The Q&A Archives: Shade planting

Question: I have a 3ft wide strip between my home and the neighbors house that gets very little sun if any. is there a ground cover or total shade loving plant that I could put in there. Not even grass grows there. Or would I be better off just mulching it with a wood mulch or stone?

Answer: Shady areas are sometimes difficult for plants. There are some groundcovers, though, that seem to thrive in shade. Here are a few suggestions:
Ajuga, Carpetweed, Bugleweed (Arjuga reptans)
4 inches tall, flower spikes to 12 inches
Semi-evergreen foliage ranges from solid green to variegated green, white and burgundy/red. Flower color is usually blue or purple, but some pink or white forms are available. The closely related (A. pyramidalis) 'Metallica Crispa' has bronze foliage and blue flowers in spring.

Bethlehem sage, Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata)
1 to 1-1/2 foot tall
Rosettes of straplike leaves, most varieties with some silvery mottling. 'Mrs. Moon' is a good variety. Pink flower buds open to blue flowers in spring.

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
6 to 12 inches tall to 50 feet in length
Native vine with three-lobed leaves. Similar in growth habit and requirements to Virginia creeper. Lustrous green leaves turn red in fall.

Common periwinkle (Vinca minor)
6 inches tall
Vining, matlike evergreen groundcover. Glossy green leaves. Blue flowers in spring and sporadically through the summer. Grows well under trees.

English ivy (Hedera helix)
6 to 12 inches tall
Trailing evergreen vine. Prune or mow annually to maintain density. Many selections available. Leafspot can be a problem. Grows well under trees.

Epimedium, Barrenwort (Epimedium )sp
Most are 1 to 1-1/2 feet tall
Heart-shaped trifoliate leaves, often with some red or bronze coloration. Flowers in spring are usually yellow or white, resembling small orchids. Relatively slow growing.

Hosta, Plantain lily (Hosta sp)
Varies from 3 inches to 3 feet tall
Many species and cultivars of hosta are available. Foliage colors range from solid green, yellow-green or blue-green to variegated forms with white or gold markings. Many produce stalks of white to lavender flowers. Tolerate most growing conditions.

Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis)
8 to 10 inches tall
Glossy green, semi-evergreen foliage. White flowers in spring. The Allegheny pachysandra, (P. procumbens,) is native, and better adapted to Missouri's climate, but more difficult to find.

Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
8 inches tall
Fragrant stalks of white bell-shaped flowers in late spring. Foliage may deteriorate late in the season. Prefers moist, fertile sites, but tolerates most shady locations.

Lilyturf (Liriope spicata)
1 foot tall
Dark green, grasslike foliage. White to lavender flower spikes similar to grape hyacinths develop in late summer. (L. muscari,) Big blue lilyturf grows to 1-1/2 feet tall and produces dark purple flowers. It is best in the southern half of the state.

Mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica)
6 inches tall
Semi-evergreen trailing foliage. Rampant grower. Yellow blossoms through much of the summer, followed by strawberry-like fruits. Tolerates drought and heat.

Plumbago, Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)
12 inches tall
Deep blue flowers from midsummer through fall. Yellow, red and bronze fall foliage contrasts nicely with flowers. Slow to start growth in spring.

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)
6 to 8 inches tall
Whorls of bright green leaves around creeping stems. Small white flowers in late spring. Prefers moist soil.

Virginia creeper, Woodbine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
1 foot tall to 50 feet long
Tough vine for most any situation. Will climb to tree tops. Colors early in the fall, developing a red or purplish coloration. Engelmann ivy is similar, but with smaller leaves.

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
6 inches tall
Native to Missouri woodlands. Deciduous, heart-shaped, leathery green leaves. Flowers are purplish brown in spring, but usually hidden by leaves. European ginger, A. europaeum is evergreen with glossy foliage.

Hope one of these suggestions is just right for your landscape.

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