Groundcover plants are a very effective way of covering bare areas of the garden. They act as living mulch to keep soil and gardens cool, reduce moisture loss and even keep down weeds. Planting a native species can do even more for your garden. Like native shrubs and trees, native groundcover plants improve the environment, attract native species of birds, beneficial insects and reptiles and are low maintenance. Many are also extremely attractive and an asset to the look and feel of your garden.
Native groundcover selections
Native groundcover options range from large robust plants to delicate cottage garden perennials as well as varieties that do well near the coast or cope with dry conditions.
When planting groundcovers, keep the area around them free of weeds and well mulched so the establishing plant doesn’t have to battle against weed growth. Space plants at about half their natural width, but with closer spacings for faster coverage. All prefer well-drained soil, native fertiliser and extra water, both as they establish and when it is dry.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best native groundcover plant choices for your garden. All are suited for a wide range of climates and soils and are free of pests and diseases.
Boobialla, myoporum (Myoporum parvifolium purpurea)
This is a low-care groundcover with fine leaves and small, white flowers in summer. Its dense growth deters weeds and keeps soil cool. Good choice for a slope or to spill over a wall or beside a pool.
Growing checklist: Sun to light shade, tolerates frost. Grows 30cm high x 1-3m wide.
Cut-leafed daisy, brachyscome (Brachyscome multifida)
Native to eastern Australia, this is a small daisy that has fine leaves and mauve flowers held above the foliage. It is an ideal groundcover plant in a cottage garden, edging a path, beside steps or as a spillover plant for containers. It forms a dense cover and is easy to propagate from cuttings. ‘Break O' Day’ and ‘Mauve Delight’ are popular mauve forms. There are also varieties with white or pink flowers.
Growing checklist: Sun to light shade, keep well watered in dry times, tolerates light frost. Grows 20-40cm high x 40-50cm wide.
Emu bush (Eremophila glabra)
A groundcover species of a tough dryland plant, this plant is ideal for a dry or coastal garden. Varieties include ‘Amber Carpet’ and the yellow-flowered variety ‘Prostrate Yellow’.
Growing checklist: Sun to light shade, keep well watered in dry times, tolerates frost. Grows 30cm high x 1-2m wide.
Grevillea ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle’
This is one of Australia’s most popular native groundcovers to spread across the ground or down embankments. It has tough green leaves and dark red toothbrush flowers. It is both vigorous and attractive. Plants are also grafted as weeping standards.
Growing checklist: Sun to light shade, keep well watered in dry times, tolerates frost. Grows 30cm high x 3-6m wide.
Guinea flower (Hibbertia scandens)
Occurring naturally in coastal areas, guinea flower has dark green leaves, twining stems and bright yellow flowers. It can climb or spread as a groundcover and is an ideal choice for an embankment.
Growing checklist: Sun to shade, tolerates light frost, dryness and coastal conditions. Grows 50cm-3m high x 1-5m wide.
Native pigface, carpobrotus (Carpobrotus rossii)
Found naturally in the sandy soils beside the coast, native pigface is an ideal choice for a seaside planting or for any dry position. It has large purple flowers and fleshy succulent leaves which not only make it a good drought-tolerant choice, but also can act as a fire deterrent. Its tiny fruits are edible. White and pink flowered forms available.
Growing checklist: Sun to light shade, tolerates light frost. Grows 20-40cm high x 1-3m wide.
Native violet (Hederacea violacea syn. H. banksii)
This native violet is a dainty groundcover for moist, shaded parts of the garden. It spreads readily to form a dense mat over the soil. Tiny mauve to white violet-like flowers stand above the small heart-shaped leaves.
Growing checklist: Shade, keep well watered in dry times, tolerates light frost and moist soil. Grows 20-40cm high x 30cm-2m wide.
Scaevola, fan flower (Scaevola ‘Bright Eyes’)
There are many forms of scaevola to use as a dainty groundcover among other native plants or for a cottage garden. ‘Bright Eyes’ has masses of mauve flowers with a white eye. It blooms from spring to summer.
Growing checklist: Sun to shade, keep well watered in dry times, tolerates light frost. Grows 50cm high x 1m wide.
Westringia (Westringia fruticosa ‘Flat’n’Fruity’)
This is a prostrate form of the popular shrubby coastal rosemary with dense flat growth and white flowers.
Growing checklist: Sun to light shade, tolerates light frost and coastal conditions. Grows 30cm high x 50cm-2m wide.