Good ground cover in the garden is essential if you want to lessen the work of constant weeding and well-chosen plants can also give a softer appearance to hard surfaces. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

Use the right plants: There are many obvious perennials to use, which will quickly take up space and add colour to the border, such as the wild geranium (cranesbill). Many make excellent permanent edging, such as Alchemilla mollis, Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ and Saxifraga x urbium.

Research fast-growers: Quick-growing varieties include Persicaria affinis, which thrives in sun or light shade and has pinkish-purple flowers emerging in summer. Helianthemum ‘Praecox’ produces small yellow flowers above a 6in evergreen carpet of grey-green leaves, flowering between June and August. Other relatively trouble-free ground cover plants include Ajuga reptans, astilbe, Calluna vulgaris, Erica carnea and Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’.

Watch out for invasive species: Periwinkle (vinca) is extremely hard to get rid of, snow-in-summer will fill a sunny site in just one season but will also take over everything else. And lily-of-the-valley, while wonderfully fragrant, has deep vein-like roots which are almost impossible to eradicate should you wish to do so.

Fill difficult spots: For difficult spots, such as a steep bank in shade, try Ajuga reptans (bugle), a strong evergreen, which carries spikes of blue flowers from late spring to midsummer. It spreads quickly, forming a carpet which will easily act as ground cover under shrubs and trees. Other shade-lovers that make good ground cover include heucheras, which come in a range of colours from almost black to acid green.

Infill with reliable favourites: Once you have established the framework of your border, good infill plants include potentilla, rosemary, spiraea, cystus, acanthus and rudbeckia, while towards the front of the border you could use dwarf hebes, alchemilla, epimedium and lamium. Plant carefully enough and you should soon have a riot of colour, without the need for too much hoeing or hand-weeding.