Topping out at 6 inches, it derives its name from spikes of tiny bugle-shaped blossoms that range in color from blue to white. The leaves of this plant are glossy, toothed or smooth, and often tinged with shades of purple. Bloom time is May through June.
‘Black Scallop’ Bugleweed, available from Nature Hills Nursery
Nature Hills offers A. reptans ‘Black Scallop’ in 1-gallon pots.
- 2. Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis)
- 3. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
- 4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
- 5. Creeping Thyme (Thymus serphyllum)
- 6. Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
- 7. Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana)
- 8. Horned Violet (Viola cornuta)
- 9. Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
- 10. Liriope (Liriope spicata)
- 11. Lithodora (Lithodora diffusa)
- 12. Pig Squeak (Bergenia cordifolia)
- 13. Spike Speedwell (Veronica spicata)
- 14. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
- 15. Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri)
- Assess the Conditions of the Area
- Best, Fast-Growing Ground Cover Plants
- Trailing Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
- Dragon’s Blood (Red Sedum)
- Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
- Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
- Mazus (Mazus reptans)
- Tufted Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
- Creeping Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum coccineus)
- Big Root Geraniums (Geranium macrorrhizum)
- Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
- Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
- 10 Ground Covers for Shade
- Ground cover plants for shade
- Groundcovers for Shade
- Fill a cottage garden border
- Cover a dry spot
- Add edible interest
- Light up a dim corner
- Complete a sunny gravel garden
- Reader offer
2. Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis)
Perennial Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis) is a US native wildflower that spreads well in zones 3 to 8, prefers moist soil, and thrives in full sun to part shade.
Its height varies from one to two feet. Blossoms are individual and white in color, and leaves are bright green with toothed edges.
Everwilde Farms Canada Anemone Native Wildflower Seeds, available on Amazon
Amazon offers packages of 150 Canada anemone native wildflower seeds from Everwilde Farms.
3. Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) is a woody, mounding perennial that likes full sun and well-drained soil, and tolerates drought. It’s suitable for zones 3 to 8, and reaches a height of about 12 inches. In warmer climates, this plant is evergreen.
The blossoms of candytuft consist of sweetly scented clusters of white petals, which are often so profuse that you can’t see the elongated green leaves below. Bloom time is April through May.
Outsidepride Candytuft Groundcover Seed
Seeds are available in packs of 1,000 from Outsidepride via Amazon.
4. Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Creeping phlox, or moss phlox, makes a bold statement as a carpet of color in shades of pink, blue, or white. Leaves are small and evergreen.
It stands up to light foot traffic and is lovely cascading over slopes and garden walls. This is a native variety suitable for zones 3 to 9 that is perennial in most regions.
Plants are about two inches tall, and may exceed 6 inches when in bloom, during March through May. Provide sun to part shade, with average soil and moisture.
Phlox Subulata ‘Scarlet Flame’
P. subulata ‘Scarlet Flame’ in 2 1/2-inch pots are available on Amazon.
Read more about growing and caring for creeping phlox here.
5. Creeping Thyme (Thymus serphyllum)
Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox) is a wild variety of the herb that is wonderful between stepping stones. Light foot traffic releases a delightful minty aroma.
Hardy in zones 4 to 8, this woody perennial likes well-drained dry to average soil and full sun. It’s drought tolerant, and evergreen in mild climates.
Reaching approximately 3 inches in height, this plant has tiny, round, glossy green leaves and spikes of tiny pink-purple blossoms from June through July.
‘Coccineus’ Creeping Thyme
Nature Hills offers T. praecox ‘Coccineus’ in 1-gallon containers.
Consult “Tasty Turf: Tips for Using Culinary Herbs as Ground Cover” for more ideas on using herbs in your landscape.
6. Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum)
Lamium maculatum thrives in zones 3 to 8 in part to full shade. It is evergreen in temperate zones. Leaves are variegated green and silvery-white, and pink blossoms appear from May through July.
This drought-tolerant plant prefers cool, low-humidity regions with well-drained soil. Varieties vary in height from several inches to about two feet, grow in a clumping or creeping fashion, and form an interconnected network that crowds out weeds and inhibits soil erosion.
The shorter varieties are great for those narrow spaces in between paving stones, as well as in rockeries and border gardens, where you want to inhibit weed growth.
