The Q&A Archives: Purple Ground Cover

Question: We are on bedrock, near the Canadian shield, with winter temperatures to -20 degrees F. and
have very thin soil. We have seen a dark purple ground cover in only one area near us, but have
not been able to determine the name of it. We would like to replace our (pitiful) lawn with it.
Can you give us any hints?
By the way, your FAQs are terrific.

Answer: Your description is a little sparse, but I suspect it may be a form of Ajuga (bugleweed). There are a number of varieties which have purple foliage and in my experience withstand all kinds of adverse conditions and readily spread like a groundcover, too! There are also a number of varieties of Sedum (Stonecrop) which would meet that description, but they do not spread as vigorously as a groundcover. In both cases, you might keep in mind these plants are not truly evergreen and so may not make a totally satisfactory lawn substitute.

If you need an easy lawn "substitute" you might also look into the lowest growing varieties of juniper. While generally green or blue-green during the summer, some of these take on a purplish cast in winter.

If you can, go to a local nursery and ask to see these plants labeled and see if I guessed right. Good luck with your search!

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