Groundcover Plants for Shade

groundcover plants for shadePerhaps it’s time to forego those flats in the local big box garden center and think differently when it comes to groundcovers. While pachysandra and English ivy will certainly do the job, there are many other less common plants that will gladly grow in in your landscape’s shady, barren patches.

Easy shade groundcover

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) is one groundcover that can quickly cover a shady area, blocking out weeds with a dense mat. While its short (4-6 inches) blue spring-flowering spikes may be familiar, all of this plant’s colors and forms may not.

Below are some of the colors available for this type of groundcover:

  • ‘Pink Elf’ blooms pink.
  • ‘Burgundy Glow’ is a tricolored variegated variety with white, pink and green leaves.
  • ‘Chocolate Chip’ is a slower growing miniature with narrow leaves and purple flower spikes.
  • ‘Black Scallop’ has glossy black leaves and deep blue flower spikes.

Because ajuga spreads by runners, it is categorized as invasive. It sometimes competes when planted next to grass but is better behaved in raised or edged areas. The unusual leaved and colored varieties are much less vigorous. Ajuga is easy to grow and transplant and requires little to no care.

bugleweed shade groundcover

Creeping Mazus (Mazus reptans) is another fast-growing, mat-forming groundcover reaching a height of only 2 inches. It blooms in late spring to early summer in lavender or white.

Mazus requires more sun than ajuga and is appropriate for full sun or part-shade. Unlike ajuga, it tolerates wet soil. Its low posture makes it the perfect groundcover between stepping stones as it will tolerate light foot traffic.

Creeping Lamium (Lamium maculatum) is a fast growing, deer and rabbit resistant groundcover that tolerates partial shade. Lamium features showy multicolored leaves and small white, pink or purple flowers.

It covers quickly but is not invasive. Appropriate for mass or mixed plantings, and borders, lamium prefers moist soil, but will tolerate dry shade. Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’ and ‘Beacon Silver’ are stand outs as their silvery leaves and white flowers appear to glow at dusk.

Groundcovers for dry shade

Although Barrenwort (Epimedium) is a bit harder to find at the garden center, this perennial is worth the search. Forming delicate looking 6 to 12-inch clumps, it eventually becomes a rugged and dependable ground cover.

barrenwort groundcover plant

In particular, the red variety, Epimedium x rubrum, is a stunner with red-tinged heart-shaped leaves and small red and yellow flowers. This groundcover is slow growing and appreciates some morning sun. But it tolerates dry shade and the competition of other trees and shrubs. It grows 8-12 inches high and blooms in May.

The evergreen perennial, Coral Bells (Huechera -- lead image), is also worth a mention due to its tolerance to shade and poor soil. The delicate flowers of this butterfly attractor bloom in late spring atop a clump of deeply veined leaves. The foliage comes in a dazzling array of colors. Resistant to deer and rabbits and requiring little care, a grouping of coral bells can add visual interest to that dark woodland corner of the yard.

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