‘Beacon Silver’ Deadnettle, available on Amazon
Amazon offers L. maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’ in 4.5-inch pots, 10 to a flat.
7. Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana)
Reliable perennials, hosta leaves vary from forest to lime green, to variegated green and white, to all white. Blooming is inflorescent in nature, with tall spikes of small white or purple blossoms appearing from May through July. Some varieties are sweetly scented.
Also called plantain lilies, hostas have always been a staple in my family’s gardens. My great-grandmother had enormous plants with foot-long dark green leaves. These were divided for propagation at my parents’ home and later my own, in a rite of passage that continues today.
Perfect for zones 3 to 8, most prefer shade and rich, damp soil. Heights vary, with some reaching over 2 feet.
Hosta ‘Elegans,’ available from Nature Hills Nursery
Nature Hills offers H. sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, available in 1-gallon containers.
8. Horned Violet (Viola cornuta)
Horned violets are annuals with green, rounded leaves, and scented two-toned blossoms in shades of purple and blue that bloom from April through June. They are perennials in temperate climates.
Reaching from 6 to 8 inches in height, creeping horned violets are suitable for zones 6 to 11. They require average soil and moisture, and do best in full sun to part shade.
‘Arkwright Ruby’ Viola Seeds, available on Amazon
Amazon offers V. cornuta ‘Arkwright Ruby.’ Each package contains 600 seeds from the Seed Needs company.
9. Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Japanese pachysandra, or spurge, is an evergreen perennial that’s perfect under shrubs where grass doesn’t want to grow.
As a kid, I helped one neighbor gather a bucketful of cuttings from another neighbor to plant under a large tree with distressed, sprawling roots, and bare soil.
Those cuttings took root almost immediately. Before long, there was a pretty bed of glossy green whorled (i.e. spiraled) leaves that not only hid the tree roots, but protected them from further lawnmower damage. In April, spikey white blossoms made for an added attraction.
If you’re in zones 5 to 9 and looking for a fast-growing option, this could be the one. It’s drought tolerant, does best in part to full shade, and reaches a height of about 12 inches.
Pachysandra ‘Green Sheen’
Nature Hills offers Japanese spurge (P. terminalis ‘Green Sheen’) in 1-gallon pots.
10. Liriope (Liriope spicata)
Liriope is also known as lily turf. I have this hardy perennial beneath my front garden rosebush. It’s a grass-like plant with clumping and creeping varieties that may reach 1 to 2 feet in height.
Spikes of tiny blossoms in shades of blue, white, or purple appear in August and September. Some have green foliage, while others are variegated.
Liriope thrives in sun as well as shade, and likes moist, rich soil. It’s suitable for zones 5 to 10. I’m in zone 6, and mine turn brown in the winter and freshen up in spring.
Liriope makes pretty garden borders and is good at inhibiting erosion on slopes. It’s great under trees where you just can’t seem to get the grass to grow.
Nature Hills offers L. spicata, a creeping variety, in 1-gallon pots.
11. Lithodora (Lithodora diffusa)
I recently planted my first lithodora. It was the tiny, bright blue blossoms that caught my eye at the nursery.
It likes part shade, particularly in hot regions, and must have well-drained soil.
Great for zones 6 to 8, and able to withstand light foot traffic, this plant may reach 12 inches in height. It has small, hairy “sessile” green leaves that are attached without stalks, making for a low profile.
Lithodora blooms vigorously in May, then occasionally through August. In temperate zones, it is a perennial.
I’m on the annual/perennial cusp, so if I layer my plant well with mulch and we have a mild winter, it should return next spring.
One thing I learned quickly with this plant is that it won’t spread out and naturalize if it has competition from native weeds and wildflowers.
Be sure to give your new ground covers room to grow. Once established, their matted root networks should squeeze out the competition.
12. Pig Squeak (Bergenia cordifolia)
Pig squeak is a perennial whose name comes from the squeaky sound the leaves make when you rub them between your fingers. It’s suitable for zones 3 to 8, and grows best in part to full shade.
Pig squeak is a clumping plant with shiny, dark green leaves and stalks of pink blossoms that bloom in April and May. It’s a slow-grower that may exceed 12 inches in height. This plant is drought tolerant.
‘Winter Glow’ Bergenia
Nature Hills offers Pig Squeak ‘Winter Glow’ in 5-inch pots.
