Gardeners often find themselves in the corner of their yard that is too shaded for plants. We long for one plant to fill that spot and cover it, so we don’t have too many thoughts about it. It’s even better if the plant is attractive and keeps out weeds. Ivy was the American shade ground cover of choice for many years. It was the only plant that could do the job without any problems in nurseries. We now have a wider range of plants that can cover large areas without getting much sun. These ten exceptional plants will make you reconsider ivy.
- The shade is scented with sweet woodruff.
Sweet woodruff ( USDA Hardiness Zones 8-8) is a strong spreader, even though it looks delicate. This Eurasian species forms a dense 15-inch high ground cover with many clusters of star-shaped, fragrant white flowers. It blooms in the early summer. Star-shaped leaves in emerald green are also available. They stay straight well into the autumn.
The heat of the South can damage sweet wood-ruff, provided it has constant moisture and shade. It can also cover large land areas under full shade trees in the North. It can thrive in cultivated gardens, but it needs plenty of moisture and acidic soil. To ensure good flowering, ensure the soil is kept moist and pH between 5.5 and 7.
- Wild ginger can withstand drought.
Shuttleworth’s wild ginger ( Asarum Huttleworthii Zones 6-9) makes a great, low-maintenance ground cover. These evergreen, variegated leaves form a tight-knit covering. It is slow-growing and spreads slowly through creeping rhizomes. This forms 4-inch-high mats full of leaves that hide the tiny “little brown jugs” flowers in spring. It has a 2-inch diameter and striking, silvery-grey markings.
Shuttleworth’s wild ginger is a native to Virginia, North Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Although it has deep roots, which help it survive droughts, the plant cannot withstand dry conditions. It requires well-drained, acidic soil. It is relatively easy to propagate by division and, although it can be costly, it is very cost-effective.
- Bunchberry isn’t just about the foliage.
Bunchberry ( Cornus Canadensis Zones 2-7), a low-growing member of the dogwood family, is an excellent emerald groundcover. Bunchberry can be a vigorously spreading ground cover with striking whorled leaves that grows in acidic soils. Large, white flowers (actually bracts) appear in early summer, followed by clusters full of bright red berries.
Cool summer temperatures are ideal for Bunchberry. It doesn’t like the heat of the South, and it quickly discovered that it wouldn’t grow in my Atlanta backyard garden. Because Bunchberry thrives in acidic, friable woodland soil, it won’t grow in clay soils or slightly alkaline soils.
- The seal of Dwarf Solomon is well worth displaying.
Dwarf Solomon’s seal ( Polygonatum Humble, Zones 5-8) creates a great plush covering for those with prominent shady areas. It creates a forest of 6- to 8-inch tall deciduous stems covered in soft green leaves. Small, bell-shaped spring flowers appear in clusters in the leaf base. Then, small, bluish-black, ball-shaped fruits emerge.
At first, it grows loosely and can be seen beneath the earth. It will become a mature plant when the soil is acidic and fertile. Once it matures, its rhizomes will quickly spread wide, giving rapid coverage. It can tolerate tree roots competition and can tolerate a lot of shade. If it is not given plenty of water in hot, dry summers, it will become raggedy and dormant.
- Anywhere you can grow Lilyturf, it will grow.
The Lilyturf ( Liriope Muscari, Areas 6-10) is a dense, evergreen ground covering that produces attractive, grass-like, dark-green leaves that grow to a clump of 8-10 inches high. Midsummer flowers are small and bluish violet. They grow tightly on a stalk that rises over the foliage. It is worth looking for cultivars with variegated, white, or curly, twisty leaves.
Zone 6a is not suitable for Lilyturf. It spreads rapidly further south. It doesn’t care about how hot or dry it is, the soil it grows in, how much sun it gets, or how little shade it gets. It will only be damaged by stagnant water. It can grow slowly at first, but slow-release fertilizers will help it grow faster.
- Attention is not required for Mother of Thousands.
The same quality gave the mother of thousands ( Saxifraga Stolonifera Zones 6-9) her name. This ground cover’s prodigious ability to produce offspring makes it an outstanding choice. To capture ground, a carpet of silver-veined, round leaves emits thin, red stolons that steadily grow. This creates a ground-level covering that brightens the shade by small, white flowers in spring.
This plant is easy to care for. This plant is well-suited for acidic woodland soils, but it will grow in heavy, acidic clay soils. It is a great companion plant for long, hot summers in the South.
- Goldenstar flowers brightly and spread steadily.
Goldenstar ( Chrysogonum Virginianum, Areas 5-8) is a native groundcover with beautiful yellow blossoms and a rich, green carpet. It grows into a dense, low-growing ground covering that can reach 4 to 6 inches in height. Many bright yellow daisy-like flowers appear in spring.
The golden star is native to eastern deciduous forests. It likes some morning sun to produce better flowers but can adapt to light to full shade. It can survive in the North, but it will thrive in the South. It can tolerate hot and dry summers. It prefers moist soil that is slightly acidic or neutral. It is a slow but steady spreader that is well worth the wait. This is ideal for gardens with delicate perennials or wildflowers as its neighbours.
- Wild cranesbill is tall and spreads quickly.
The wild cranesbill ( Geranium maculatum Zones 4-8) is a species that produces large numbers of leaves from tall stems. Both seeding and rhizomes can spread it. It forms a ground cover of greyish-green, deeply lobed deciduous leaves 18-24 inches tall. The bushy, attractive and long-lasting flowers are the highlight of this cover. The up-facing flowers are found in loose clusters just above the leaves in the early spring.
It can be easily grown in acidic, always-moist woodland shade (South) and some sun and light shading in the North. This makes it an attractive, insect-resistant ground cover.
- Vancouver has a graceful, understated look.
Vancouveria ( Vancouveria, Zones 5-9) is a classy, well-behaved cover for moist shade. This West Coast native is a very popular evergreen groundcover in the East. It isn’t as prolific as it is in its west habitat, but it is still a hardy plant that will keep coming back. The elegant cover comprises masses of pale green leaflets, which can reach 16 inches in height. In early summer, tiny white flowers cover the foliage.
It is important to water the South well and plant in deep shade. It will grow tighter ground covering if it is in a moist shade and has good tilth. It can tolerate more sunlight if it is further North.
- The yellow archangel is a colourful plant with beautiful flowers and leaves.
One of the fastest-growing ground covers is the yellow archangel ( Lamium galeobdolon “Hermann’s Pride”, Zones 4-8). It forms a dense mat of silver-speckled, 8-12 inch-high leaves. In early spring, the plant is covered in yellow flowers.
It needs full to medium shade in the South. If it is too dry, it can become leggy. If this happens, reduce the height to 4-8 inches once or twice per season. It can tolerate a lot of suns, and it grows stronger farther north. It can be too boisterous for delicate wildflowers and perennials. It will need a pH close to neutral, no matter where you live.