Shaded back yard, steep ravine - Knowledgebase Question

Williamsburg, Vi
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Question by patsyschuler
September 12, 2010
My house sits on top of steep ravine. Back yard is small, mostly shaded and steep, Can not grow grass, suggestions for plants and erosion.

Answer from NGA
September 12, 2010
Ground-hugging plants with fibrous root systems will help with the erosion problem. Here are a few suggestions: Pachysandra is a popular ground cover suitable for shaded landscape situations. This evergreen plant spreads by underground stems and attains a height of 1 foot. The foliage is tinged purple in spring, becoming bright green in summer and yellow-green in winter or when planted in sunny locations.

Occasionally, clusters of tiny, off-white blossoms appear above the leaves in early May, but they have little ornamental value. The plant is adapted to full or partial shade. When planted in full sun, growth is poor. It is one of the few plants that will grow under evergreens and in dense shade.

The liriopes or lilyturfs are very versatile grass-like ground covers that adapt to a wide range of conditions, including drought and salt spray. Most cultivars do well in heavy shade or full sun, although some cultivars, especially the variegated ones, are better used in shade. Liriopes are used as ground covers under trees and shrubs, on slopes and banks, and even as low edging plants along paved areas and in front of foundation plantings.

The two species are separated by the size of their leaves. L. muscari has a longer and wider leaf, and the clumps it forms are generally taller (up to 2 feet). The spikes of lilac-purple flowers formed on it in the summer generally only stand as tall as the leaves, while the spikes of lilac to almost white flowers on L. spicata generally stand up above the smaller clumps of leaves. Blue-black berries are formed on both after the flowers and are somewhat ornamental.

Liriopes spread readily, filling in areas quite quickly. There are many named cultivars of L. muscari, with several white and yellow variegations.

Ajuga is a good ground cover, forming a dense carpet of foliage over the soil. This semi-evergreen plant grows rapidly by producing mats of foliage in rosettes. As runners develop from the mother plants, take root, and produce new plants, it can become invasive. (Low)

The foliage grows about 4 inches high with upright clusters of blue flowers reaching 6 to 8 inches. The plant flowers in early May to mid-June. Ajuga will flourish in almost any soil with good drainage. It grows best in full sun, but also tolerates shade.

The foliage is deep green in color and partly evergreen, turning brown after severe freezing weather. Bronze and variegated varieties are also available. The extensive root system prevents soil erosion.

Hope these suggestions are helpful.

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