9 Best Perennial Ground Covers for Shade

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Often times shady spots are neglected in gardens, especially tough-to-fill sites under trees, shrubs, or structures. While you could spread mulch and call it a day, you could up your garden game by planting shade-tolerant ground covers instead! They’re economical (returning year after year, free of charge), low maintenance (or completely maintenance-free), and hard-working (suppressing weeds along the way). There are so many plants that can do the job, but here are 9 of our favorites!

Bugleweed

(Ajuga)

Bugleweed is a fast-growing, ground-hugging, semi-evergreen groundcover with dozens of blue flowers in spring. Plant bugleweeds (like Chocolate ChipBlack Scallop, or Tropical Toucan) beneath taller growing perennials or shrubs in place of costly mulch to help keep the weeds down. Highly effective between stepping stones. Be careful not to plant too close to a lawn where it will co-mingle with grass. It can be difficult to eradicate!

Yellow Creeping Jenny

(Lysimachia nummularia)

Yellow creeping Jenny effortlessly forms a dense mat of small golden foliage. It spreads quickly and roots easily, which means your garden will be transformed in no time! Use it in containers, garden beds, or both. Perfect for planting underneath tall perennials & shrubs.

Coral Bells

(Heuchera)

If you’ve read our other blogs, you know that we love coral bells for their color, utility, and easy-going nature. These shade-loving perennials effortlessly brighten the garden with colorful foliage from spring through fall. They even boast tall spikes of bell-shaped flowers in late spring/early summer. It’s easy to mix and match them with other ground covers, or just more coral bells!

'Crested Surf' Japanese Painted Fern

(Athyrium niponicum)

This fern is a must-have, especially for fern enthusiasts. ‘Crested Surf’ Japanese painted fern from Proven Winners looks like it belongs underwater, but it’s really right at home in your shade garden. Soft gray and sage green foliage is accented by silver & dark maroon. It pairs well with other colorful shade foliage!

Sweet Woodruff

(Galium odoratum)

Sweet woodruff can handle all your garden woes, including shade, weeds, deer, and rabbits. Aromatic semi-evergreen foliage serves as a great filler between shrubs. Blooms create drifts of white flowers in the spring. It spreads quickly through the garden, even on shaded steep hills and around trees!

The green foliage and white blooms of the Sweet Woodruff beneath a stone bench

Lungwort

(Pulmonaria)

For a plant with an ugly name, it sure does have lovely foliage! Lungworts boast slender leaves with flashy silver spotting. It shimmers just enough to catch your eye and draw you in. Combined with cobalt-blue flowers in the spring, this eclectic plant is always shining.

Foamflower

(Tiarella)

Edge a shaded border, pathway, or plant between bulbs – wherever you plant foamflower will get a boost of cheer. Foamy white flowers bloom in spring above colored foliage for 4 seasons of interest (semi-evergreen in some zones). The foliage is deer resistant, but the flowers may get eaten!

Close up of Creeping Doqwood with white flower and vibrant yellow-green foliage

Creeping Dogwood

(Cornus canadensis)

Want to enjoy dogwood flowers but don’t have room for a tree? Creeping dogwood is the perfect ground cover for you! It forms a blanket of lush, oval foliage and boasts the classic white dogwood flowers in spring. It’s a native ground cover that is disease deer, and rabbit resistance, making it an easy addition to the shade garden.

'Bowles' Periwinkle Vine

(Vinca minor)

‘Bowles’ periwinkle vine may be tough as nails, but that makes it easy to love! This shade-loving, deer-resistant, and drought-tolerant perennial can handle road salt, poor shallow soils, and seashore planting. While it may be rugged, it does have delicate lavender blooms in spring that give it extra charm.

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

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