Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

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

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Groundcovers for Shade

  1. Pingback: Avoid Lawns in Dry Shade | Laidback Gardener

  2. Pingback: Groundcovers for Sun – Laidback Gardener

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