13. Spike Speedwell (Veronica spicata)
Spike speedwell, often called royal candles, is a clumping perennial suitable for zones 3 to 8. Its narrow green leaves form a base for tall spikes comprised of tiny blossoms in shades of purple, blue, pink, or white. Bloom time is June through August.
Spike speedwell prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It grows to a foot or more in height. Multiple plantings merge into a vibrant swath of color.
Veronica ‘Blue Bouquet,’ available from True Leaf Market
True Leaf Market offers V. spicata ‘Blue Bouquet’ seeds in packages of 100 and 500.
14. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Sweet woodruff is a fragrant perennial with star-like white blossoms atop whorled (spiraled) green leaves. It blooms during the months of May and June.
Perfect for zones 4 to 8, sweet woodruff prefers part to full shade and moist, well-drained soil. It tops out at approximately 8 inches, and naturalizes rapidly. This variety is great as an underplanting beneath shrubs.
Sweet woodruff is one of my favorites, as I’m a fan of woodland gardening with shade perennials.
Sweet Woodruff Flower Seeds
Seeds are available via Amazon, in packets of 20.
15. Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri)
Wishbone flower, also called bluewings or clown flower, is an annual that grows best in part to full shade.
Suitable for zones 2 to 11, it likes moist, well-drained soil. The blossoms of wishbone are trumpet-shaped in shades of purple, pink, white, and yellow, often with contrasting “throats.” Leaves are light green and oval.
Wishbone is desirable for its ability to produce vibrant color all summer, in the shadiest portions of a garden.
Outsidepride T. Fournieri Seeds
The Outsidepride company offers multicolor 100-seed packages of T. fournieri, available on Amazon.
There is nothing like evergreen ground cover plants to fill a vacant space in your yard and minimize the amount of time that you spend maintaining your garden. Over the first few seasons, after you plant these fast-growing ground cover plants, your flat space will be transformed into a rich tapestry of colors, textures, and leaf shapes.
They are perfect for sprucing up challenging areas under and around trees, accenting transitional locations along a home’s foundation and pathways, and are perfect for adding visual interest to broad areas throughout your yard. Similar to our article on evergreen shrubs, one bonus that evergreen ground cover plants and perennials provide, unlike turf, is a seasonal show of colors, fruits, and flowers.
To begin transforming your yard, it’s best to plant ground cover plants in the spring or early summer. Planting during this time of year gives them the opportunity to get well rooted, reducing the chances that they will heave out of the ground come winter.
It is vital that before you do any planting that you adequately assess the conditions of the area and prepare the soil. It is also essential to sufficiently space the plants and maintains them until they’ve become established. Before you can enjoy the billowing waves of green leaves and foliage, you will have to take the time to care for the plants diligently, but it will be well worth it.
Assess the Conditions of the Area
The most important and first step in establishing your ground cover plants, whether flowers or perennial grasses, is to evaluate the area and the soil. You will have to determine the texture of the soil first to determine if it is sandy and dry or if it’s wet if it’s a soggy clay or a lovely loam. At the same time, you’ll need to test the acidity level and adjust the soil to raise or lower its pH.
You may also have to modify its texture by adding gravel or organic matter. Take the time to assess the shade and sun patterns of the area, as well as the degree of protection the area provides during the winter. Is it protected from the prevailing winds and sun, or is it exposed to the harsh winter elements?
Once you’ve come to understand the soil you have in the area, you can begin selecting plants that are best suited to the pH, drainage, texture, and degree of shade, sun, and exposure.
Best, Fast-Growing Ground Cover Plants
Fast-growing ground cover plants are great for filling underdeveloped areas of your yard with lush, green foliage and flowers when the season permit. As well as rose bushes, the following evergreen ground cover plants are great to use in areas of your yard that are underdeveloped or in an informal garden. With their capability to grow quickly and densely, you’ll have a beautiful yard in no time.
When choosing your ground cover, it’s essential to not only look at the conditions in your area and how quickly the plants grow, but also consider how prolific they are. Plants like English ivy are pretty, but they are highly invasive plants and can quickly take over not only your garden but your yard. They are also difficult to eliminate once established.
In addition to beautiful ground cover flowers, think about adding some herbs to your garden space, too. Not only will many herbs that grow in full sun complement your other plants, but you can likely use them in other ways, as well. Many herbs deter annoying insects from the yard and others can be used to add flavor to your recipes.
