Groundcovers for shade

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Please post links if any such nurseries exist that sell mainly groundcovers for shade.

The one small garden we have that is in mainly shade, except for some morning sun, is our favorite (so very easy to maintain) and I'd love to continue the look in other gardens.

Thank you for any help you can give me.

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Pirl - Must honestly say that it looks great just the way it is. How old are some of those plants? Will they "fill up" the space anymore than they already have? What is that round-leaved plant in the lower left corner?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Mindy. That was taken 5/12 and it fills up nicely (maybe too nicely) - I'll find a photo.

The glossy rounded green leaves are ginger, given to me by a neighbor.

I'd like to have more areas like the garden posted but want more of a variety in plants.

July 18th:

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Wow! I'd be happy with half that variety growing so beautifully together. Keep an eye on your ginger - it can spread. In my garden, it likes to think of itself as a groundcover. And it's a toughie to pull out once it's self-seeded itself. Would a groundcover in that bed get enough light with all of the other gorgeousness going on?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

The ginger has been very well behaved for about five years now. I take out little clumps at a time.

I just want the same general look in more gardens.

Since I have a lot of blue hostas (not my favorites) and a lot of sedum in the gray to dark colors I felt that could be a start. I'd just like to look for things I never knew existed. Festuca looks interesting.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

That is so very pretty. Brunnera would also work there, I think. And primulas, maybe, too, depending on how moist it is.

Funny - I really like the blue hostas.

I like both the blue and yellow Hostas. Right now, the yellow ones are desirable for me in my shade.
What about some of the different ajugas? They'd stay pretty low except when blooming.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I do have ajugas, Burgundy Glow and Silver Brocade. Either (or both) would go well with the blue hostas (Love Pat and Blue Moon). I do have Brunnera and Silver Painted Fern and they could both be separated.

No matter how often I try primula it doesn't thrive for me.

Are there sites for nurseries that sell mainly ground covers?

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

Ophiopogon is great for shade, as well, and adds a different kind of heigth and texture. I wouldn't typically call it a ground cover, but I have seen it used in that fashion with something for contrast - either a mint-colored sedum or a dwarf chartreuse carex.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

Right. That's specifically what you asked for. This is what a Google search comes up with:

What's that little thing from New Zealand (that I try every other year and then kill) - yeah Leptinella squallida. I guess it's part shade and it's a relative of the sunflower . . . might not be hardy in your area, though.

Bluestone has a nice selection although they're not quite the newest, trendiest varieties. I am partial to Campanula poscharskyana. Have had it for years. Beautiful flowers ('Blue Waterfall' or 'E.H. Frost') but plain foliage. Dare I suggest Lysimachia 'Aurea'?

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Katie. I'll investigate Ophiopogon. We have a lot of sedums from tiny ground covers to tall ones and like how well they behave. There are also ferns in the garden above, tiarella, heuchera, hosta, lysimachia Aurea (I get along well with it, Cindy), Red Dock, Epimedium, a Harlequin hydrangea at the furthest end, Bridal Veil astilbe, iris, hellebore, a few different Euphorbias, and I try out some coleus there each year.

I had Leptinella at the front and it became smaller each year until it disappeared entirely just like the very tiny hosta I had in there. That one got so small that a quarter dwarfed it and I knew it was doomed at that point.

I've had a Campanula that just might be an old one, similar to Poscharskyana, for years and love it.

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Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

I think I might have a picture of the Ophiopogon combo from a garden tour last year and if I remember I'll look for it tonight when I get home and post it. For whatever reason, O. grows well for me here - I think it actually may like a somewhat clay soil, like sedges, and some protection from the sun.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Just found O and see the common name is Black Mondo Grass. I was talked out of it long ago by my nurseryman and now I'd like to shoot myself. I love the look of it but he said it was extremely slow to multiply. Had I ignored him I'd have a nice big clump of it now.

