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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - July 15, 2014

From: Edmond, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Groundcover for Shady Front Beds in OK
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I need a groundcover for my front beds in Edmond, OK that are moist and in full shade. The groundcover would primarily be around and under a Japanese maple. Low maintenance is preferred.

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential shade plants for your front beds is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have put together an extensive database of plants and their characteristics for you to review.
Under Combination Search, select the following categories: OK, Habit – herb (for herbaceous), Duration – Perennial, Light Requirement – Shade, Soil Moisture – Moist, and Size – 0-1 feet.
This search criteria will give you 19 native plants to consider. Not all of them will be good candidates as groundcover plants because their form or growth habit is not appropriate. The ones that will make the best groundcover plants are:


Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger), a low colony-forming perennial to 8 inches in height. Over time will form a dense groundcover in a shaded, moist woodland site.  Propagate in the fall by root division.
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches), dense masses of finely cut leaves and fragrant, white pantaloon-shaped flowers in the spring. Can spread over a good size area over time. Plant goes dormant in early summer.
Erythronium albidum (White troutlily),maroon spotted leaves make an attractive groundcover. White bell-shaped flowers in spring. Plants multiply rapidly by root offshoots and seed.
Galium triflorum (Fragrant bedstraw), trailing perennial that could reach 4 feet in length. Tiny star-like flowers.
Hydrophyllum virginianum (Eastern waterleaf), woodland perennial, whitish flowers on long stalks in early summer.
Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry), a trailing evergreen perennial with fragrant white blooms. A creeping plant no taller than 2 inches. Highly ornamental foliage. Scarlet fruit consumed by birds and mammals. A good groundcover for under acid-loving shrubs. Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox), loose, flat clusters of fragrant, lavender or pink flowers.
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot), white blossoms in spring, spreads rapidly and makes a good groundcover.
Uvularia sessilifolia (Spreading bellwort), 15 inch stalks hold dangling leaves and delicate cream-colored flowers. Roots colonize to form a groundcover.
Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet), light purple blooms in the early spring, colonizes via rhizomes to form a groundcover.

 

From the Image Gallery


Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Dutchman's breeches
Dicentra cucullaria

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

Fragrant bedstraw
Galium triflorum

Virginia waterleaf
Hydrophyllum virginianum

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Bloodroot
Sanguinaria canadensis

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Dutchman's breeches
Dicentra cucullaria

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