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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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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

 

 

 

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