Maybe the next areas will be a black and blue garden with some of the lower sedums, O, and blue hostas. I already have Obsidian heuchera and a few other silvery dark ones.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

You know, I wouldn't say that. If it's in the right conditions it multiplies at a pretty good pace - maybe not as fast as some grasses, but it does fine. I think that the key is to keep dividing it to encourage it to spread. I found a rootbound gallon pot for $10 at a nursery last year. I divided it into probably 10 small plants and put them in their own pots for the winter in a protected spot. I'll plant them out this year at about 4" apart and I'll bet that they'll fill in the space between them in 2 years. So that's a 40" x 4" swath - over 3 feet in two years. I haven't done that before - I've just used it in pots mostly. But I'm going to take full advantage of it throughout the yard in the next few.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

Oh, and I meant to say that it looks very cool with Heuchera 'Obsidian' and Geum 'Lady Stratheden' in lesser shady areas. I had them together in a pot last year with Euphorbia 'Bonfire' and a nice burgundy flax in the center . . . but that's a whole different story.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Thanks for all of your help. I'd love to find a pot of it as you did! Running through photos I did find an Actea 'Lingerie' that needs moving to a shadier spot so that's one more for a new area.

I do containers as well and have full sunshine in the front along with a piece of driftwood about 6' long that is hollow in the center. This year it will have a dark dahlia, Beni Kaze grass, some dark coleuses and anything else that I spot, planted in pots and slid into in the hollow.

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Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

Lovely pots!!

I've been having trouble posting today. This is Geum 'Mango Lassi' (not Lady Stratheden as I said earlier) with the dark burgundies.

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Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

And here's the Ophiopogon with the sedum from the garden tour. This is clearly sun for the first half of the day and shade for the remainder.

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Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I think dwarf mondo grass makes a nice shade groundcover.
Here's a post of a swatch of it planted a few years ago.
If you look closely at the margins of the picture, there are some black mondo clumps I tried to place for contrast. Obviously hasn't filled in yet. It's a work in progress.
I've had great luck w/ mail order nursery Classy Groundcovers.
I've ordered plugs of dwarf mondo which are practically bursting out of their pots at a fair price.
And they delivered them the same week I ordered them!
They have a good rating in Garden Watchdog, too.

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Katie - what is the tall dark looking plant with long pointed leaves? I love it. My Cordyline is a lot like it but mine is much less colorful.

The O goes so nicely with that sedum! The only ground cover sedum I don't like is Golden Carpet. Here it's simply way too (over the top) aggressive.

Weerobin - I know I'm sold on O now! A work in progress is how many of us might describe the look we want. Thanks for the mention of Classy Groundcovers and the GW note as well. I'll look into it today.

Pirl - Is that Hakonechloa 'Beni Kazi' that you mentioned? How does it grow for you? I love my two "Hak" grasses and 'BK' is on my wish list.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Pirl, your gardens are lovely!

As to the original question, I've checked out Classy Groundcovers a few times:

I have never purchased from them, but they are a Garden Watchdog Top 5 pick:

They offer a very nice search feature, similar to the one at Bluestone, where you can select your requirements and they'll offer up recommendations.

EDIT: Never mind me! I just noticed that Weerobin already mentioned Classy Groundcovers. Oh, well! Too late to the party. :) But at least here are the links!

This message was edited Feb 18, 2010 8:56 AM

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

Good to know about classy Ground Covers. Thanks!

Pirl, the plant in the center is a young Phormium. They get huge, of course. There was a dwarf burgundy one at the nursery, but it was sold out (of everywhere but in their pre-designed containers) every time I checked in. That's probably good because I'm sure the price was sky high.

Even though we had a warmer than usual winter here (outrageously warm), the Phormium took a beating. I'm not sure it'll be here again this winter and I don't want to fork over the money to use it as an annual. I need to find something else for heighth.

The lysimachia nummularia is pretty aggressive, but it looks awesome in pots against anything burgundy. If it escapes, it's not too hard to get out.

My Lysimachia is not as aggressive as I would like. Maybe the soil's too dry or too much shade. It always looks kinda wimpy and sparse. I thought it would be more aggressive than mine is. It is in a spot though that doesn't get much TLC.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

Wow, that's unusual, Cindy. I guess a very dry spot would be a challenge for it. But even on clay in summer in full sun up here, mine doesn't even blink. Drop a piece and it will wait it out until winter when it gets some water.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

It was almost fatal heart attack time when I clicked on Classy Groundcovers. I didn't realize it was for 50 or 100 of the same plant. Still it will be a huge help for selecting what I might want 3, 5 or 7 of for the gardens. Thanks to all for supplying the name of it.

