Potential Ground Covers and Shrubs for Horizon

Checked for zone 9b, deer, dog toxicity, drought tolerance, full sun March 2023


Common Name

Botanical Name


Bellflower Campanula spp. BACKYARD ONLY – deer can eat when nothing else available

Bellflowers perform best in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 and up. They are cold-hardy plants that are useful specimens areas with hard winters. They require full sun for best flower production and well-drained soil with moderate moisture. Once established, bellflower plants can tolerate periods of drought. Soil conditions for growing bellflowers can be in any pH range, including highly acidic.

Campanula is a group of over 300 annual, biennial and perennial plants that span several sizes and colors. The primary characteristic is the upturned, open cup-shaped flowers in hues of pink and white but primarily lavender or light blue. The plants will spread over the seasons and the lower-growing varieties make excellent ground covers. Most bellflowers begin blooming in July and keep on flowering until frost.


Ceanothus Anchor Bay

Ceanothus Gloriosus Anchor Bay – NATIV

A very dense, low-growing, and spreading shrub groundcover lilac. Very neat and drapes nicely over boulders or retaining walls that become allelopathic over time and will help to keep out weeds.

A dense, low-spreading ground cover with slightly arching branches that grows up to 3 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide. The leathery, dark green, holly-like leaves are toothed along the margins and the small but numerous flower clusters are bright blue. ‘Anchor Bay’ is a garden-tolerant selection of the species that was singled out for its handsome foliage and slightly darker flowers. It is one of the best groundcover ceanothus for coastal sites but does well in inland conditions if given a bit of shade and modest irrigation during the summer months. Hardy to about 15 degrees F. Plants also tolerate salt spray and are less susceptible to deer browse than other ceanothus due to their spiny leaves.

USE THIS on back slope above new bricks

Ceanothus Point Sierra > Ceanothus maritimus Point Sierra. A small-scale groundcover evergreen shrub, growing 1-3’high x 4-6’wide. We recommend some light shade for hot interior gardens. Lavender blue flowers appear in early spring. This plant will grow in heavy soils and is a great wildlife plant for butterflies, pollinators, and birds.

Trails over walls or rocks wonderfully. Maritime ceanothus adapts to many soil types, it will even grow in heavy soils as long as they are well-drained. This groundcover ceanothus is slow-growing but long-lived.>

Creeping phlox Phlox subulata A very popular spring bloomer, known for its showy flower display. Linear, green leaves form a low-growing mat. Height 4–6″ / Spread 18–24″ Flowers: white, blue, or pink; striped Bloom time: April–June USDA hardiness zone 3–9>

Almost any soil is suitable for growing creeping phlox as long as it is in full sun to partial shade. For best results, however, plant it in a sunny location where soils are moist but well-drained.

It forms fluffy purple or white flowers in a thick mat. It creates an enchanting look in any yard with cloud-like formations of purple flowers. The dense carpet of flowers chokes out weeds by preventing sunlight from reaching beyond its bushy growth.

The best time to plant creeping phlox is either in the spring or the fall. Phlox prefers direct sunlight and well-drained soil, and it’s durable enough to walk on throughout the year.

Water the soil, not the leaves. So sprinklers out and drip in . . .

Up To 40% Off on Tricolor Creeping Phlox (5-Pk.) | Groupon Goods Tricolor Creeping Phlox
Creeping thyme Thymus praecox A low-growing groundcover with fragrant leaves in shades of light to dark green, yellow, or variegated. Attractive in mass plantings when blooming. Works well between pavers and in rock walls. Height 1–4″ / Spread 6–18″ Flowers: pink, white, or purple Bloom time: May–August USDA hardiness zone 4–10. Various colors!

Also consider Woolly Thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus): The main difference between the Woolly and Creeping Thyme is their foliage. As its name suggests, woolly thyme has gray, fuzzy foliage, whereas creeping thyme’s foliage is silvery-green and almost smooth. A second difference is their flowering habit. Creeping thyme is a prolific flowerer, but woolly thyme often doesn’t bloom at all.