Trailing Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
This ground cover plant yields beautiful periwinkle blue or violet blossoms that release a lovely scent. If it is left unattended, it will quickly spread throughout your garden. It is crucial that you carefully monitor its growth so that it doesn’t spread into other areas of your garden where you don’t want it to go.
The periwinkle plant is a great choice because it grows just as strong and dense in full sun as it does in full or partial shade. Finding shade tolerant plants like periwinkle make it an excellent plant to place around the base of your trees, beneath tall shrubs, or on top of a rock wall where it will cascade down like a waterfall once it has become established.
For a touch of lavender blue, choose some periwinkle. You won’t be disappointed.
Dragon’s Blood (Red Sedum)
A beautiful and bold ground cover plant, Dragon’s Blood loves the sun. It boasts a beautiful deep red color, and the more sun it absorbs, more brilliant color it will develop.
After several years, when it’s fully established, it can stand 8-inches tall and becomes a wonderful perennial. It grows quickly and will spread thickly throughout your yard. Dragon’s Blood is an extremely hardy ground cover plant and will tolerate dry soil and temperature variations.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
This low-lying ground cover plant produces flower blossoms in an array of outstanding colors. This particular species of ground cover plant is the fastest growing plant on this list, so it needs to be trimmed regularly, especially if you are using it along a pathway or as a border.
When the plant isn’t in bloom, creeping phlox has tiny green leaves, transforming into a blanket of color when it blooms.
Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
This rugged, ground cover plant thrives in wet areas. While it will grow in partial shade, planting it in an area with full sun will provide you with more vibrant colors.
It has long trailing stems, round chartreuse leaves, and vibrant yellow flowers. It can quickly cover large areas, choking out weeds and pulling out roots along its stems.
>> Further Gardening Tips: Find out about 17 plants that repel mosquitoes fast.
Mazus (Mazus reptans)
This is another perennial ground cover plant that’s low-maintenance. This is one of the shade perennials that performs best when planted in partial shade but will also grow in full shade.
If planted in mild climates, it will remain green throughout the year and will begin to bloom in early spring. If you live in a tropical environment, it’s essential to keep the mazus moist during hot weather.
Tufted Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
Native to North America, the tufted creeping phlox prefers to be planted in partial sun and moist soil. It is part of the phlox subulata easy to grow perennials family. The needle-like evergreen leaves form a dense mat across the ground to efficiently suppress any weeds.
It produces small pink or white flowers in the early spring and can reach up to 12-inches in height.
Creeping Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum coccineus)
Red creeping thyme is tolerant to heat as well as being drought tolerant. It grows close to the ground and thrives in full sun. It is like the deer resistant shrubs and is great for planting around stepping stones, or along borders.
In the spring it enhances your yard with a deep green color, erupting into gorgeous crimson flowers in the summer. Because it grows close to the ground, it chokes out weeds.
>> Further Reading: 28 Fantastic Ways to Use Neem Oil For Plants and in Your Garden
Big Root Geraniums (Geranium macrorrhizum)
The big root geraniums need to be planted in well-drained soil which also helps to kill fungus gnats and thrive in dry to medium moisture and full sun. They can grow to 12-inches in height and form a thick, weed-resistant ground cover.
In late spring and early summer, the otherwise grayish-green plant transforms into a beautiful array of purple-pink flowers with inflated red calyces blooms. Sidenote: As a variety of the big root geraniums, try apple geraniums as they are very drought tolerant ground cover plants for hot areas.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
A low growing evergreen shrub, the Bearberry can be planted in dry, sandy, and rocky soils. It is a hardy winter plant that is slow-growing. It typically grows between six and 12 inches high, and three to six feet or more in width.
The Bearberry plant begins to bloom in early spring with miniature, drooping, white or pink flowers, and transitioning into rounded, berry-like fruits in August and September. These evergreen bushes have leaves that have been included in traditional medicine in Europe and by Native Americans in the United States.
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Sweet Woodruff flourishes in densely shaded areas, making it the perfect perennial and ground cover plant to have under trees and dwarf evergreen shrubs. It will add interesting textures to your yard with its star-shaped whorls of leaves and fragrant lacy white flowers.
