En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - May 31, 2010

From: Lake Villa, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Ground cover for shady slope in Illinois
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty: I have a shady sloping area that I am trying to cover with low fast growing, perennials that will keep maintenance to the minimum and prevent erosion. Grass would be very difficult to cut. Non invasive please.

ANSWER:

Ferns are the first plant to come to mind and there are several evergreen ones—Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern), Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort), and Polypodium virginianum (rock polypody).  Here is more information about the Christmas fern, marginal shield fernebony spleenwort, and rock or common polypody. All these ferns are generally less than 2 feet high.

Another suggestion for an evergreen plant is Lycopodium digitatum (fan clubmoss).  A synonym for the botanical name is Diphasiastrum digitatum and here is more information about it.  It grows to only about 1 foot, but may be difficult to establish.

You can see our list of Illinois Recommended natives that are commercially available and suitable for landscaping.  If you use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option in the sidebar you can limit the list to plants that grow in the shade by choosing 'Shade...' under LIGHT REQUIREMENTS.   You can also use other criteria to limit the list even more.  Here are a few possibilities from that list.  None of these are evergreen.

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)

Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger)

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower)

Dicentra cucullaria (dutchman's breeches)

Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum (feathery false lily of the valley)

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells)

Polygonatum biflorum (smooth Solomon's seal)

Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)

Uvularia grandiflora (largeflower bellwort)

Uvularia sessilifolia (sessileleaf bellwort)

Here are photos from our Image Gallery of some of the plants above:


Polystichum acrostichoides

Asplenium platyneuron

Lycopodium digitatum

Asarum canadense

Mertensia virginica

Polygonatum biflorum

Podophyllum peltatum

Uvularia sessilifolia

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Annabelle hydrangeas blossoms drooping to ground in Wilmette, IL
April 10, 2011 - I have a row of Annabelle Hydrangeas that become very heavy and droop over the entire width of the bed. I would like to know what I can use for support so that they will stand up and allow me to plan...
view the full question and answer

Planting shade plants in 100+ weather
June 25, 2009 - I was planning on planting some columbines in a barrel and Turk's Cap and Coralberry in my yard, but hadn't counted on the extreme heat this early in the summer. Is it okay to plant these things as...
view the full question and answer

Erosion Control with perennials for a shady Dallas bank
July 25, 2013 - Thank you for your help with turf or perennials on a shaded bank, 4000 sq ft, for the Dallas area that has good roots, grows in semi shade to shade, is on a steep bank so cannot mow, and flowers the l...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for dry shade in Austin
March 27, 2007 - I live in North Austin, and I'd like to find plants that would work in dry shade. This area does receive a couple of hours of morning sun, and I've had great luck with Hinckley's Columbine. Any o...
view the full question and answer

Part sun and part shade
October 19, 2004 - What is the difference between part sun and part shade?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center