Deergrass  Muhlenbergia rigens Tidy and well-behaved, Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass) is a warm-season perennial grass forming a dense clump of slender pointed leaves, up to 3 ft. long (90 cm), ranging from bright green to pale silver-green. Upright at first, the leaves tend to arch as the season progresses producing an attractive fountain-like effect. They bleach to a light straw color in the fall and remain great-looking in milder winters. Slender yellow or purplish flower spikes rise up to 5 ft. (150 cm) in the fall, creating a dramatic display. Fast-growing, Deer Grass can reach maturity from the seedling stage in two seasons and does not reseed easily. It provides bird food, nesting material, and cover, as well as graze for mammals. This ornamental grass is commonly called deer grass, but deer generally avoid it. Robust, heat and drought-tolerant, easy-care, this southwestern U.S. native is a great choice for water-wise and xeric gardens. Wonderful as a single specimen or when massed in drifts. The flower stems were used by many Native American tribes for coiled baskets.
Dwarf coyote bush Baccharis pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’  It is male so doesn’t make seed. Extremely drought tolerant along the coast but best with moderate to occasional summer water inland. Forms a dense mounding cover. Tolerant of a wide range of soils but well-drained is best. Can be sheared in late winter to make more dense.
Excellent erosion control and groundcover. Tolerant of a wide range of soils but well-drained is best. Can be sheared in late winter to make more dense. Grows 1-3 ft tall, 6-10 foot spread. Offers excellent cover to a variety of wildlife. Deer resistant.
Also: non-dwarf Baccharis pilularis, Coyote Bush, Ht 3 ft. W 4-5 ft. , F, Low growing; can withstand wind, heat and poor soil
Dwarf plumbago Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Hardy Plumbago is an exceptional groundcover that is especially useful in shady areas. It’s an excellent choice for planting under large shrubs and trees where grass is sparse, and it also grows in part sun and full sun, making it a popular choice to repeat throughout the garden.

Plumbago tolerates drought well, but too much water can cause this shrub to wilt and look near death, especially if drainage is poor. During dry weather, water in-ground plants once a week, soaking the soil slowly as you water, then let the area dry out before you water again.

Dwarf Plumbago | Ground cover, Ground cover plants, Buy plants
Dwarf Wall Germander    Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Nana’

A shrubby broadleaf evergreen with a clump-forming habit, grown mostly for its aromatic foliage It is bee magnet.

9 to 12 inches tall; 1- to 2-foot spread; Full sun; Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

Teucrium chamaedrys makes an exceptionally neat-looking mound 1-2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, with small, glossy, dark green leaves that stay lushly green throughout the year. Short spikes of small but showy, purplish pink flowers cover the plant in late spring and summer. Plants tend to flop and open up in the center when in bloom, but pop right back up into a dense mound if cut back after flowering. T. chamaedrys is native from Portugal to Turkey and extending to central Russia.

Friendship Sage
Salvia Amistad 

Blooms constantly from early spring to frost. Attracts Birds / Butterflies, Cut Flowers, Deer Resistant, Heat Tolerance, Reblooming, Upright Habit.

Fertilize yearly in spring.

Pruning Not required; dead-heading promotes new growth

Gazania Gazania spp.  Gazania is a tender perennial that is often grown as an annual

It’s hard to believe that a plant this rugged can be so beautiful! Gazania is a well-known annual and perennial because of its extreme heat and drought tolerance. It also has exceptionally beautiful flowers that can stretch to 4 inches across and come in vibrant colors. It’s easy to see why gazania is such a great plant.

Gazania is most commonly grown as an annual. However, there are several perennial varieties, all the way down to Zone 4. The most important thing to note with gazania is that it doesn’t like to stay wet. These plants hail from the rocky cliffs and grassy hills of South African mountains, so they’re accustomed to harsh, dry climates.

If gazanias are planted in heavy soil where they stay moist for long periods, there’s a higher risk of plants rotting. This is especially true during winter for hardy varieties; if they remain too wet for a long time, they’ll suffer.


'Daybreak Tiger Stripes Mix' Gazania
Hummingbird Sage Salvia spathacea

For a rustic design, it’s hard to beat the charms of Salvia spathacea.Its large, low, soft leaves will spread on their own, growing 12 to 18 inches high with multi-flower stalks appearing sporadically throughout all seasons. It will happily maintain a mild, shady slope and will thrive beneath fussy oaks with little or no water. As you may have guessed, hummingbird sage also attracts wildlife

Salvia spathacea – PlantRight
Oregon Grape Mahonia aquifolium Oregon Grape

Holly-leaf Oregon-grape is a 3-6 ft., mound-shaped, broadleaf, glossy, leathery leaves. The 5-9 dark-green leaflets are armed with spiny teeth and turn reddish in fall. Terminal clusters of bright-yellow, bell-shaped flowers are followed by clusters of tiny blue, grape-like fruits. The bronzy copper color or the new growth in spring is an added bonus.

