The Q&A Archives: ground cover

Question: Would creeping or moss phlox work well in a very shady area with tree cover, poor soil and an abundance of tree roots only a few inches underground. I have a very large area almost completely shaded with clay AND sandy soil that I'm almost ready to give up on.

Answer: Both Creeping phlox and moss phlox are good choices for the site you describe. You might also consider Canada violet and Virginia creeper. They grow under the most adverse conditions. Two other suggestions include Sweet Box (Sarcococca hookeriana humilis), a low, creeping evergreen with tiny, sweetly scented flowers in winter. It grows 12 to 15 inches in light to heavy shade. Lamium maculatum (Spotted dead nettle)is one of a handful of plants that, once established, will prosper in dry shade. Several varieties are available, with different flower and leaf colors. Those with variegated leaves such as 'White Nancy' and 'Pink Pewter' brighten up dark areas under conifers and shrubs. Lamium can be planted in average to poor soil in shade to partly shady areas.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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