We see it all the time. Gardeners spend hours deliberating which plants to combine in their containers for gorgeous leafy lusciousness adding a flowering accent or two for extra color before looking for a trailing element to finish it off. And what do they choose? IVY?! Trust us there are plenty more exciting options to spill out of that container.
One of the biggest problems with ivy is that the roots are so vigorous they quickly take over a container making the plant very difficult to remove. If you are looking for an evergreen trailing plant consider one of these instead, most of which can be found in the groundcover section of your local nursery.
Creeping Bramble (Rubus calycinoides)
Deep green, coarse-textured, lobed leaves on creeping stems form a very dense mat when grown as a groundcover – or trail beautifully at the edge of containers. Some leaves turn bronze or red in winter for added interest. Thrives in part shade to full sun, is deer resistant, needs regular water, and is hardy in zones 7-9
Ornamental Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis)
A Pacific Northwest native this is one of my favorites for pots since the long red runners dangle so perfectly over tall pots, the suspended, glossy green leaves often tinting red in cold weather.
Small white flowers in spring are followed by tiny red edible berries. If you prefer hot pink flowers seek out Lipstick (Fragaria x ananassa).
Does well in poor sandy soil, full sun or part shade, and is hardy in zones 3-9
Kinnikinnick, Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Take a ubiquitous, native groundcover and add it to a pot and suddenly it is transformed from mundane to magnificent. Evergreen glossy green foliage on red stems, fragrant bell-shaped white flowers in spring, deer resistant, drought tolerant…..what more do you need?! Hardy in zones 2-7 will trail to 3′ in full sun or part shade.
Bearberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri)
Stiff, densely clothed branches will trail for several feet. In a container environment, it needs seasonal pruning to keep it in proportion but the semi-evergreen dark green leaves and red winter berries make it worthwhile. This does best in full sun but will also grow in part shade in zones 5-8. This is drought tolerant once established
Periwinkle (Vinca species)
If it’s the variegated leaves that you are after then periwinkle may be the perfect ivy substitute. Wojo’s Gem and Illumination both have distinctive gold and green leaves while larger leaved varieties have two-tone green or green and creamy white foliage as well as flowers in white, blue, lavender, or burgundy. Hardiness varies but all do best in shade – part sun.
Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)
Bring sparkle to the shade with these glowing round leaves that may be chartreuse or more yellow depending on the lighting. In winter they may be semi-evergreen and often acquire a purple cast to the translucent leaves. Hardy in zones 4-8 likes moist soil and shade or part shade. (It may burn in full sun
Maroon Beauty Saxifrage, Strawberry Begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera ‘Maroon Beauty’)
This remarkable ground cover looks tender yet it is hardy in zones 7-10 (and semi-evergreen in my zone 6b garden). Named for its slender strawberry-like red runners this colonizing saxifrage adds pizzazz to the shade garden with evergreen rosettes of scalloped gray-green leaves covered in a fuzz of silver hairs and etched with silvery veins. A haze of wispy pink-tinged white flowers adds to the display in spring.