michigan native ground cover plants

12 Michigan Native Ground Cover Plants To Adorn Your Garden

Unlike other plants, Michigan native plants offer you colorful shades to create a beautiful landscape and garden. Besides being stunning Michigan plants for landscaping, they also grow perfectly in cottage gardens, butterfly gardens, or native ground covers that are precious wildlife value. Native ground covers are a great choice for those who want to adorn their Michigan garden without being bothered by complicated maintenance, yet provide breathtaking flowers and even produce fruits you can consume. And for that reason, we have prepared the 12 Michigan native ground cover plants that will put a visual interest in any garden they are planted.

Most of them are native perennials with their outstanding blooms, and few are ornamental grasses and fruit-producing wild plants. Let’s dive in!

1. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Taken from the Greek word ‘Arctos,’ meaning a bear, no wonder that bears love red berries produced by Bearberry or Arctostaphylos uva-ursi.

This low-growing perennial plant also features dark green leaves that hide its berries during the growing season in early summer. After that, the foliage will exquisitely turn reddish-purple, creating stunning fall shades.

michigan native ground cover plants
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

In the very first year of growing, Bearberry will grow slowly before it belongs to fast-growing native Michigan ground cover plants once established.

Although it is a sun-loving plant, you can still plant it under dappled shade on sandy soils. Amazingly, Bearberry tolerates poor soils, making it an easy-to-go plant for landscaping.

2. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Rudbeckia hirta or Black-Eyed Susan looks similar to sunflowers since it belongs to the same Asteraceae family. It grows 2-4 feet tall of bright yellow flowers with dark brown centers that have a long blooming period. Therefore, it will make an exquisite ground cover to match your existing landscape.

michigan native ground cover plants
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Hirta)

Unfortunately, it falls in the short-lived perennial group compared to other sunflower members. Despite loving the sun, it will bloom longer in afternoon shade. It also loves well-drained, dry to moist, and acidic soil.

In addition, this drought-tolerant plant is attractive to birds and butterflies. Suppose you want to cultivate this native perennial; cut off the seed head after a dry fall day to have the seeds. 

3. Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis)

Bearing vivid tiny white flowers, the appearance of this herbaceous perennial is similar to Bush Anemone. But in fact, they belong to different families and so do their characteristics.

Canada Anemone grows short with whorl foliage, while Bush Anemone has dark green, lance-shaped leaves. Despite having alluring blooms, Canada Anemone can thrive better in the Michigan climate since it is a native plant to the state.

Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis)

Moreover, this vigorous plant is very adaptable to various growing conditions. Nevertheless, it prefers part shade to shade light and moist soils.

Yet, it can quickly spread aggressively when the growing location is too favorable. Because of this, the dense plant inhibits the flowering. Therefore, dividing plants in the fall is necessary to avoid clumpiness. 

4. Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica)

You may never wonder to grow grass instead of flowering ground covers. With this plant, you probably do not need to think twice. Though it looks like grass, Carex pensylvanica or Pennsylvania Sedge is, in fact, a low, clump-forming perennial.

It is a prevalent lawn option for landscaping. Besides that, this native plant has numerous benefits for local wildlife, such as providing nests for birds and hosts for pollinators, like caterpillars.

Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica)
Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica)

To plant ground covers are to understand what they need. Pennsylvania Sedge is a low-maintenance native perennial since it thrives in sun, partial shade, and shade on dry to moist soils.

You will only require to ensure soil fertility by adding high organic matter. It also withstands erosion, wet soil, and drought and is generally insect-free – all extraordinary qualities you can ask for from ornamental native grass.

5. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Known for its health properties, Echinacea purpurea or Purple Coneflower is one of Michigan’s native ground cover plants you will adore to plant.

Besides its beneficial aspects, this perennial is also well-known for the alluring purple and pink flowers with gracefully dropping petals, showing off its endless beauty from mid-spring to early fall. These flowers lure pollinators to perch, while birds are happy to feed on the seeds from the brownish disks.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

With its spectacular qualities, it is no doubt that people are interested in growing Purple Coneflower in their gardens.

This native perennial easily adapt to various soil types yet prefers dry, well-drained, and rich soil under the sun or partial shade. In some hardiness zone, it favors moist, loamy soil. Besides its beautiful flowers, Echinacea purpurea is also cultivated for research materials.

6. Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)

Michigan native ground cover plants are indeed fantastic. They have eye-catching flowers that are impressive, including Rough Blazing Star or Liatris aspera. It carries purple flowers atop tall thin spikes of green stalks with rounded and rough bracts.

Since the tall spikes, it is also known as the Tall Blazing Star. Even though the flower shapes may seem messy, it is one of the most popular gayfeather that will offer you transitional beauty from summer to fall.

michigan native ground cover plants
Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)

Similar to Rudbeckia hirta, this native plant is also a drought-tolerant plant that performs best in dry soil moisture. It also prefers sandy or rocky soils under full sun to thrive, just like in its natural habitat. Since it is a nectar-producing plant, it provides food for butterflies and other beneficial pollinators.

7. Small-Leaf Pussytoes (Antennaria parvifolia)

If you are looking for unusual plants for ground covers, Small-Leaf Pussytoes or Antennaria parvifolia will be your perfect answer.