Since I managed to kill the Phormium I loved I, too, can't treat it as an annual.

Beni Kaze is just on my shopping list. I want the red color sooner than September. I do have other Hak's that do very well here.

That Lysimachia does go beautifully with burgundy, deep violets and blackish plants.

Cindy - the entire garden that started off this thread is not part of our irrigation system since we had the terrace/patio installed in '92 and that portion of the system had to be removed. Consequently, I water by hand and generally only when I'm hosing down the terrace or if I'm actually caught up on gardening and have the luxury of watering with a hose. So it likes it really dry here.

I've dropped many pieces of the Lysmachia and it loves to grow between the bricks. It even grows in the compost bins.

I don't mulch the soil that the L. is growing in. It can get pretty dry and crusty in the summer. It doesn't get all that much sun either. I've found that some plants may like the garden but not the spot I've put them in. Both blood root and Canadian ginger have long since vacated their original spot on their own and thrive in other spots in the same general area.
Speaking of that spot reminded me that my woodland phlox sure makes a tough groundcover as well. Only thing is that I have to trim the bare flower stems after it's done blooming.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Pirl, your garden beds look great. One of the groundcovers that I've been using is Lamium 'Purple Dragon'. I've heard a lot of people say it gets invasive, so keep that in mind. But, it does great for me, and it is really pretty. Shimmery silvery leaves with a darker green border. The purple flowers in spring and sporatically thruout the summer are a bonus. Picture here is a work in progress - I'm trying to get the Lamium to run the length of the stacked stone wall. Terri

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Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Oh, a note on mondo grass - There used to be show on HGTV called 'A Gardner's Diary' that toured established home gardens. There was one episode called 'The Mondo Man' about a man in Atlanta that replaced all of his grass with mondo grass and shade plants. It was really unusual, but pretty. He must have spent a fortune. Anyone else see that show? Terri

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

What a gorgeous garden you have and that stone is to die for!

Long ago we planted Lamium 'Beacon Silver'. I still regret it. Somehow it still returns, year after year, though I always feel I've eliminated all seedlings. It's just too wild here. I love the color, the shape of the leaf, the way it lights up dark spots, and the nice neat mounds it makes but if I let it spread it would take over all of the gardens. If there's a sterile Lamium I'd like to know about it but mine is way too fertile.

The very best behaved and easiest to maintain plant in our entire garden has to be dwarf goatsbeard (Aruncus). How I wish every plant was such a pleasure.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

I will probably regret the 'Purple Dragon' down the road too, but right now I'm liking it. I planted three regular sized goatsbeard plants last season. I think they'll look great where I put them when they reach their full height. I didn't realize that there is a dwarf variety too. I'll have to look for it to fill in an area where shorter plants are needed. I like their feathery plumes.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

You have the big one and I don't. The leaves are lovely. Long ago I thought only old people enjoyed foliage - now I'm one of them - shocking.

Right now I have hundreds of potted coleuses in the (indoor, unheated) porch. It does have doors to two rooms and the doors are open all day and left slightly ajar at night so it doesn't normally get below 60. If my brain were in good shape I'd be planning a garden around them but the urge to buy, when the ground is covered with that fluffy white stuff, is strong.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

Okay. I did a Google search. Is this the guy (and show) you're talking about, aspenhill?

Statesboro, GA(Zone 8b)

Here's another source.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Thanks. Lots of good information about sedums there.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Katie, yes that is the man and the show. I like the article (now I'll have to google some of my other favorite Gardener's Diary episodes). I still have most of the shows saved on my DirecTV DVR so I rewatch them when I get a chance.

Pirl - I'm with you on the Lamium. Gets too rogue for me.

Nineveh, NY(Zone 5a)

Pirl,what are the plants on both sides of the heuchera (citronelle,maybe) in the shade garden. I love that garden. I have a spot in the front of my house about 25 feet long by 4 feet wide I am trying to do something with.


(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Yes, it is Citronelle.

Does your garden have some shade? This one gets only morning sun.

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