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Less than a foot high ground cover plants that are native to California.

Low ground covers are useful in small spots, borders, or to lower the edges of larger ground covers. Low ground cover plants compete poorly with weeds.
Use the taller ground covers for larger areas or where you want more drought tolerance. The taller ground covers are generally just easier and cheaper.
Do not be afraid to mix and match, most of the natives look good together. Push up the middle of the planting with higher plants to make a mound, without the pains of using tons of dirt. The plants will be happier without the dirt mound, and so will you. Some plants only grow a foot across, some 8 ft. across, one is a whole lot cheaper to use as a ground cover.
(One-two foot ground cover, click here)
(Two foot and above ground cover, click here.)
Shady coastal ground covers
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi  'Point Reyes' makes a small mounding ground cover that can gradually extend to many feet across and only a few inches high. This ground cover LOVES beach sand. - grid24_12
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Point Reyes Manzanita really needs part shade and regular water. Looks like a green lawn.
Arctostaphylos uva ursi, Radient Manzanita has great red berries on a flat ground cover. - grid24_12
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Radiant Manzanita needs regular water. Very low, an inch or two tall is common.
San Bruno manzanita grows as a nearly flat ground cover with green foliage and pink flowers. - grid24_12
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi suborbiculata San Brunomakes a low mounding ground cover that looks kinda like a lawn flowing over boulders, with pink flowers.
Heart's Desire is not as showy as some of the other Ceanothus, but the deer usually leave it along, it is hardy to maybe 10F, ok with some summer water, ok in 100 degree weather, but needs a little break from the sun. It is a moundy  ground cover. - grid24_12
Ceanothus gloriosus Hearts Desire is one of the gloriosus cultivars that we can actually grow. Most freeze here. Use as the middle layer to lower a ground cover height.
An old picture of Ceanothus  gloriosus growing over rocks next to a brick patio. - grid24_12
Ceanothus gloriosus gloriosus, is useful in coastal gardens. Best within sight of the coastal fog.
Ceanothus hearstiorum is actually quit nice little ground cover. These ground cover plants are about 6 inches tall and 8 ft. wide. - grid24_12
Ceanothus hearstiorum is a flat Ceanothus, no higher than 2-3 inches. It needs part shade in the interior and some summer water.
Sorry, an old picture of Maritime mountain lilac in full flower. This was in a landscape south of Cambria with no water, full bluff exposure. The plants were blasted by wind and salt spray. (The first week the irrigation flags we were using to mark the plants blew off, just the wire stake left.) Behind are the plants  Salvia spathacea and  Baccharis Pigeon Point. The Ceanothus maritimus is covering the ground only a few inches tall. - grid24_12
Ceanothus maritimus. Maritime California Lilac is native to San Luis Obispo county where it grows on old ocean beaches and bluffs.
Ceanothus prostratus is a moundy ground cover  with blue flowers. - grid24_12
Ceanothus prostratus. Squaw Carpet is an evergreen ground cover that grows on open slopes and under Jeffrey or Ponderosa pines from 4000' to 7000' elevation.
Corethrogyne filaginifolia, Silver carpet, Common Corethrogyne with Metal Mark butterfly. - grid24_12
Silver carpet is a nearly flat ground cover for sunny borders.
Deschampsia caespitosa,  Tufted Hairgrass is a  tufted grass that grows in seasonally wet spots in central and northern California. - grid24_12
Deschampsia caespitosa, Tufted hairgrass is a perennial bunch grass from mountain meadows.
Wayne Roderick form of the  Seaside Daisy plant with monkey flowers as a little ground cover. A plant of Matilija Poppy is in the corner. - grid24_12
Erigeron Wayne Roderick Daisy makes a delightful small scale ground cover.
Erigeron glaucus, Cape Sebastian works well as a small ground cover or in a pot or container.  - grid24_12
Erigeron glaucus Cape Sebastian makes delicate ground cover for those small coastal gardens. Butterflies will love you.