It is a low-growing perennial that features white to grayish foliage with clusters of fluffy broken white flower heads atop reddish spikes of the stems. The flowers have pussytoes-like shapes, and perhaps it is the reason the perennial gets its name.

Small-Leaf Pussytoes (Antennaria parvifolia)
Source: Pinterest (@tolweb.org)

Furthermore, the Small-Leaf Pussytoes plant tolerates various lighting levels. It grows well in the sun, part shade, and shade.

Regarding the soils, it prefers loam or clay and is intolerant to sandy soil. Besides being a dazzling ground cover, it is also a perfect addition to border fronts or rock gardens, where it will grow between the stepping stones.

8. Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)

This plant may remind you of our previous bright yellow flowers collection, Black-Eyed Susan.

Nonetheless, Tall Coreopsis or Coreopsis tripteris bears vibrant yellow, eight-petalled blooms with no arching habit. Its flower stalks also grow quite tall, reaching about 3-9 feet. They are adorned with an early bloomer flower and some narrow lance-shaped green leaves in fall.

michigan native ground cover plants
Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)

In nature, Tall Coreopsis develops in moist areas, like damp prairies. Hence, it thrives best in moist soil, though it copes with dry sand. Considering the native plant grows in the woods, it is no wonder that it prefers shady locations to the sun. To stimulate fresh blooms, cutting off spent flowers may be necessary.

9. White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Besides White Yarrow, Achillea millefolium is also known by another popular name Common Yarrow. It has lovely white blooms in petite size and forms a flat head of flower clusters.

It is also among the most enchanting Michigan native ground cover plants, whose flowers emit pleasant scents. Hence, it is often found in butterfly gardens since butterflies are attracted to the blooms. Besides the appealing flowers, it also grows alternate fern-like foliage that prettily decorates the plant.

michigan native ground cover plants
White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

This native plant can tolerate full sun to full shade areas and is easy to care for. It favors dry soil moisture; thus, you only need to water them once weekly.

Performing division every other year and removing the dead flowers to encourage other blooms are essential to maintaining a healthy plant. In addition, aphids and mildew are two common pests you may find during the life of the White Yarrow. 

10. Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Wild Geranium or Geranium maculatum is a showy perennial that displays five-petaled lavender blooms at the ends of the branches.

Not only the splendid flowers, but this species also bears distinctive deeply cut leaves that are parted into five to six sections. Wild Geranium is not aggressive, making it a worth noting native Michigan ground cover species to grow in your garden.

michigan native ground cover plants
Wild Geranium (Geranium Maculatum)

Other than being beautiful, Wild Geranium is an easy perennial to care for.

You will not need complicated requirements to plant Wild Geranium since it adapts well to a wide variety of growing conditions. It prefers part shade to shade on rich, moist, and acidic soil. However, it copes well in poor soils and is drought-tolerant once established.


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11. Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Though it has a ‘Ginger’ name, it does not look like the ginger that we generally know at all. Instead of having lance-shaped green foliage that grows tall, Asarum canadense or Wild Ginger bears heart-shaped leaves with a creeping habit and forms dense colonies.

In addition, each plant grows a unique leathery purple flower that has a wide mouth in the center, resembling an orchid, in spring.

michigan native ground cover plants
Wild Ginger (Asarum Canadense)

Those who favor growing this native herbaceous perennial need to note certain growing conditions. Wild Ginger prefers partial shade to shade light levels; thus, it is not suitable to plant in areas where summer is too hot. Moreover, it loves rich and moist soils. Therefore, the ground cover requires medium watering to thrive.

12. Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

Who does not want a fruit-bearing ground cover? We believe anyone cannot resist Fragaria virginiana or Wild Strawberry to grow in their garden. Besides being an excellent ground cover, it can produce edible mini red strawberries you can harvest when they ripen.

They have a tasty flavor and are commonly eaten raw. In addition, the petite white, five-petaled flowers that grow before the berries can adorn your yard while waiting for the fruits to ripe.

michigan native ground cover plants
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria Virginiana)

As impressive as it is, Wild Strawberry is a handy plant to care for. It thrives in both sun and partial shade in dry soil conditions.

The native perennial tolerates a wide range of acidic soil pH, making it easy for you to choose the planting area and soil treatment. Furthermore, it is a host plant for gray hairstreak larval and a food heaven for wildlife.


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What ground cover is native to Michigan?

Our above collection of the 12 Michigan native ground cover plants are native plants from Michigan. You can choose them based on your preference.

If you would love to have flowering ground cover, then you may like Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera), Small-Leaf Pussytoes (Antennaria parvifolia), Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris), White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum).

However, if you want to experience harvesting your own edible wild fruits, you may consider planting Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) or Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana).

And for the green leaves or grass-like ground covers, we have Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica) and Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).

Now, the choice is yours!

Do Michigan native ground cover plants thrive in shade?

Yes! Some ground covers native to Michigan grow well in shade. For instance, Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis), Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica), Small-Leaf Pussytoes (Antennaria parvifolia), Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris), White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).

Nonetheless, some mentioned plants can also thrive in sun, like Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica) and White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

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