Pruning is not necessary unless suckers form.

Rockcress Arabis spp.

Rock cresses are alpine plants and will thrive where other plants fail, such as on hills and slopes. Purple rock cress ground cover (Aubrieta deltoidea) hugs the ground like a mat and displays rich, purple flowers in April through the middle of May and has a lovely scent. Rock wall cress (Arabis caucasica) is more likely to bloom in white or pink. Both make attractive, low mounds that look great at the edge of retaining wall where they get full sun and excellent drainage

Rock cress prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade, especially in warmer climates. Space rock cress plants 15 to 18 inches (38 to 45.5 cm.) apart and they will fill in quickly forming a mat in any open space.

Although rock cress is drought resistant, it does enjoy a drink when the soil gets dry. Just avoid planting rock cress where it water sits between rains. This little charmer will sulk in wet soil.

purple aubrieta flowers
Rockrose Cistus. This fast-growing evergreen shrub stands up to heat, strong winds, salt spray, and drought without complaint, and once established it needs very little care.  Large, fragrant flowers bloom for about a month in late spring and early summer. Each blossom lasts only a day and may be pink, rose, yellow, or white, depending on the species. Use rockrose shrubs in dry areas as a xeriscaping plant or in coastal areas where they tolerate sandy soil, salt spray, and strong winds. These 3- to 5-foot (1 to 1.5 m.) shrubs make an attractive, informal hedgerow. Rockrose plants are particularly useful for erosion control on dry banks.
There are only a few in cultivation in North America. Here are some great choices:

  • Purple Rockrose (Cistus x purpureus) grows 4 feet (1 m.) tall with a spread of up to 5 feet (1.5 m.) and a compact, rounded shape. The large flowers are deep rose or purple. The shrub is attractive enough to use as a specimen, and it also looks great in groups. This species is sometimes called orchid rockrose.
  • Sun Rose (Cistus albidus) grows 3 feet (1 m.) tall and wide with a dense, bushy habit. The dark lilac-pink flowers have yellow centers. Older plants may become leggy and it’s best to replace them rather than try to prune them into shape.
  • White Rockrose (Cistus corbariensis) has cheery, white flowers, usually with yellow centers and sometimes with brown spots near the base of the petals. It grows 4 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 m.) tall and wide.
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis is a fragrant, drought tolerant, evergreen perennial that is classified as a subshrub for the woody lower stems that develop over time.  Its many forms range from ground covers to tall shrubs. Not sure how flammable this is, but Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’) is highly drought-tolerant and can handle full sun. It has attractive gray-green foliage and produces small blue flowers in the spring. It is not toxic to dogs.


Rupture wort Herniaria glabra – the one I tried to grow at Vera

It’s low-growing, spreads efficiently, doesn’t take a lot of upkeep, and can help prevent weed intrusion. Green Carpet, as it’s sometimes referred to, can thrive even in the poorest quality soils. Full sun to part shade.

It might be small in stature, but, this plant has a long taproot that holds moisture well. It makes it pretty drought-tolerant and, consequently, it can be a popular choice for Xeriscape landscaping. It’s not going to require additional irrigation. When the weather is hot, it will do well with occasional deep watering, but, generally, it will manage with natural rainfall alone.

You can also sow the seeds in cooler temperatures. You’ll just want to start off indoors or in a cold frame. You can then transplant the seedlings outside a couple of months later after the last spring frosts have passed.

Try again?

Sedum or stonecrops Sedum species A ground cover with succulent foliage in shades of green to blue. Many drought-resistant varieties. Great for rock gardens. Height 2–12″ / Spread 6–24″ Flowers: white, yellow, or pinkish-red Bloom time: May–September USDA hardiness zone 3-8. The image is “cascade” .  See here for good varieties:https://www.thespruce.com/sedum-ground-cover-for-sunny-locations-2152699 10 Sedum (Stonecrop) Varieties to Plant as Ground Cover
Yellow iceplant Delosperma nubigenum  Very low-growing groundcover with succulent, green foliage that changes to reddish bronze in winter. Not suitable for areas with extended periods (several weeks) of snow cover. More cold-hardy than purple iceplant. Height 1–3″ / Spread 24–30″ Flowers: yellow, daisylike Bloom time: June–September USDA hardiness zone 4–10 Hardy Yellow Ice Plant, Delosperma nubigenum | High Country Gardens