The Q&A Archives: Shady areas

Question: I'm looking for attractive flowering groundcover that does well in shade

Answer: Here are a few suggetions:
Periwinkle, Vinca minor, is also known as Trailing Myrtle, Dwarf Periwinkle and Creeping Myrtle. This species of Periwinkle is one of the most popular and widely used ground covers. Trailing stems with smooth, evergreen leaves (to 1.5" long) root at the nodes as they go along the ground and quickly spread to form an attractive ground cover. Tubular, lavender blue, phlox-like flowers (to 1 inch across) appear in the leaf axils in spring and continue to flower intermittently throughout summer into fall. Foliage will mound up to 6" tall.

Periwinkles are used as a versatile ground cover and provide good cover for bulb beds. Effective on slopes or banks to stabilize soils and prevent erosion. Easily grown in average, dry to medium wet, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. It tolerates full shade, but it prefers moist, humusy soils in part shade. Plant 12-18" apart to cover large areas. This evergreen perennial is similar in all ways to Vinca Major except the flower is a little smaller.

The Japanese Spurge plant, Pachysandra terminalis, and also known as Pachysandra, is a shrubby, evergreen ground cover which grows 8-12" high and spreads by rhizomes to form a dense carpet of rich, dark green foliage. Oval leaves (2-4" long) appear primarily in whorls at the stem ends. Tiny white flowers in 1-2" long, terminal (hence the species name) spikes bloom in early spring.

Flowers are not particularly showy, but on close inspection are quite attractive. Pachysandra can be used as a lawn substitute in shaded non-traffic areas and ground cover for shade areas. It is an excellent selection for shaded areas under shallow-rooted trees. Plant 6 inches apart. This perennial plant needs partial shade to full shade to prosper.

The Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is a fast-growing, high-climbing vine that attaches itself with tendrils which expand, disk-like, on their tips. The deciduous leaves that radiate outward from a leaf stem, like spokes on a wheel. Each leaflet is about 3"-7" long and an inch or two wide. The leaves turn fiery red in fall and are very showy. The individual flowers are tiny and inconspicuous, and arranged in elaborate long-stemmed clusters, with each flower at the tip of its own flower stem. The berries are blue-black, less than a half-inch across and much relished by birds. Easy to grow, the Virginia Creeper can get out of hand if not managed.

The Bigleaf Periwinkle, Vinca major, is also known as Greater (rosy) Periwinkle, Big Perwinkle and Large Periwinkle. The plant is shrub-like and grows to 12" tall with trailing ascending stems; 1-3 feet long. The leaves are dark green and bigger than that of vinca minor. It has solitary violet flowers at the end of the stem. This ornamental plant is fast growing. The Greater Periwinkles are an evergreen, creeping plant with long trailing or arching stems.

The flowers are carried in the short, ascending stems. It flowers from April through frost. The leaves are shiny, bright-green and broad with a blunt base with hairy margins. It thrives in shady and damp areas.

The Houttuynia ?Chameleon Plant?, Houttuynia cordata, is one of the most popular ground covers around. Small white flowers appear from July to August, but sometimes hard to see because of its foliage. It is an extremely hardy ground cover and easy to grow but can become very invasive. Being similar in shape to English Ivy, it features boldly variegated leaves of red, pink, white, green, and yellow with a plant height of 15?.

The Lamium ?Beacon Silver?, Lamium maculatum, has beautiful oval, gray-green to silvery-white leaves with greenish margins. The short spiked clear, pale pink flowers make it a wonderful ground cover. With a plant height of 6? and a spread of 12-24?, Lamium ?Beacon Silver? blooms from May to July. ?Beacon Silver? is great in the shade but will tolerate some afternoon sun in a moist area.

The Liriope 'Big Blue', Lirope muscari 'Big Blue', also known as Lirope,is a grass-like foliage set with tall spikes of lavender-blue, hyacinth-like blooms in late summer.

The Lirope 'Big Blue' is slow spreading. It is a very versatile ornamental grass that can be used as a groundcover or garden accent or even in a container. Place in location that is well drained.

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