What would be a good ground cover for a very shady area?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Ginny in Kentucky: There are certainly options for shade-loving ground covers, but the plant selection will depend on what type of shade you are dealing with. Is there any filtered light at all or are you dealing with deep shade? Is it dry shade, meaning that you are planting under a tree where the roots are going to compete for moisture, or is there ample moisture? If you are planting under a tree, you will need to make sure your plants receive sufficient moisture while becoming established and potentially extra moisture during dry periods. The most common shade-loving ground covers are ivy, pachysandra, ajuga, plumbago, and lily-of-the-valley. These are all good options in terms of spreading habit. There are also a lot of shade-loving perennials that you might consider, the most common being ferns and hostas, but other possibilities include columbine, heuchera, tiarella astilbe, euphorbia, spigelia, bleeding heart, helleborus (Lenten rose), and acanthus. Depending on the space you are dealing with, it is sometimes nice to combine perennials to create contrasting colors and textures. In some cases a spreading ground cover is the best choice. At this time of year you are better waiting until spring to plant, but you can get the area ready for planting and ponder exactly what you would like to grow.