Hardy ground cover plants that are also drought-tolerant include angelina sedum, bearberry and winecups. Some tough ground covers that can withstand shade are sessile-leaf bellwort, ostrich fern and the enchantress epimedium. Gardeners picking ground covers should also consider local climate and ease of maintenance when choosing plants.
Sweet fern is a popular tough ground cover that can withstand poor soil. This plant, which thrives in moist soil with good drainage, hosts bacteria that convert nitrogen to ammonia; the sweet fern then uses it as fertilizer. Sweet ferns can grow to be 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, but gardeners can mow them once a season to prevent overly tall plants.
Unlike many other hardy ground covers, the shredded umbrella plant produces beautiful flowers on very tall stalks. The actual plant, which has intricate, lacy leaves, grows to a height of 18 inches and a width of 24 inches. This rhizome slowly multiplies and populates the space with smaller replicas of itself.
A creeping willow is a fast-growing, tough ground cover that inches along the ground and covers walls and rocks with ease. Each plant can be 5 feet wide but is only 2 feet tall at the most. The creeping willow needs full sun and well-drained soil to thrive and can provide ground cover in two years if the plants are spaced 3 feet apart. In the early spring, the creeping willow produces catkins that look like fuzzy pussy willows.