Groundcovers for Shade


Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) makes a great groundcover for shady spots.

Gardening in the shade is not always obvious. Just planting among the roots of the trees that cause the shade is quite a feat in itself (here’s how), then afterwards the plants may grow poorly due to lack of light. Often it is easier to abandon the idea of a traditional flowerbed and accept that a simple ground cover – a plant that will create a carpetlike effect – is often the easiest solution. Most ground covers even offer the advantage of spreading over time: you only have to plant a few and, depending to the spacing you used and the type of plant you chose – some do grow faster than others – you’ll have a full carpet in just 2 to 5 years.

Not all groundcovers are adapted to shade, though. Here are some suggestions of varieties that will do well in partial to deep shade:

  1. Baneberry, red (Actaea rubra) Zone 2
  2. Baneberry, white (Actaea pachypoda) Zone 2
  3. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) Zone 2
  4. Bellwort (Ulvularia spp.) Zone 4
  5. Bergenia (Bergenia spp.) Zone 3
  6. Bleeding heart, fringed (Dicentra eximia) Zone 3
  7. Bleeding heart, Pacific (Dicentra formosa) Zone 3
  8. Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla) Zone 3
  9. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) Zone 3
  10. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) Zone 2
  11. Epimedium (Epimedium spp.) Zone 3
  12. Fern, Christmas (Polystichum acrostichoides) Zone 3
  13. Fern, female (Althyrium filix-femina) Zone 4
  14. Fern, Japanese painted (Athyrium niponicum metallicum pictum) Zone 4
  15. Fern, male (Dryopteris filix-mas) Zone 3
  16. Fern, northern maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum) Zone 3
  17. Fern, oak (Gymnocarpium dryopteris) Zone 3
  18. Fern, ostrich (Matteucia struthiopteris) Zone 3
  19. Fern, sensitive (Onoclea sensibilis) Zone 3
  20. Fern, southern maidenhair (Adiantum capillis-veneris) Zone 7
  21. Foamflower (Tiarella spp.) Zone 3
  22. Geranium, bigroot (Geranium macrorrhizum) Zone 4
  23. Geranium, bloody (Geranium sanguineum) Zone 4
  24. Geranium, Cambridge (Geranium x cantabrigiense) Zone 4
  25. Gillenia (Gillenia trifoliata)
  26. Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) Zone 2
  27. Grass, Japanese forest (Hakonechloa macra) Zone 5
  28. Hellebore (Helleborus spp.) Zone 5
  29. Heuchera (Heuchera spp.) Zone 3
  30. Heucherella (X Heucherella cvs) Zone 3
  31. Hosta (Hosta spp.)
  32. Houttuynia (Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’) Zone 4
  33. Ivy, English (Hedera helix ‘Baltica’, ‘Thorndale’ Wilson ‘, etc.) Zone 5
  34. Ivy, Kenilworth (Cymbalaria muralis) Zone 6
  35. Lamium, spotted (Lamium maculatum) Zone 2
  36. Lamium, yellow (Lamium galeobdolon) Zone 3
  37. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) Zone 1
  38. Liriope (Liriope spicata) Zone 6
  39. Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.) Zone 3
  40. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) Zone 3
  41. Meadowsweet (Filipendula spp.) Zone 3
  42. Moss (various species) zones 1-10
  43. Pachysandra, Japanese (Pachysandra terminalis) Zone 4
  44. Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) Zone 2
  45. Periwinkle, greater (Vinca minor) Zone 6
  46. Periwinkle, lesser (Vinca minor) Zone 4
  47. Phlox, woodland (Phlox divaricata) Zone 3
  48. Sedge, broadleaf (Carex siderosticha ‘Variegata’) zone 4b
  49. Self-heal (Prunella grandiflora) Zone 3
  50. Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum spp.) Zone 3
  51. Solomon’s seal, false (Smilacina spp. and Maianthemum spp.) Zone 3
  52. Strawberry (Fragaria spp.) Zone 2
  53. Violet, Labrador (Viola rivinia ‘Purpurea’, syn. V. labradorica) Zone 4
  54. Waldsteinia (Waldsteinia spp.) Zone 4
  55. Wild ginger, Canada (Asarum canadense) Zone 3
  56. Wild ginger, European (Asarum europaeum) Zone 5
  57. Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) zone 5b
  58. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) Zone 2
  59. Woodruff, Sweet (Galium odoratum) Zone 3
  60. Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica) Zone 4

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