When it comes to shady areas in our gardens or landscapes, finding the right plants to cover the ground can be a bit challenging.
Thankfully, there are a variety of beautiful and resilient ground covers that thrive in shade and add a touch of charm to those shady spots. From vibrant foliage to delicate blooms, these ground covers are sure to bring life and color to even the darkest corners of your outdoor space.
So, let’s dive into our list of the 17 best ground covers for shade and discover the perfect options to transform your shady areas into captivating havens!
1. Hosta (Hosta spp.):
Hostas are the superheroes of shade gardening with their bold, textured foliage. These low-maintenance perennials come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and leaf patterns, making them a versatile choice for any shade garden.
2. Lamium (Lamium maculatum):
Lamium, also known as dead nettle, is a delightful ground cover with variegated leaves and small, tubular flowers. Its trailing habit and ability to tolerate dry shade make it an excellent option for under trees or along paths.
3. Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia):
Foamflowers are elegant ground covers that produce foamy, white or pink flowers in spring. Their heart-shaped leaves create a dense carpet, making them perfect for shady borders or woodland gardens.
4. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum):
Sweet Woodruff is a fragrant ground cover that thrives in shady areas. Its delicate white flowers and whorls of bright green leaves add a touch of magic to the garden, while its scent can be a real mood lifter.
5. Creeping Myrtle (Vinca minor):
Creeping Myrtle, also known as periwinkle, is a classic ground cover for shade. Its glossy leaves and lavender-blue flowers create a stunning carpet that suppresses weeds and erosion.
6. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans):
Bugleweed is a low-growing ground cover with glossy, purple-bronze foliage and spikes of blue, pink, or white flowers. It spreads quickly, providing excellent coverage for shady areas where other plants may struggle.
7. Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra):
Japanese Forest Grass is a graceful ground cover that adds texture and movement to shady spots. Its cascading foliage comes in various shades of green, yellow, and even red, bringing a vibrant touch to the shade garden.
8. Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria):
Bishop’s Weed is a hardy ground cover that can tolerate deep shade and even dry conditions. Its variegated leaves create a lovely backdrop for other shade-loving plants, while its white flowers add a pop of brightness.
9. Periwinkle (Vinca major):
Periwinkle, a close relative of creeping myrtle, is another fantastic ground cover for shade. Its large, glossy leaves and sky-blue flowers make it a standout choice for borders, slopes, or naturalized areas.
10. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis):
Lily of the Valley is a fragrant ground cover that thrives in the deep shade. Its dainty white flowers and lush foliage bring a touch of elegance to any shady nook or woodland garden.
11. Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.):
Barrenwort, also known as bishop’s hat, is a versatile ground cover that offers both attractive foliage and delicate flowers. Its heart-shaped leaves come in various colors, and its spring blooms add a subtle charm to shady areas.
12. Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis):
Pachysandra is a tough ground cover that can handle heavy shade and even dry soil. Its glossy, evergreen leaves create a dense carpet, making it an excellent choice for large areas or slopes.
13. Wild Ginger (Asarum spp.):
Wild Ginger is a unique ground cover that adds an exotic touch to the shade garden. Its heart-shaped leaves and inconspicuous flowers create an intriguing carpet, while its aromatic roots can be used in cooking or herbal remedies.
14. Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens):
Allegheny Spurge is a native ground cover that thrives in shade and adds a splash of color to the garden. Its mottled leaves and delicate flowers create an enchanting tapestry, attracting pollinators to your shady oasis.
15. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica):
Virginia Bluebells are ephemeral wildflowers that emerge in early spring to paint the shady areas with vibrant blue blooms. Their bell-shaped flowers and soft green leaves create a stunning display before going dormant in summer.
16. Bishop’s Cap (Mitella diphylla):
Bishop’s Cap, also known as Miterwort, is a charming ground cover with scalloped leaves and delicate white flowers. Its slow-spreading habit and preference for shady, moist areas make it ideal for rock gardens or woodland edges.
17. Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’):
Black Mondo Grass is an edgy ground cover that brings drama to shady spaces. Its dark, strappy leaves create a striking contrast against lighter foliage, making it a fantastic option for modern or contemporary gardens.
Care and Maintenance Tips for Shade-Loving Ground Covers:
To ensure the success of your shade-loving ground covers, start by preparing the soil, removing weeds, and adding compost for improved fertility. Regular watering, especially during dry spells, keeps the soil consistently moist.
Apply organic mulch to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and insulate the roots. Prune and maintain your ground covers to preserve their shape and prevent invasiveness. Lightly fertilize in spring, following instructions, to provide a boost without excessive foliage growth.
Combine different ground covers for texture and color contrast, and regularly inspect for and remove weeds to maintain a tidy appearance.
Prepare the soil:
Before planting your shade-loving ground covers, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or grass. Mix in some organic matter like compost to improve the soil’s fertility and drainage.
While many shade-loving ground covers are adaptable, they still require regular watering, especially during dry spells. Check the moisture levels of the soil and water when necessary, ensuring it remains consistently moist but not waterlogged.
Apply a layer of organic mulch around your ground covers to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and provide insulation for the roots. Organic materials like wood chips or leaf mulch work well and also break down over time, improving the soil structure.
Pruning and maintenance:
Regularly trim and prune your ground covers to maintain their shape and prevent them from becoming invasive. Be mindful of the specific pruning requirements of each ground cover, as some may require more or less maintenance than others.
While shade-loving ground covers generally require less fertilization than their sun-loving counterparts, a light application of balanced slow-release fertilizer in spring can give them an extra boost.
Always follow the instructions on the fertilizer package and avoid overfertilizing, as it may lead to excessive foliage growth and reduced flowering.
Combining ground covers:
Experiment with combining different ground covers to create contrasting textures, colors, and heights in your shady areas. Pairing variegated foliage with solid colors or mixing plants with different bloom times can create a visually appealing tapestry.
Regularly inspect your ground covers for weeds and remove them promptly. Ground covers, once established, should help suppress weed growth, but occasional weeding may still be necessary to maintain a clean and tidy appearance.
With the right selection of ground covers, shade doesn’t have to be a limitation in your garden. From the enchanting blooms of Lily of the Valley to the dramatic foliage of Black Mondo Grass, these 17 best ground covers for shade offer a wide range of options to suit your taste and landscape.
Embrace the beauty and tranquility of your shady areas by planting these resilient and captivating ground covers, and watch as they transform the once neglected corners into vibrant, textured retreats that are sure to delight both you and your guests. Happy gardening!