If you have a problem with deer nibbling on your trees and plants, Sweet Woodruff is the perfect choice for your yard. Deer don’t like this beautiful plant so it can help you create a deer proof garden with strategic planting.
Once the Woodruff plant becomes well established, maintenance is simple. Add some Epsom salt, but generally speaking, you won’t need to fertilize it and will only have to water it in times of drought.
If you’re trying to figure out how to add color and texture to undeveloped areas in your yard, consider planting an assortment of ground cover plants, dividing grass, or even large or small evergreen trees, in addition to a selection of perennials and annuals. The variety of plants will fill your yard with an array of beautiful colors and rich textures, with little maintenance required.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the best ground cover plants to bring into your yard. If you found this information about evergreen ground cover plants useful, please feel free to share it with everyone you know.
10 Ground Covers for Shade
It is often the case that we gardeners find ourselves with a shady corner in our yard where nothing grows. What we long for is one plant that will take to that spot and cover it so we don’t have to think about it again. If that plant happens to be attractive and keep out weeds as well, so much the better. For many years the quintessential American shade ground cover was ivy (Hedera helix and cvs.). It was one of the only trouble-free plants available in nurseries to get the job done. Now, however, we have available a wider selection of plants that can cover large areas of ground without the benefit of a lot of sun. You probably won’t even consider ivy if you first check out these ten outstanding plants for your shady spot.
W. George Schmid is the author of An Encyclopedia of Shade Peren-nials. He gardens in Atlanta, Ga.
Sweet woodruff adds fragrance to the shade
By Christopher Schlosser under the license GDFL and Creative Commons CC-By-SA-2.5 or an older version of the latter license.
While it may look delicate, sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, USDA Hardiness Zones 5–8) is actually a vigorous spreader. This Eurasian species makes a dense, 15-inch-high ground cover with numerous clusters of fragrant, white, star-shaped flowers, which appear in early summer. The deciduous, emerald green leaves are also star shaped and stay neat well into autumn.
The heat in the South is harmful for sweet wood-ruff, but it can take it if shade and constant moisture are provided. In the North it does much better, and it can cover areas under full shade trees. But keep an eye on it: With plenty of moisture and fertile, acidic soil, it can run rampant in cultivated beds. For good flowering, keep the soil consistently moist with a pH of 5.5 to 7.
Wild ginger can handle drought
Shuttleworth’s wild ginger (Asarum shuttleworthii, Zones 6–9) is a cham-pion, no-care ground cover. The beau-tifully variegated, evergreen leaves stand shoulder to shoulder, creating a close-knit cover. It is low-growing and spreads slowly by creeping rhizomes, forming 4-inch-high mats of leaves, which hide the insignificant “little brown jug” flowers in spring. The 2-inch-diameter leaves have a rich, grayish green color with striking, silvery gray markings.
Native to Virginia, the Carolinas, northern Georgia, and Alabama, Shuttle-worth’s wild ginger requires acidic, well-drained soil. It has deep roots that help it survive drought, but the plant cannot handle consistently dry conditions. Although it can be expensive, it is gener-ally maintenance-free and is easily propagated by division.
Bunchberry doesn’t rely only on foliage for looks
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis, Zones 2–7), a low-growing member of the dogwood family, makes an outstanding emerald ground cover. In acidic soil of good tilth, bunchberry becomes a magnificent, vigorously spreading, 6- to 8-inch-high ground cover of striking whorled leaves. Large, white flowers (actually bracts) appear in early summer, followed by clusters of bright red berries.
Bunchberry thrives in cool summer climates. It does not like the hot South, and I quickly found out it would not grow in my Atlanta garden. And since bunchberry enjoys friable, acidic woodland soil, it will not grow in clay soils or in soils that are even slightly alkaline.
Dwarf solomon’s seal is worth showing off
Dwarf Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum humile, Zones 5–8) creates a plush cover wonderful for prominent shady spots.
It produces a forest of deciduous, 6- to 8-inch-tall stems clothed in soft green leaves. In spring, small, bell-shaped flowers emerge in clusters in the leaf axils followed by small, bluish black, ball-shaped fruit.
It grows loosely at first and the earth can be seen under it. But when it matures (and is planted in fertile, acidic woodland soil), its rhizomes will spread fast and wide, providing quick coverage. It does well in considerable shade and tolerates tree-root competition. It will become ragged and go dormant early unless supplied with plenty of water during hot, dry summers.
