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Grow: Plants & Vegetables

Ground Covers for Shade

Best bets for ground covers to brighten up any shady area.

If you have a shady spot in your garden, you know how difficult it is to choose plants that will thrive, especially when it comes to ground covers. But there are a wide variety of ground cover plants that will give your garden color and texture year-round. Michael Weishan visited Stonegate Gardens in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where landscape designer Susan Redmond discussed some Best Bets for shade-loving ground covers.


Carex tenuiculmis
'Cappuccino' is known for its bronze foliage. The bronze hue is one that often won't hold up without sun, so it's unusual to see a bronze-colored plant that grows so well in shady areas, holding its color all year long. 'Cappuccino' tolerates some dryness as well.

'Silver Sceptre'
A close relative of 'Cappuccino,' 'Silver Sceptre' is an evergreen perennial grass. It grows to about 12 or 14 inches and looks nice surrounded by variegated plants.

Carex morrowii
This ornamental grass is perfect for damp shady spaces. It grows best in moist soil and can be used in wet areas. It can reach a height of 24 inches and has a very subtle variegation, adding a bright accent to dark areas.

Carex siderosticta
This perennial grass grows to about 6 inches tall and requires moist soil. It has a broader leaf than the rest of these grasses and looks nice when planted with ferns.

Lysimachia nummularia
'Aurea' is a creeping low-growing ground cover that flowers in June through August. Its bright chartreuse color makes it an attractive ground cover for a dark space. It requires little maintenance and prefers very moist conditions.

Lamium maculatum
Lamium is known as an invasive plant that is hard to control, but this particular variety is one of the more restrained cultivars. It has a variegated chartreuse color and flowers that can be pink or white.

Galium odoratum
sweet woodruff
Sweet woodruff is a deciduous perennial that grows 8 to 12 inches tall. It grows well with little maintenance in moist soil and flowers in the spring.

'Silver Dragon'
'Silver Dragon' is one of the few shade-loving ground covers that can tolerate dry shade. Its leaves are variegated and its blooms are pale lavendar.

There are several different varieties of Tiarella, some are ground-hugging while others can get a bit taller. 'Cygnet' is one of the taller varieties. It is a perennial that doesn't spread so it should be planted in masses if you want it to act as a ground cover.
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This segment appears in show #2821.

Published August 31, 2007