The following article is part of a series geared toward entry-level gardeners. For deep dives into a variety of perennials that we have sold over the decades, visit our archive of in-depth perennial articles written by Tony Avent, Dr. Patrick McMillan, and other Plant Delights and JLBG experts. We also have transcripts of our Gardening Unplugged videos, recorded during our Open Nursery and Garden Days, that have great information for gardeners of all experience levels.
If you're new to gardening and have a shady area in your yard, groundcover perennials are an excellent choice to beautify and add life to your landscape. Groundcover plants are low-growing, spread quickly, and provide a lush carpet of foliage that helps suppress weeds while enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of your garden. In shady spots where sunlight is limited, it's essential to select plants that thrive in such conditions. Don't worry; we've got you covered! Below are ten of the best groundcover perennials for shade, each with their unique charm and easy-to-care-for nature. With these plants, you can create a stunning and low-maintenance shade garden to enjoy for years to come.
1. Plantain Lily (Hosta)
Cultural Conditions: They prefer rich, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. Hostas thrive in partial to full shade, but some varieties can tolerate more sun. Regular watering is necessary to keep the soil consistently moist. To promote healthy growth, provide a layer of mulch around the plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
2. Foamflower (Tiarella)
Cultural Conditions: They prefer moist, well-draining soil enriched with organic matter. While they thrive in full shade, they can also tolerate partial shade. Regular watering is crucial, especially during dry spells, to maintain soil moisture. Applying a layer of mulch helps keep the roots cool and retain moisture, making it an ideal choice for a shade-loving groundcover.
3. Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
Cultural Conditions: It prefers moist, well-draining soil and thrives in partial to full shade. Regular watering is essential to keep the soil consistently moist. Mulching around the plant helps maintain soil moisture and keeps the roots cool. Bleeding Heart adds a touch of elegance to any shade garden with its distinctive flowers.
4. Coniogramme (Coniogramme)
Coniogramme, also known as Asian Bamboo Fern or Japanese Netvein Fern, is an attractive groundcover with delicate, lacy fronds that add a unique texture to the shade garden.
Cultural Conditions: It prefers well-draining, humus-rich soil and thrives in partial to full shade. Coniogramme requires regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist. Mulching around the plants helps retain moisture and keep the soil cool, providing an excellent environment for this fern to flourish in a shaded setting.
5. Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Cultural Conditions: It prefers moist, well-draining soil and thrives in full to deep shade. Once established, it is relatively low-maintenance, requiring regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist. Wild Ginger's unique foliage adds a natural beauty to shaded areas, making it a fantastic choice for beginner gardeners.
6. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria)
Lily of the Valley is a fragrant groundcover with bell-shaped, white flowers that bloom in spring.
Cultural Conditions: It prefers well-draining soil with organic matter and thrives in partial to full shade. Regular watering is necessary to keep the soil consistently moist. This charming plant spreads quickly and can form a beautiful carpet under trees and in shaded corners of the garden.
7. Hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium)
Cultural Conditions: It prefers well-draining soil and thrives in partial to full shade. Cyclamen is relatively drought-tolerant once established but benefits from regular watering during its active growing seasons.
8. Fairy Wings (Epimedium)
Epimedium, also known as Bishop's Hat or Barrenwort, is a versatile groundcover with heart-shaped leaves and dainty flowers that bloom in spring.
Cultural Conditions: It prefers well-draining soil and thrives in partial to full shade. Epimedium is relatively low-maintenance and drought-tolerant once established, making it an excellent addition to any shade garden.
9. Coral Bells (Heuchera)
Cultural Conditions: They prefer well-draining soil and can tolerate partial to full shade. Regular watering is necessary to keep the soil consistently moist. Coral Bells add a splash of color and texture to shaded areas, making them a popular choice among gardeners.
10. Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum)
Cultural Conditions: It prefers well-draining soil and thrives in partial to full shade. Regular watering is essential to keep the soil consistently moist. Once established, Solomon's Seal requires minimal care and can create a beautiful and serene atmosphere in a shade garden.
These ten groundcover perennials are perfect for those new to gardening, as they are relatively easy to grow and maintain, even in shady areas. Remember to choose plants that suit your specific shade conditions, and don't forget to water them regularly, especially during dry spells. With a bit of care and attention, you'll have a vibrant and thriving shade garden that will bring joy and beauty to your outdoor space year after year. Happy gardening!