Lilyturf can grow anywhere
A superb, dense, evergreen ground cover, lilyturf (Liriope muscari, Zones 6–10) offers attractive, grasslike, dark green leaves that form an expanding 8- to 10-inch-high clump. The midsummer flowers are small, bluish violet, and tightly clustered on a stalk that rises above the foliage. Cultivars with variegated leaves, white flowers, or curly, twisted leaves are worth seeking out.
Lilyturf is barely hardy in Zone 6a. Farther south, it spreads vigorously. It cares little how hot or dry it gets, what soil it grows in, or how much or little sun or shade it gets. Only stagnant water in the ground will harm it. Initially, it can be a slow grower, but an application of slow-release fertilizers will provide a faster start.
Mother of thousands doesn’t need attention
The same quality that earned mother of thousands (Saxifraga stolonifera, Zones 6–9) its name makes it a superb ground cover: its prodigious ability to produce offspring. Carpets of round, silver-veined leaves send out thin, red stolons to steadily capture new ground. The result is a tight, ground-level cover that brightens the shade with
2-foot-high plumes of small, white flowers in late spring.
This plant requires little care. It is suited to acidic woodland soils but will grow just as well in heavy, acidic clay soil. In the South, it endures long, hot summers and is a wonderful pass-along plant.
Golden Star blooms bright and spreads steadily
Goldenstar (Chrysogonum virginianum, Zones 5–8) is an elegant, long-lived, native ground cover with dazzling yellow blossoms scattered over a rich, green carpet of leaves. It spreads into a tight, low-growing ground cover that is 4 to 6 inches high. Spring brings many bright, yellow, daisylike flowers, which reappear in late summer.
Native to our eastern deciduous forests, golden star likes a bit of morning sun for better blooms but will adapt to medium to full shade. It is hardy in the North and grows well in the South, tolerating hot and dry summers. A moist, slightly acidic to neutral soil is best. A slow but deliberate spreader, it is well worth the wait and is suitable for gardens where delicate perennials and wildflowers will be its neighbors.
Wild cranesbill stands tall and spreads fast
Wild cranesbill (Geranium maculatum, Zones 4–8) has flocks of leaves on tall stems. It makes a bushy cover crowned with long-lasting, attractive purplish flowers. It spreads both by seeding itself widely and by rhizomes. The result is an 18- to 24-inch-tall ground cover of grayish green, deeply lobed, deciduous leaves. In early spring, the up-facing flowers appear in loose clusters above the leaves.
Easily grown in acid, always-moist woodland shade in the South and some sun and light shade in the North, it is an insect-resistant, fast-spreading, attractive ground cover.
Vancouveria offers an understated, graceful look
Vancouveria (Vancouveria spp., Zones 5–9) is a well-behaved, classy cover for moist shade. This West Coast native is becoming a popular evergreen ground cover in the East. There, it is not as exuberant as in its western habitat, but it is a tough plant that keeps coming back. The masses of pale green leaflets make an elegant cover, up to 16 inches high. Tiny, white flowers top the foliage in early summer.
In the hot South, profuse watering and planting in medium to deep shade is required. With moist shade and deep, acidic woodland soil of good tilth, it will form
a tight ground cover. Farther north, it can take increasing sunlight.
Yellow archangel has colorful leaves and flowers
Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon, ‘Hermann’s Pride’, Zones 4–8) is one of the fastest-growing ground covers. It forms a dense, 8- to 12-inch-high mat of silver-speckled leaves. The plant covers itself in yellow flowers in early spring.
In the hot South, it needs medium to full shade and tends to become leggy if it gets too dry. If that happens, cut it back once or twice a season to 4 to 8 inches tall. Farther north, it tolerates considerable sun and grows much stronger. It may be too rambunctious for areas with delicate perennials and wildflowers. Wherever you are, it will require a soil pH close to neutral.
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Ground cover plants for shade
Ground cover plants cover the ground quickly, covering bare soil and suppressing weeds. They are naturally low-growing and form attractive mounds or carpets. They are often low-maintenance and usually evergreen.
Discover 10 ground cover plants for sun
Grow ground cover plants on steep banks or hard-to-access areas, under trees and shrubs, or at the front of a border.
Here are 10 ground cover plants to grow in a shady part of your garden.
