Ground covers are multitaskers that can be very helpful for busy moms who like to maintain attractive landscapes and gardens. Ground covers provide color and texture but also restrict weed growth by blocking the sun. Ground cover greens are, of course, ground-cover type plants, but they may not be exactly what you think they are.
Not That Kind of Green
Edible greens are the leaves produced by plants such as kale or collard. Cool-season annuals, edible greens only maintain their attractiveness in the garden for one season in most climates. Because edible greens grow low to the ground, they can serve as ground covers. Some of them have fancy, frilly leaves that would add interest to the garden and there are ornamental kale cultivars with bright purple or pink centers that can be used for additional color. They are not, however, categorized as ground cover plants, and they typically don't spread out as much as true ground covers.
The Other Kind of Green
Ground cover greens are plants that stay short but commonly grow to a width equal to or greater than their height and are grown for their foliage rather than flowers. Ferns can be considered ground cover greens. They are also categorized as greens in florists’ circles because they are grown for use in floral arrangements. There are other types of plants that are considered ground cover greens, though, that can be grown with or without ferns for added color and texture.
A Feathery, Lighter Green
Sword ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) also commonly known as Boston ferns, and “Branford Rambler” Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium “Branford Rambler”) are ground cover greens with lighter green, finely-textured leaves. Sword ferns grow to a height and width of 2 to 3 feet. They are grown in partial to full shade in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. “Branford Rambler” ferns grow to a height and width of 1 to 2 feet. They also require partial or full shade but they are hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.
A Deeper and Bolder Green
Cast-iron or barroom plant (Aspidistra elation) and Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) are ground cover greens that bring course, bold texture to the garden. Cast-iron plant has long, leathery, deep green leaves. It grows to a height and width of 1 to 2 feet and is grown in shady gardens in USDA zones 7 to 11. Japanese pachysandra is a shrubby plant that grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches and width of 12 to 18 inches with deep green oval leaves. It is grown in partial to full shade in USDA zones 5 to 9. It is considered invasive in a few areas of the northeastern United States.