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Tuesday - April 09, 2013

From: Pittsburgh, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Deer Resistant, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Plant for deep shade in Pennsylvania
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hi! I am landscaping our house and trying to use only plants that provide seasonal benefit to bees, butterflies, birds etc. not the deer though. My question is that I have a fairly steep slope of about 2000 square feet where garlic mustard and other undesired plants are growing in shade/dense shade. I need a plant(s) that can establish and spread aggressively in this spot and hopefully benefits the wildlife. Thank you!


Grasses and sedges are rarely eaten by deer, but their seeds are eaten by birds and other wildlife.  Unfortunately, many grasses don't grow well in the shade; however, below are some that will grow in the shade.  Grasses and sedges are your best bet to compete with the garlic mustard.  The herbaceous plants can be interspersed with the grasses to add color and variety for the birds and butterflies.  All the herbaceous plants listed below are found in the Deer Resistant Species list, will grow in the shade and are native to Pennsylvania.   If you would like to see other possibilites for herbaceous plants for Pennsylvania, you can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option on the Deer Resistant Species list and choose "Pennsylvania" from Select State or Province, "Herb" from General Appearance and "Shade" from Light Requirement.

Grasses and Sedges

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge) is evergreen.

Carex plantaginea (Plantainleaf sedge) is evergreen.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) is evergreen.

Herbaceous Plants

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Eutrochium purpureum (Purple joepyeweed)

Capsicum annuum (Chile pequin)

Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf sage

Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan)

Verbesina virginica (Frostweed)

Even though the plants listed above will compete with garlic mustard (and other unwanted plants), you are going to have to be aggressive in getting rid of it.  Here is a link to an article about Alliaria petiolata (Garlic mustard) from the Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group with a section on how to manage it.


From the Image Gallery

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Sorghastrum nutans

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Plantainleaf sedge
Carex plantaginea

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Purple joepyeweed
Eutrochium purpureum

Chile pequin
Capsicum annuum

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Verbesina virginica

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