Grow ground cover plants on steep banks or hard-to-access areas, under trees and shrubs, or at the front of a border.
Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge) forms a dense, evergreen carpet. It’s useful for providing ground cover under trees and shrubs and does well in dry shade. It likes an acid soil, so is often grown as ground cover under rhododendrons.
Height x spread: 25cm x 60cm
Vinca minor is a tough, low-maintenance perennial that will cope with many conditions in the garden, including sun or shade. It has glossy evergreen leaves and star-shaped flowers that are white or mauve, depending on the variety, from spring to autumn.
Height x spread: 10cm x 50cm
Gaultheria procumbens is an evergreen shrub from North America. It forms a dense carpet of leaves that are red-edged in winter and complemented by red berries in winter. It’s a good choice for slopes and wildlife gardens. It likes moist, well-drained acidic soil.
Height x spread: 30cm x 1.5m
Hardy geraniums, or cranesbills, are invaluable plants for ground cover in all kinds of gardens, whether cottage-style or more contemporary schemes. With blue, pink or mauve flowers, they are perfect for the front of a border and popular with bees.
Height x spread: 60cm x 90cm
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ is an attractive evergreen ground cover plant that has eye-catching silver foliage with dark green veins. In spring, it bears pretty blue flowers that look like forget-me-nots. It looks especially attractive planted with woodland plants.
Height x spread: 45cm x 60cm
Bergenia (elephant’s ears) are tough plants that quickly form dense clumps. They have large, shiny, evergreen leaves, some of which are tinged an attractive red in winter, and attractive mauve flowers in April and May. They prefer moist, well-drained soil.
Height x spread: 50cm x 50cm
Ajuga reptans (bugle) is a robust evergreen that bears spikes of blue flowers from late spring to midsummer. Plants quickly form a carpet, making it ideal for ground cover under trees and shrubs. Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ has dark purple foliage.
Height x spread: 20cm x 90cm
You might think of ivy (Hedera) as a climbing plant, but it can also be encouraged to grow flat, forming attractive evergreen ground cover. There are many varieties to choose from, some variegated, with differing leaf sizes. Hedera helix ‘Halebob’ is an attractive choice (pictured).
Cotoneaster horizontalis forms a herringbone pattern of evergreen foliage, which forms a dense mat. The white flowers in spring are a magnet for bees and birds appreciate the berries – making it a great wildlife plant.
Height x spread: 50cm x 180cm
Heucheras are grown for their attractive, scalloped foliage in a range of colours, from pale orange to almost black. They form attractive clumps and make useful ground cover for a shady spot. They also bear spikes of tiny, flowers in summer.
Height x spread: 30cm x 35cm
Groundcovers for Shade
While we may be gardening in the Sunshine State, many gardeners still face the challenge of growing in the shade. Beautiful trees in the landscape may provide respite from the heat, but their cooling shade also makes it hard for some plants to grow. Fear not though dear gardener, there is a right plant for almost every place.
Groundcovers are an important part of any landscape. Statement plants can be eye-catching, but a good groundcover provides the perfect backdrop for your other plants to shine. Groundcovers also help increase soil moisture, while preventing weeds and soil erosion. Generally, people think of lawngrass as the go-to groundcover—but most varieties of lawngrass won’t thrive in shade.
In areas of your yard that have consistent shade, you’re better off planting a groundcover that’s easy to grow in low-light conditions. Just remember that unlike turf, groundcovers won’t tolerate foot traffic, so you’ll need to plan for walkways or paths.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, the following plants can be grown throughout Florida in partial to even dense shade, depending on the specific plant.
With bold leaves that provide a dark green mat of foliage, Algerian ivy is a great groundcover for gardening in the shade throughout Florida. While tolerant of full sun conditions, Algerian ivy does best in partial to full-shade areas. The ‘Variegata’ cultivar has grey-green or blue-green leaves with green-flecked, cream-colored margins; ‘Canary Cream’ has cream-colored margins on green leaves. Algerian ivy is less aggressive than its cousin, English ivy, which was at one time a recommended groundcover—until its habit of climbing up trees was noticed.
Asiatic jasmine is a fast-spreading, densely growing groundcover that will thrive in sun or shade. This plant requires very little maintenance; just occasional trimming of edges is needed to keep it looking neat. Asiatic jasmine is actually easiest to control when it is a bit neglected, as too much water, sun, or fertilizer can turn it aggressive and unruly. It’s also salt tolerant, making it a great groundcover for coastal areas.
