The Q&A Archives: Groundcovers for Shade

Question: What varieties of grass will grow under mature maple trees in SW Michigan? Shade and the leaching effects of the tree roots are the main problems, but the soil is a bit sandy as well. I planted a deep rooted fescue last spring and it did really well in the spring and early summer. By August, however, it was all dead despite frequent watering. I have hear that there are grasses that will grow under these conditions. If you don't know of any, can you suggest other ground covers that would work?

Answer: Even so-called shade lawn mixes will have a tough time under your conditions. I would suggest using another ground cover such as Vinca minor (trailing periwinkle), Hedera helix (English Ivy), or even an ornamental grass such as Deschampsia caespitosa (Hair grass) which is a creeping tufted grass that actually thrives under trees. It can be mowed in early spring to renovate it but otherwise requires no care.

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