Ask a Question forum: Plant/groundcover that grows well in forest environment?

Views: 601, Replies: 14 » Jump to the end

DonBrom
Oct 27, 2016 6:51 PM CST
Greetings,

We have a lakefront cottage on 2 acres in zone 3b-4a here in Ontario, so any suggested plant should be viable down to at least zone 3. What we're looking for is a fast-spreading groundcover that can grow in full shade/partial sunshine and is not killed by cover from fall leaves. Most of the forest on the property is comprised of coniferous trees, but there are copious deciduous trees as well, mostly maples, birches, and beeches, hence the autumn leaves.
Essentially, virtually nothing green is growing on the forest floor because of layers of dead leaves, and we'd like to change that if possible.
Any suggestions?

Many thanks.

Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Oct 27, 2016 7:24 PM CST
Hi Don, and welcome. If you could fill in your profile with your city/plus Ontario that would give us a better idea of your overall climate. Just the zone really doesn't tell us much eg. proximity to a lake can factor into both humidity and temperature where your cottage is.

You may have to use the "trial and error" method for a year before settling on something that works. Also, walk by some of the other cottages near yours, and see what other people have growing under their trees.

My first try would be something like Periwinkle Vinca (Vinca minor 'Bowles') It also comes in white, and looks absolutely beautiful with spring flowering bulbs coming up through it. It says it's hardy to zone 4a, but if you dependably have a nice friendly mulch of leaves over it in the fall, that may help it a lot to survive the winters.

Another slight complication you're going to run into when first trying to establish some clumps of groundcover is tree roots. Not only do those trees drop a lot of leaves and needles everywhere, they also grow a large circle of roots around themselves. So be prepared to dig some good-sized holes for your starter plants, to give them a fighting chance against the trees. Fall planting can work if it's still warm enough there to try it. Again, be sure to mulch over the new plantings' root areas with a nice thick layer of leaves and give them a generous watering to get started.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Oct 27, 2016 7:33 PM CST
A plant that works well for the purpose here in Zone 4a Ontario is Lamium galeobdolon also sold as Lamiastrum galeobdolon. It grows right under trees in their shade and fills in quite quickly. Some sites say hardy to zone 2.

[Last edited by sooby - Oct 27, 2016 7:34 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1307272 (3)
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Critters Allowed Region: Arizona Xeriscape Greenhouse Annuals
Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad Adeniums Orchids Tropicals Plumerias
Image
plantmanager
Oct 27, 2016 7:33 PM CST
I don't have specific plants for you to try, but my recommendation is to pick 3 or 4 different ground covers and put them in. Test them for a year or more to see which ones do the best year round. You'll be able to then plant the best one for your area. Good luck!
Handcrafted Coastal Inspired Art SeaMosaics!

DonBrom
Oct 27, 2016 10:02 PM CST
Thank you for your replies.

dyzzypyxxy, the cottage is north of Plevna, Ontario. We are new to the lake and have no immediate neighbours. I haven't measured the humidity, but it must be quite high since we require two dehumidifiers on the lower level.
I have already planted some groundcovers, but not in the forest. Let's see, I planted Ajuga Reptans, which didn't last very long. sooby, I planted Lamium maculatum (Dead Nettle), and it's still hanging in, but not doing too well. The two that have relatively thrived are Japanese Spurge and English Ivy. Perhaps I will get more of those next season.
dyzzypyxxy, I was thinking of trying Periwinkle next spring, as well as Boston Ivy. I'll plant some in the forest as a trial.

One plant that grows very well on the property, though not exactly in the forest, is Eurybia macrophylla (thanks to XiaoLong Smiling , who identified it some months ago). I could try transplanting some of it to the forest sections. It doesn't mind dead-leaf cover, but I'm not sure if it can endure full shade, as all of what we have is growing in at least partial sun.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Image
sooby
Oct 28, 2016 3:58 AM CST
Don, Lamium maculatum is less vigorous than Lamium galeobdolon. It didn't do too well here either whereas L. galeobdolon, which is a larger plant, filled in under the trees quickly. English ivy is not considered reliably hardy in this area (I'm east of you nearer to Ottawa) so if it survives for you perhaps you aren't as cold as zone 3, maybe a microclimate from the lake. Geranium macrorrhizum is another plant that might do well in your situation and is very hardy.
Name: Myriam
Ghent, Belgium (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member Ferns Native Plants and Wildflowers Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Frogs and Toads Plant Identifier
Image
bonitin
Oct 28, 2016 4:55 AM CST
I agree with Sue, I do have Lamium galeobdolon and Geranium macrorrhizum in my shady garden. Both are very tough, vigorous in spreading in even the most unfavorable conditions like dry and shade, That's why I use them in spots where no other plant wants to thrive and they're doing a good job. Same counts for Hedera helix, but like Sue says maybe not hardy for your zone.
Name: sy
Northern Ireland (Zone 8a)
Region: United Kingdom Native Plants and Wildflowers Enjoys or suffers cold winters Birds The WITWIT Badge Container Gardener
Foliage Fan Sempervivums Houseplants Cactus and Succulents Region: New Mexico
Image
syzone8aUK
Oct 28, 2016 5:43 AM CST
Maybe somethin on here for you to try?
http://currentfixation.blogspo...

