A great solution to those patchy parts of your landscape, 'ground cover' is a general term for perennials that are known for their ability to spread. Not only do they enhance the areas of your lawn where grass is difficult to sustain, but they often require less water than grass and are a great way to prevent erosion in hilly areas. Once established, ground covers are generally low-maintenance.
When picking your ground cover, consider light, water and soil requirements as well as how much foot traffic the plants will be subject to. Some plant brands-Stepables and Jeepers Creepers, for example-specialize in ground covers, making it easy to find the perfect plant for your property.
Here are a few standard groundcovers to get you started:
Sedum/Photo courtesy: HGTV
Sedum. The succulent Sedum is not only drought-resistant but especially great for erosion control. Try incorporating a few different varieties for a patchwork effect in a large space.
Pachysandra/Photo courtesy: Image-Juicy
Pachysandra. Easy to get started and a great choice for shady areas, Pachysandra forms a dense and low cover that's particularly effective at suppressing weeds.
Salvia/Photo courtesy: Fine Gardening
Salvia. With their hummingbird-attracting flowers, Salvia is a beautiful groundcover that appreciates full sun and a dry climate.
Hosta/Photo courtesy: White Flower Farms
Hostas. They don't create a carpet the way some groundcovers do, but hostas make for excellent borders. The shade-tolerant clumps will multiply over the years.
Creeping Jenny/Photo courtesy: Cotton Arboretum
Creeping Jenny. Able to tolerate damper soil than most groundcovers, “Creeping Jenny” blooms with bright yellow flowers during the summer.
Ground Ivy/Photo courtesy: Herb Garden
Ground Ivy. Able to thrive in 'high traffic' zones, Ground Ivys, a fast-covering groundcover, is infamous for invading lawns. Be sure to give the plant plenty of room to spread. Mow it down if you feel it might be encroaching on areas you'd prefer to stay ivy-free.
Chamomile. Not only does Chamomile withstand high traffic, it releases a lovely scent when stepped on.
Once you've chosen, prepare the area in your landscape by weeding and incorporating compost into the soil. Lay the plants down, generally about 12' apart, and apply about 3' of mulch to keep out weeds. During the first year, the plants will need some hand weeding and an occasional watering, but once settled they won't require anything but your enjoyment.
For more on lawn and garden, consider:
Landscaping Made Easy
Lawn Care Tips from Pennington Seed
7 New “Must-Have” Annuals