I like to think of classic vines and groundcovers as the icing on the cake when it comes to creating a beautiful 4-season, layered landscape. Often the most overlooked “layer”, an underplanting of classic groundcovers and vines add a finishing touch to your garden by weaving and linking all of the other elements together into a cohesive design.

There’s no denying when the star of the garden is the plants at foot level… and this is how you know you’ve done underplanting the right way. Pictured above: “Black Scallop” Ajuga (Bugleweed)

Underplanting classic groundcovers and vines in your landscape

Vines are often an overlooked element in many gardens, but they can provide a finishing touch by linking the garden’s layers together. While most of us think of vines climbing lampposts and fences, another effective way to use them is by weaving them into your garden beds! Yes— you can train your vines to grow over your shrubs and into your trees!

By doing this, you can extend the bloom season of both the vine and the tree/shrub you train them on.
Plant summer blooming vines among your spring blooming shrubs. Or try planting two vines with different
bloom seasons on the same fence!

Groundcovers are the low-growing or low-spreading plants that spread in masses a foot or so tall. Just like vines, classic groundcovers can help to unify your garden design. As an added bonus, many groundcovers are can adorn your garden with pretty foliage, flowers and even berries.

Ground covers also have several benefits for your garden. They can help to smother weeds and keep the soil around your other plants shady and cool. Classic groundcovers also help your plants to retain water so they don’t dry out as quickly.

Just a friendly warning to choose your groundcovers and fines wisely. Choose only the classics as many varieties can be aggressive and choke out your other plantings. Aggressive varieties require regular corrective weeding to keep them in check… and ain’t nobody got time for that!


Quick Tip: Read my post on landscape layering if you want to learn more about how to design a garden with interest in all 4 seasons of the year!

The best classic groundcovers & vines

Although I’m only listing four choices for classic ground covers and vines in your garden, the options are actually much more abundant. Many of the choices below have several varieties that you can mix and match to add more interest and extend the blooming season.

Clematis (vine)

Clematis are beautiful and non-aggressive climbing vines that come in so many different sizes, shapes and colors. The
different varieties do well in different situations, and climb to different heights. The rich purple, 5” flowers of the popular
‘Jackmanii’ clematis bloom profusely in early summer and continue to bloom all summer long!

Zones 3-9 | 36-72″ W x 10-12′ H

Phlox (groundcover)

Deer avoid it. Butterflies and hummingbirds can’t stay away! This classic groundcover comes in a variety of colors to make a pretty garden carpet. Just plant phlox and it grows and grows and grows. It looks great cascading over stones or the edges of a stone border.

Zones 3-9 | 18-24” W x 4-6” H

Sedum (groundcover)

Sedum is a classic groundcover that comes in many sizes and varieties. ‘Autumn Joy’ and‘Angelina’ are good varieties to look for. Sedum is really easy to grow and one of the most drought-tolerant and classic groundcovers available.

Zones 4-11 | 18-24″ W(spreading) x 3-24″ H


Creeping Jenny (aka Moneywort) is a another of the common, classic groundcovers I recommend. Its chartreuse color offers great color contrast to other plants and flowers. A vigorous trailer, Creeping Jenny works well for shady spots in your landscape and ALSO thrives in sunny locations. Use some for your hanging baskets for a great “spill” feature.

Zones 3-8 | 6″ H (vigorous spreader/trailer)

What Blooms with What?

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Never know what to plant together? Find out with this FREE Plant Pairing Guide and become a pro at combining plants for the best garden design possible!

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Hey, since you're already signed up for my emails, you may be interested in my Printable Garden Planner Kit. It includes 5 printable worksheets that you can use to plan and organize your landscape. Check it out here.

Wrapping Up

Classic groundcovers and vines tend to be one of the most underutilized categories when garden planning. But using classic groundcovers and perennial vines in the right way can make your 4-season layered landscape look lush and cohesive. Vines can be planted within flowering trees and shrubs to extend bloom seasons, while classic groundcovers can be used to smother weeds and cool the soil beneath your other plantings. Not to mention both can adorn your garden with pretty flowers, foliage and even berries! Beware of aggressive varieties of vines and groundcovers, though, as they can easily take over your garden and choke out your other plants. Remember: Anyone can put tall plants in the back and short plants in the front, but with the use of vines and classic groundcovers you can take your landscape from good to AMAZING. Read my landscape layering post to learn more about how to create an effective landscape. It will show you how to incorporate trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, vines and classic groundcovers into your garden for 4-season interest.

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The best vines & groundcovers to complete your layered, 4-season landscape
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