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Groundcovers for Shade

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Groundcovers that grow in shade are especially useful to cover the ground beneath trees where grass does not grow. Shade-tolerant groundcovers can help turn barren soil into a pleasant garden scene.

Most shade-tolerant groundcovers are native to woodland areas where there is full shade or dappled shade. Groundcovers do best where there is a modest amount of humus-rich soil.

The list here is divided into two parts; the second section includes shade-tolerant groundcovers that can also thrive in dry soil. Large trees and shrubs can take up a great amount of soil moisture; this often leaves the soil dry and a difficult situation for low-growing groundcovers.

Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis
Bunchberry flowers, Cornus canadensis, also called creeping dogwood growing below a tree

Groundcovers for Shade

The plants in this list grow best where the soil is evenly moist.

A-F Common NameBotanical NameZones
Archangel, yellowLamiostrum galeobdolon3-9
Blue-eyed MaryOmphalodes verna5-9
Bog rosemaryAndromeda polifolia2-6
BunchberryCornus canadensis2-7
Christmas rose; Lenten roseHelleborus niger4-9
Coralberry, prostrate ChenaultSymphoricarpos x chenaultii4-7
Cotoneaster, bearberryCotoneaster dammeri5-9
Foam flower, AlleghenyTiarella cordifolia4-9
Forget-me-notMyosotis scorpiodes3-8
Aegopodium podagraria commonly called  snow-in-the-mountain.
Aegopodium podagraria commonly called snow-in-the-mountain
G-Z Common NameBotanical NameZones
GoldenstarChusogonum virginianum5-8
HostaHosta spp.3-8
Italian arumArum italicum6-10
Ivy, EnglishHedera helix5-9
Lily-of-the-valleyConvallaria majalis2-9
PachysandraPachysandra terminalis4-10
Phlox, creepingPhlox stolonifera2-8
Snow-on-the-mountainAegopodium podagraria3-9
Strawberry, AlpineFragaria vesca3-9
Sweet woodruffGalium odoratum4-8
VincaVinca minor, Vinca major4-8
WintergreenGaultheria procumbens3-8

Groundcovers for Dry Shade

The plants that follow will grow in dry soil. Often the surface soil under trees is try as tree roots take up lots of moisture.

Barren strawberry, Waldsteinia
Barren strawberry, Waldsteinia
A-L Common NameBotanical NameZones
Allegheny spurgePachysandra procumbens5-9
Barren strawberryWaldsteinia fragarioides3-8
Creeping mahoniaMahonia repens5-8
EpimediumsEpimedium spp.4-9
Hellebores hybridsHelleborus x hybridus6-9
Japanese pachysandraPachysandra terminalis4-8
Lily of the valleyConvallaria majalis2-7
 Male fern, Dryopteris carthusiana

Male fern, Dryopteris carthusiana
L-Z Common NameBotanical NameZones
LilyturfsLiriope spp.5-9
Male fernDryopteris spp.4-8
Mondo grassOphiopogon spp.7-10
Pennsylvania sedgeCarex pensylvanica5-8
PlumbagoCeratostigma plumbainoides5-9
Solomon’s sealsPolygonatum spp.4-8
Woodland stonecropSedum ternatum4-9

Also of interest:

Groundcovers in Garden Design

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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