Eriogonum umbellatum, Sulfur Flower makes a small ground cover at the Santa Margarita Nursery - grid24_12
Eriogonum umbellatum, Sulfur buckwheat makes a stunning ground cover in mountain gardens.
Eriogonum ursinum Mat buckwheat's - grid24_12
Eriogonum ursinum. Hey, it's called mat buckwheat!
Wright's Buckwheat growing between granite at 7500 ft in the Sierras. It also grows fine in our garden as a little ground cover. - grid24_12
Eriogonum wrighti subscaposum is a really nice small ground cover for mountain gardens or adventurous folks.
The orange form of Erysimum capitatum, Wallflower. - grid24_12
Erysimum menziesii is a coastal wallflower that grows in beach sand. Very useful to spot color in amongst other coastal ground covers.
Fragaria californica Wood Strawberry is edible and although small, tasty It makes a low ground cover in moist shade. - grid24_12
Fragaria californica, Wood Strawberry is a strawberry that grows as a ground cover in the woods. Moist part shade or shade with light good enough to take a picture without a flash.
Beach Strawberry or Sand Strawberry makes a great groundcover. - grid24_12
Fragaria chiloensis, Sand Strawberry grows in wet spots in the sand dunes. If you have a sandy or light loam soil that's moist and maybe cool coastal sun or inland part shade, this is a great ground cover.
Fragaria 	virginiana platypetala grows in the mountains but will make a flat ground cover in a home garden. - grid24_12
Fragaria virginiana platypetala, Mountain strawberry is a flat perennial strawberry with gray leaves.
Gaultheria shallon, Salal, loves shady, moist areas of the redwood forest of California, but will also grow in part shade.   - grid24_12
Gaultheria shallon looks like something to use in a salad. spreads in shade and best in coastal areas under redwoods.
Grindelia stricta venulosa, this  Gum Plant makes a small ground cover on coastal bluffs. - grid24_12
Grindelia stricta venulosais a low ground cover that works well in coastal gardens.
Heuchera hirsutissima, Idyllwild Rock Flower, is here shown massed together, in its natural mountain habitat.  - grid24_12
Heuchera hirsutissima is a glorious little perennial that makes a nice small ground cover for pocket gardens.
Heuchera rubescens var. glandulosa, Jack o the Rocks, grows in rocky areas,  has red stems and white to pink flowers, which make a good contrast. - grid24_12
Heuchera rubescens glandulosa is small scale ground cover.
Horkelia parryi Parrys Horkelia smells just like a pine forest and can be used to line a shady patio or walkway. A wonderful smelling small ground cover. - grid24_12
Horkelia parryi is a small low ground cover type perennial that brings a pine forest into your yard.
Juncus phaeocephalus phaeocephalus Brown Headed Creeping Rush - grid24_12
Juncus phaeocephalus phaeocephalus is a wonderful creeping ground cover for seasonally wet (winter) spots near the coast, with heavy clay soils.
Juniperus communis montana, Dwarf Juniper makes a spilling ground cover. - grid24_12
Juniperus communis montana. This dwarf juniper trails along the ground at less than a foot high. Put a couple of rocks in and you have a beautiful ground cover.
Mahonia aquifolium Compacta Creeping Oregon Grape. - grid24_12
Mahonia aquifolium Compacta can be very low in coastal beach sand.
Mimulus moniliformis - grid24_12
Mimulus tilingii is a higher elevation seep monkey flower.
Monardella macrantha, Hummingbird Monardella or Red Monardella - grid24_12
Monardella macrantha. Got a small, partly shady spot that needs a low perennial?
Monardella odoratissima Mountain Coyote Mint, Mountain Beebalm, or Western Pennyroyal, and it smells good - grid24_12
Monardella odoratissima. Western Pennyroyal is a great addition to a small rock garden.
Monardella villosa obispoensis in southern Big Sur. - grid24_12
Monardella villosa. Coyote Mint can work very well with flat rocks to create a mini-ground cover.
