The ideal ground cover plant forms a sufficiently dense mat of roots and foliage to reduce soil erosion, exclude weeds and provide an attractive, year-round appearance. A ground cover, by definition, spreads. Species that spread by rhizomes (underground stems), stolons (like the "runners" on strawberries), offsets ("splits"), or rooting of branches (tip-layering) generally are best for ground cover. Sod-forming grasses fit most of the above requirements and have the additional benefit of withstanding considerable traffic abuse. There are situations, however, when grasses may not be desired for aesthetic reasons or where mowing and other turf maintenance are not practical.
Examples of high altitude ground covers:
Acantholimon sp. Prickly Dianthus
Achillea tomentosa Woodly Yarrow
Arenaria montana Mountain Sandwort
Iberis sempervirens Evergreen Candytruft
Potentilla verna var. nana Spring cinequefoil
For a complete list of other high altitude ground covers see fact sheet 7.413, "Ground Cover for Mountain Communities."