hardy to USDA zones 4 – 10, its delicate leaves tend to alternate in color from green to brown depending on ambient temperatures. With fleshy shoots that reach a maximum length of 5 cm (2 inches), this species will seldom need mowing or pruning and can even be used as an alternative to lawn grass.

8) Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)

Creeping phlox with pink flowers
Creeping phlox thrives best when exposed to full sunlight. Хомелка, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Eastern United States

For dream-like pink to lavender hues and a subtly sweet fragrance to boot, do yourself a favor and invest in this showy plant! Creeping phlox is one of the most attractive ground cover plants out there and comes in many cultivars. These vary in bloom color and can be mixed and matched to create a gradient of subtly changing pastel shades. If you’re looking into this plant, you may come across another species (Phlox stolonifera) with the same common name. This is remarkably similar to P. subulata, but may be less ideal as a ground cover plant as its shoots can grow to a foot tall.

This species of phlox thrives best when exposed to full sunlight. Under partial shade conditions, it may produce considerably fewer blooms and develop creeping mats that fall short of being dense. It will require humus-rich, well-draining soil for maximal growth. Known for aiding in erosion prevention, it is suitable for growth along sloping areas, from which its shoots may extend to up to 6 inches (15 cm) in height.

Given proper conditions, individual plants can reach a spread of up to 2 feet (60 cm) wide and bloom almost aggressively over the course of 3 – 4 weeks in mid to late spring. Hardy to USDA zones 3 – 9, creeping phlox is relatively trouble-free and is even salt-tolerant. It is worth mentioning that, in contrast to its fleshy blooms, its semi-evergreen leaves are small and needle-like. Most of this plant’s energies are undoubtedly allocated to its vigorous flower clusters!

9) Corsican mint (Mentha requienii)

Corsican mint growing over rocks
Corsican mint, like other species in the mint family, gives off a strong aroma, especially when its stems are bruised. Ghislain118 http://www.fleurs-des-montagnes.net, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Corsica and Italy

Corsican mint is a ground cover plant that will effortlessly fill in all exposed spaces. Like other species in the mint family, it gives off a surprisingly powerful aroma, especially when its stems are bruised. The horizontally trailing shoots of this plant are capable of producing roots wherever they come into contact with soil, making this species a ground hugger through and through. Shoots that grow vertically reach a height of less than an inch (1 – 3 cm), epitomizing the phrase “low-growing”!

In early summer, Corsican mint may surprise you with delicate lilac-colored blooms that are similar in form to that of elfin thyme (Thymus serpyllum). To flower, it will require consistently moist soil and partial shade. In particularly hot summers, its mats may even require twice-daily watering sessions. Hardy to USDA zones 7 – 11, this herbaceous perennial may not require winter protection. However, if located in areas that receive frequent frosts, you will need to protect the plant’s roots with up to 2 inches (5 cm) of mulch.

As a bonus benefit, the scent produced by this plant can serve as a deterrent to rodents and other pests! It would be wise to grow this species adjacent to other leafy plants that may otherwise attract annoying opportunists. Unsurprisingly, the leaves of this modest plant are edible, and you may even want to keep a pot or two in your kitchen for culinary use!

10) Pigsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia)

Bergenia cordifolia plant
Pigsqueak produces large thick leaves which, when rubbed together, produce a similar sound to that of a squealing pig! Athantor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Russia

Interested in a low-growing plant with larger foliage? Bergenia cordifolia, amusingly known as pigsqueak, produces large thick leaves that form dense mats. If you rub the glossy foliage together, they produce a sound comparable to that of a squealing pig! Fortunately, its leaves are not just notable for the sound they make. They grow large enough to prevent the growth of underlying weeds and provide shelter to many pondside visitors. They even have a few pharmacological uses for diabetes and obesity.

This species is great for situating around ponds, especially in areas that experience cold winters. Its leaves, which slowly spread to form dense mats, can tolerate contact with soft snow. We can’t describe pigsqueak without mentioning its showy blooms too! Depending on the cultivar, pink to white flower clusters arise from thick stems every spring. These clusters can grow to heights of 16 – 18 inches, and attract a host of friendly pollinators.

Pigsqueak will appreciate partially shaded areas around your pond and will thrive best in moisture-retentive soil. It is hardy to zones 4 – 9 and will require more shade in areas that experience harsh summers. Like many plants that prefer shaded positions, it may, unfortunately, attract pests that can cause damage to its foliage. Regularly prune any injured or decaying parts and keep an eye out for slugs and snails. With proper maintenance, this perennial will enchant your pond’s visitors year after year!

Angeline L
About the author

Angeline L

I'm a passionate researcher and scuba diver with a keen interest in garden plants, marine life, and freshwater ecology. I think there’s nothing better than a day spent writing in nature. I have an academic and professional background in sustainable aquaculture, so I advocate for the responsible production of commercial fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic plants.

Read more about Pond Informer.

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