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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


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


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

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Eastern woodland sedge
Carex blanda

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

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