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

Tuesday - April 30, 2013

From: Greensboro, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Groundcovers & Shrubs for Shade in North Carolina
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Mr Smarty Pants, My neighbor planted cypress trees as a border between his yard and ours and it is sucking up every drop of water and nutrient. We also have a purple plum in the area which creates partial shade. What ground cover and shrubs can we plant here. I am very tired of looking at brown pine bark all summer. I know you are busy but please hurry with your answer. We are desperate.Thanks

ANSWER:

Don’t despair!  There are a number of good native groundcovers and shrubs that tolerate shade well.  I thought I’d check first the previous answers on similar topics from near to you and found these interesting question/answer pairs.

Groundcover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC 
Groundcover for Wildlife in VA 
Native Plants for Erosion Control in NC 

From those answers I found these plants, native to North Carolina, that should do well:

The first list are indicated to need moist or wet soil, depending on the exact conditions these may not do well with the cypress.

Herbs/Forb:     Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm), Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox), Hydrocotyle umbellata (Manyflower marshpennywort)Erythronium americanum (Yellow trout-lily), Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and gold)  

Groundcovers/Grass:  Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats), Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint), Adiantum capillus-veneris (Southern maidenhair fern), Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty)

You can also find plants that are also OK with dry soil.

Shrub: Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry), Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern)

Herbs/Forb:  Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis), Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), Hexastylis arifolia (Littlebrownjug)   

Groundcovers/Grass: Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge), Carex texensis (Texas sedge), Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry), Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

In any case, what you may want to do is search out your own possible shoices.  To do this, go to our Recommended Species site, click on North Carolina on the map, and then NARROW YOUR SEARCH, selecting "Herb" (herbaceous flowering plants) under Habit, and "Shade" under light requirements, or whatever you see as the habit, water need, height or a number of other aspects of the plant. You can repeat the process selecting “Shrub” or "Grass or Grass-like" under Habit, and similarly limit or not the resulting plant list.  As you do that, read the growth conditions and check out the pictures to get an indication of what your choice may look like at its peak.  I've included a few pictures from the ones mentioned above to give you a view of what they look like.

 

From the Image Gallery


Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

More Groundcovers Questions

Alternatives to invasive, non-native Vinca minor as ground cover
April 05, 2007 - I live in Central Austin. I want to plant a large area of Vinca minor since it is fast growing and offers attractive ground cover. I assume it requires little care with the rain being sufficient for i...
view the full question and answer

Low growing, flowering evergreen plants for Pflugerville TX
March 30, 2010 - I am wondering if you can suggest some low growing, flowering evergreen plants for my garden.
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for a wet hillside in the San Juan Islands
July 30, 2014 - I live on Orcas Island in WA state. We have a place on the water and want to plant something that is no taller than 2-3 feet, lower if possible, on a hillside. The hillside gets lots of sun, yet als...
view the full question and answer

Looking for cover
June 18, 2007 - I live iin Schaumburg, IL and have a difficult spot (extreme sun and heat in summer (South Side of house). I'm looking for a very short ground cover - < or + to 6 inchees. Does Arabis hirsuta fit t...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for sun in Phenix City, AL
April 04, 2011 - I live in Phenix City, AL and am new to planting. I have a 60 x 15 feet slope that is just dirt. I am going to till it next week and want to plant some various ground cover plants (that will grow to c...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center