The Q&A Archives: Ground Cover for Dry Shade

Question: I'd like to plant a groundcover in a 3 by 4 foot patch that's right under a lilac bush (which is pruned high and is not too dense) and right up against a sidewalk on the northeast side of the house. Lots of lilac roots prevent deep digging, and the area tends to be dry and, of course, shady. Any suggestions for a ground cover or perennial (or even an annual) that would do well there?

Answer: What you need is a ground cover that likes dry shade. You're in luck because there are several that should do well there:

Periwinkle or myrtle (Vinca minor). This evergreen perennial vine trails the ground with shiny, dark green foliage and wonderful blue flowers in spring and sporadically throughout the summer and fall. Easy and low maintenance.

Ajuga or bugleweed (Ajuga reptans). This ground cover spreads quickly by stolons or runners, and has lovely purple flowers in spring. There are many varieties to choose from, all with distinctive foliage: green, variegated, bronze, purple.

Epimedium grandiflorum, sometimes known as barrenwort or bishop's hat. This plant has lovely, heart-shaped leaves and either pale yellow, white, or rose flowers in spring. It is slow to establish, but will hold its own against the competing roots.

Scratch the soil up the best you can and spread a couple of inches of topsoil to plant the ground covers in so they can take hold. All of these ground covers need to be watered the first summer until they are well established. After that they should do fine in normal conditions.

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