Penstemon, Margarita BOP works as a border planting or small scale ground cover. Bottom of Porch has been a wonderfully stable inmost gardens. - grid24_12
Penstemon 'Margarita BOP' has been used to fill in borders and those annoying small strips where nothing fits and you need a spot of color.
Oenothera californica, California  Evening primrose with the petty spurge. Flat native perennials can't suppress weeds - grid24_12
Oenothera californica is a creeping little perennial that can fill in a bare spot.
Sorry about the flowers. This picture was taken in July at 6000 ft. in Sierras and the flowers had not come on yet. - grid24_12
Penstemon azureus works as a ground cover at mid elevations where it likes to be under snow in winter.
Sierra Penstemon in a Sierra Meadow at about 7500 feet. The Sierra Penstemon makes a nice small scale groundcover. - grid24_12
Penstemon heterodoxus makes a turf like ground cover in places like Lake Tahoe.
Pycnanthemum californicum, Mountain Mint's flower spike. - grid24_12
Pycnanthemum californicum is a great smelling small ground cover.
Salvia Bee's Bliss covering the ground  with wild  flowers in San Luis Obispo. You can be pretty rustic in a native garden and still impress folks. Bee's Bliss will do this in Los Angeles and San Diego. - grid24_12
Salvia Bee's Bliss is a great ground cover for dry sun.
Salvia gracias as a  non-irrigated ground cover  in San Luis Obispo - grid24_12
Salvia Gracias is similar to Bee's bliss but appears to like abuse more.
Salvia sonomensis, Farmar-Bower is a flat ground cover with yellow flowers. - grid24_12
Salvia sonomensis Farmar-Bower is a very stable creeping sage.
Salvia sonomensis, Mrs. Beard flowers spilling down bank. This ground cover will work well in places like Santa Monica, San Diego or San Francisco. - grid24_12
Salvia somonensis Mrs. Beard is a neat, clean sage ground cover.
Salvia leucophylla Pt. Sal is a rather low purple sage that has pinkish purple flowers. This was in a San Diego area garden. - grid24_12
Salvia Pt. Sal is a gray groundcover.
An old photo of Salvia sonomensis, creeping sage as a flat groundcover. - grid24_12
Salvia sonomensis works great on those rock quarries that some of you call yards.
A clump of Salvia spathacea, Hummingbird Sage as groundcover under Desert Willow next to Sulfur Buckwheat. - grid24_12
Salvia spathacea works in full sun on coastal bluffs, full shade under oaks in the interior.
The Las Pilitas form of Salvia spathacea is a flat ground cover. - grid24_12
Salvia spathacea Las Pilitas grows as a flat hummingbird sage under other shrubs or bushes.
Yerba Buena, Satureja douglasii is a beautiful green groundcover for shade. - grid24_12
Satureja douglasii, Yerba Buena covered much of the Bay area and San Francisco was originally named after it.
Satureja chandleri Shrubby Yerba Buena, Mountain Balm and San Miguel savory.  - grid24_12
Satureja chandleri is a delightful little sub-shrub that smells great and grows a few inches to a foot tall and is native to San Diego, Orange, Riverside and and San Bernardino Counties.
This little succulent loves containers. - grid24_12
Sedum oreganum works on wet shady boulders.
Solidago spathulata, Coast Golden Rod - grid24_12
Solidago spathulata is a low form of Goldenrod that grows on coastal bluffs.
Symphoricarpos mollis, Southern California Snowberry leaves and flowers. - grid24_12
Symphoricarpos mollis is a creeping snowberry that grows in fairly heavy shade inland, full sun near coast.
Pink California Fuchsia bush can be used a pink ground cover. - grid24_12
Zauschneria californica, the pink form likes part shade and near garden conditions.

There are others, but this is meant to be a sampler of the different plant types to give you some ideas. Have Fun!
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Edited on Sep 09, 2013. Authors:
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