Cast Iron Plant
If you’re looking for something with a little more dimension for a shady spot, the cast iron plant may be for you. This evergreen perennial has glossy green leaves that grow upright reaching about 1 to 2 feet tall. There are a number of variegated cultivars to choose from as well. Cast iron plant is ideal for adding a little tropical flair to North Florida, as it’s also cold hardy.
Mondo grass is an evergreen that is actually a member of the lily family. This grass has blade-like slender leaves that curve back toward the ground, giving this plant the appearance of turfgrass.
Swamp Fern. Photo: Stephen Brown, UF/IFAS©
Swamp fern is a Florida native that is particularly well-suited for areas that are shaded and moist. This upright fern can actually grow pretty tall for a groundcover, reaching 4 feet in height. For a little extra visual interest the new growth on this plant is coppery pink which then becomes dark green with age.
While shady areas can be difficult to grow in, there are quite a few options out there—much more than listed here. Don’t let the shade get you down! After all, a problem spot in your garden is really just an opportunity to try something new.
- Ophiopogon japonicus, Mondo Grass
Also on Gardening Solutions
- Asiatic Jasmine
- Cast Iron Plant
- Landscaping in the Shade
Fill a cottage garden border
Leave bare soil in your borders and you may as well put up a sign saying, “Weeds welcome.” The best ground cover plants are the ones that never overreach their boundaries (or, if they do, are easily tamed). Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is one of these. Equally at home in a mixed border or in a container, it offers masses of vivid, violet-blue blooms with a white centre, against loose mounds of finely-cut foliage. It will cope with most soils and situations. As a sterile hybrid, it won’t self-seed.
Height and spread 30cm x 24cm
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Cover a dry spot
It’s easy to overlook bugle. At just a few centimetres tall, it’s not exactly in your face, but it is extremely useful for awkward, dry spots where you’d like a lawn but end up with a few scrappy weeds: the base of trees or an earth bank, for instance. You can even use Ajuga reptans as a lawn alternative: just mow it with the blades set high once or twice a year. A. ‘Chocolate Chip’ is one of the best of the bunch, with chocolate-brown leaves and blue flower spikes.
Height and spread 8cm x 20cm
Buy from gardeningexpress.co.uk
Add edible interest
Marjoram ‘Gold Tip’ is useful as well as beautiful. Photograph: Alamy
If you want every inch of your garden to be useful as well as beautiful, Marjoram ‘Gold Tip’ is a useful addition. Use it to line paths in your veg patch, or simply add clumps of it to a sunny, well-drained mixed border. Its neat green leaves suffused with gold are a highlight of spring, and the unremarkable lilac flowers are a magnet for bees later in the year. Hack it back hard in late winter for the best show in spring.
Height and spread 45 x 55cm
Buy from plantsandapples.co.uk
Light up a dim corner
Pulmonarias are my go-to plants for dim spots: the unloved side return, the gloomy side of the shed. Their hairy leaves come dotted, splashed or flooded with silver, and have the bonus of being more or less evergreen.The spring flowers, in bright blue, white or pink, are a brilliant source of nectar for newly-emerged bees. The best blues are ‘Diana Clare’ and ‘Blue Ensign’, or try white-flowered ‘Sissinghurst White’. For silveriness, opt for ‘Majeste’.
Height and spread 30cm x 45cm
Buy from plantsforshade.co.uk
Complete a sunny gravel garden
Sea thrift (Armeria maritima) is a tough, mat-forming evergreen with pretty pink blooms held like lollipops above a neat mound of green leaves. It’s perfect for a sunny, well-drained spot, throwing out flowers from May to September, and tolerant to drought. Use it for edging paths and roadside borders: its coastal pedigree means it shrugs off salty spray. Breeders have created several useful cultivars: try the taller, purple-pink ‘Splendens’, white-flowered ‘Alba’ or ‘Rubrifolia’, with its purple foliage.
Height and spread 15cm x 25cm
Buy from plantify.co.uk
Order three plug plants of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ for £14.99 or six for £19.98 (prices include free UK mainland p&p). To order call 0330 333 6856, quoting ref GU117, or go to theguardian.com/offers/plants.
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