I would like to try growing the periwinkle! Looks very pretty.
Heat zone 1-2
[Last edited by syzone8aUK - Oct 28, 2016 5:44 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1307481 (8)
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
stone
Oct 28, 2016 8:09 AM CST
Good list....
I was going to suggest that you look around and see if you didn't already have Canada wild ginger there already....

Please don't plant invasives.
While the people meant well by suggesting them.... Planting vinca is a lot easier than trying to eradicate that thug after it destroys the existing forest environment.

A lot of people believe that they need to plant stuff in their wooded areas, and it would well behoove you to take your time, and spend time looking at what is there now.
Many of our desirable natives have periods of dormancy, and are not seen immediately....

How long have you actually lived on this property?

Edit:
Just read your last post....
Hedera helix is a nasty invasive.... Please don't spread that menace!
Japanese spurge sounds positively evil.

Your lake property should be covered in spring ephemerals.... Please don't kill the wildflowers by planting invasives!
[Last edited by stone - Oct 28, 2016 8:13 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1307554 (9)
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
dyzzypyxxy
Oct 28, 2016 9:13 AM CST
Good advice there, stone. But don't forget that some things can be invasive in warmer zones and not at all in colder. My daughter's zone 6-ish garden in Salt Lake City had a big problem with invasive vinca coming through the fence from a neighbor's yard. We labored each year to get rid of it.

Then I saw it growing beautifully, in a nice controlled way just a little bit higher up the mountain (say, one zone colder) in another friend's yard. Our friend has had it for years and no problems with it taking over.

We now plant the variegated form at my daughter's house and it also is quite controllable. So, I'm just sayin' that an invasive in one area can be a great garden plant or groundcover in another.

Even the same zone in different parts of the country have different criteria for invasives eg. in zone 8 in British Columbia where I grew up, periwinkle is used widely and much appreciated as a lovely groundcover for under trees. I'd suspect that the long, chilly, gloomy and damp winters keep it in check.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
Image
sallyg
Oct 28, 2016 10:45 AM CST
Packera aurea, zone 3-8- I have this, is happy with maple tree roots and rebounds if drought knocks it down, tough as nails, spreading well for me.

http://www.missouribotanicalga... virginianum, this mentions a northern type
http://www.clemson.edu/extensi...

I agree with stone, to make good use of spring epehemerals and then you may come to view the brown later times as a rest period.

Gaultheria procumbens -double check zone
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

I grow Asarum canadense and another native ginger. Both are happy in shade among tree roots, one is evergreen here and the other not. I think the A canadense is the less glossy leafed, non-evergreen in zone 7, more spreading one
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
[Last edited by sallyg - Oct 28, 2016 10:50 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1307697 (11)
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
Image
sallyg
Oct 28, 2016 1:09 PM CST
Mithcella repens
http://www.missouribotanicalga...
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)

DonBrom
Oct 28, 2016 2:36 PM CST
Thank you very much for all of the advice, folks. Thumbs up I will research your suggestions and plant accordingly.

stone, we don't live on the property. It is a vacation home that we use for about 6 months of the year (late-April to late-October), when the weather is clement.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Hybridizer
Seed Starter Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
Leftwood
Oct 28, 2016 6:04 PM CST
I wish I could be on vacation April through October! Or do you mean that is when you periodically visit? If that's the case then I would be especially careful about what non-native plants you try. You won't be around much to monitor them, and worse yet, you won't be around much to eradicate them if need be.

That list in the link that syzone8aUK posted is pretty good. Anything that would be fast spreading in a wild forest would make me cringe. Changing the forest floor ecology has ramifications on all kinds of natural organisms. Birds, soil flora, animals, besides the native plants already there that you would push out. Have you thought, for instance, that such a nice permanent ground cover as you envision would likely attract rodents (compare to the native flora)? All I am saying is, be responsible for whatever you decide to do. Smiling

DonBrom
Oct 29, 2016 2:31 PM CST
Leftwood said:I wish I could be on vacation April through October!

It's a long, personal story, and one I don't wish to discuss here.

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Ask a Question forum
Only the members of the Members group may reply to this thread.

Member Login:

Username:

Password:

[ Join now ]

Today's site banner is by Baja_Costero and is called "Aloe with six-legged friends"