If you have a shady area in your garden you know the struggle for it to look neat as well as having a bit of colour. Mulch is one answer-but how about considering a nice ground cover? Start your shade garden with beautiful low-maintenance ground cover and then add some taller plants for drama and colour. These mighty plants work double-time as they create a base colour for an area that may soon become the pride of your yard.
Pachysandra— Pachysandra is green year round and grows to a height of 8-12 inches, flowering with small white blossoms in late spring. Tolerating different soil types it will grow in deep shade as well as part-sun locations; making it ideal for many areas where sunlight varies according to the season or time of day.
Vinca Minor & Major—Vinca is another wonderful shady ground cover. Vinca minor is suited best in zones 3-8, while vinca major is slightly larger and is best suited for zones 6-9. Both are available in either a deep green or a variegated green leaf and spring blooms come in various colours of white, blue, and reddish-violet. This plant grows long viney off-shoots, but despite its appearance will not climb like an ivy. This makes it an excellent ground cover that is easy to maintain by keeping clipped.
Creeping Jenny—A durable ground cover, creeping jenny can handle light foot traffic so works well around stepping stones. Colouring varies from yellow to yellow-green with small, very round leaves. It can be used in the shady garden as well as a spot where there is partial sun. This ground cover also grows in trails and can easily be trimmed to keep neat looking. Flowering in spring with small yellow blooms, it gives a nice pop of colour to darker areas of the garden.
Bunchberry- Growing to a mere 6 inch height, bunchberry is a dense plant preferring the moist environment often found in shady areas. Resembling the dogwood plant in appearance they bloom with a white flower. In autumn, the green leaves turn red adding interest and color to its surroundings. Preferring colder temperatures, they do best in zones 2-6 and will produce lovely red berries that birds will enjoy.
Moss—Commonly found in moist environments, moss is actually a grouping of many moss plants. They do not flower and are low-growing, reaching only 3 inches in height. Moss is often said to be found on the North side of a tree, supposedly due to its preference for shade. A great addition to a rock garden, it is often used between stepping stones. However it is not tolerant of heavy foot traffic and damages easily.
Sweet woodruff—Commonly grown for its use as a potpurri, sweet woodruff grows densely and bears white flowers in May-June. With a height of 6-10 inches it fills an area with a little more interest than some of the smaller ground covers. An aggressive grower, it does require some maintenance and dies back in winter leaving a bare spot until spring.
There are many more ground covers that are suited to the shade garden. Check them out at your local nursery and soon you’ll be saying good-bye to those shady barren areas of your yard.