Top ten plants for ground cover in shade

Top ten plants for ground cover in shade
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These plants are perfectly suited for a spot in partial shade or full shade, where they will fill any floor space gaps. Find out my top pick of plants for ground cover in shade.

1. Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss)

Tolerant of many conditions, hardy brunneras are a popular pick for ground cover, underplanting, and slopes for a low maintenance option.

They have heart-shaped leaves, and the leaves of variety ‘Jack Frost’ are silvery with green veins, joined by pretty blue flowers in spring.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Sheltered

2. Myosotis sylvatica (garden forget-me-not)

The pretty bright blue flowers of forget-me-nots are a lovely sign of spring and summer. Not only can you enjoy the flowers, but the nectar and pollen is appreciated by pollinators such as bees and butterflies too.

Native to woodland and rocky places, they will suit many different types of garden.

  • Semi-evergreen and flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows up to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered

3. Ajuga reptans (bugle) ‘Black Scallop’

Next is a mat-forming evergreen that has dark, nearly black leaves that will add dramatic colour to the space. It’s a low maintenance pick, and as well as the attractive foliage, there are blue flowers that bloom in late spring.

They are a hardy pick for garden edging, and well-suited for ground cover on banks and slopes too.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full shade, partial shade, or full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered

4. Athyrium niponicum pictum (painted lady fern) ‘Metallicum’

Ferns can be a great choice for ground cover and this type has frosted grey-green looking leaves.

Perfect for rock gardens and informal gardens, they are trouble free plants that don’t demand much apart from removing any dead, diseased, or damaged foliage when necessary.

  • Deciduous foliage
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Sheltered

5. Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff)

Not only will the white flowers provide a visually stunning spectacle contrasting with the green foliage, but the leaves are fragranced too. The flowers are also enjoyed by pollinators, making them a great choice for wildlife gardens.

In a shaded spot, these are well suited to underplanting of shrubs as well as ground cover.

  • Deciduous foliage and flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained
  • Partial shade
  • Sheltered

6. Bergenia crassifolia var. pacifica (Pacific Korean elephant’s ears)

This Bergenia is an evergreen perennial with rounded leaves that have a red tinge through winter. Also, from winter to spring, pink-purple flowers bloom on tall stems.

Their hardiness and tolerance of many conditions means they will happily grow in many garden types. Bear in mind that bergenias can be toxic to dogs, so may not be suitable in a garden with four-legged friends.

  • Evergreen foliage and flowers in winter
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained
  • Full shade, partial shade, or full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered

7. Carex divulsa (grey sedge)

The tufted evergreen foliage of this sedge is dark green to grey. The arching leaves will add an elegance to the space, helping to soften any hard exteriors.

Comb out any dead leaves and flowers in spring to keep the plant looking ship-shape and this plant will continue to thrive.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 1m tall
  • Moist but well-drained, poorly drained, or well-drained soil
  • Full shade, full sun, or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered

8. Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge) ‘Green Sheen’

As its name suggests, this mat-forming evergreen has wonderful glossy, shiny foliage.

In summer, the shiny leaves are complemented by spikes of small white flowers in summer. Drought resistant and tolerant of many planting locations, they are happy to grow in any soil that is not too dry.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered

9. Geranium nodorum (knotted cranesbill) ‘Swish Purple’

For pretty purple flowers that bloom through summer and autumn, the knotted cranesbill also has glossy green leaves.

The flowers are enjoyed by pollinators, and you can encourage more by cutting back old flowered stems and leaves.

  • Deciduous foliage and flowers in summer
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Sheltered

10. Asarum europaeum (asarabacca)

Last is a native to West Europe, a creeping evergreen with lovely kidney-shaped leaves that have a beautiful shine. Suited to a woodland style garden, these plants don’t need pruning or extra maintenance, however they do prefer an acidic soil.

  • Evergreen foliage and flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 10cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Sheltered

So, fill a shaded spot with these low-growing options for ground cover. With little maintenance these plants will continue to put on a show with their foliage and flowers.

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Spring is here, see my post on spring pollinators:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:


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