En Español

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?


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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - April 21, 2013

From: Indianapolis, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Shady Perennial Groundcover Suggestions for Indiana
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


Could you please recommend perennial groundcovers for Indiana that are low and leafy, self-spreading, non-invasive, deer resistant, and moisture tolerant; and that are good for erosion control on a shady, hillside, woodsy environment on various soils?


The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database.  Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: Indiana, Habit – herb (for herbaceous, Duration – perennial, Light requirement – shade, Soil moisture – dry, Size characteristics – 0-1 ft.

The result of this search turned up 11 species (not all of these will work as groundcover plants). Next check this group of plants against the deer resistant list on our website.

The best prospects from this search are:

Erythronium albidum (white troutlily) Good groundcover for shady woodland sites, spreads by root offshoots and seed. white spring blooms, attractive foliage, suited to deciduous hardwood forests, non-invasive, not deer-proof (they will eat the leaves).

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) Evergreen woodland creeper, fragrant white flowers during summer, very ornamental foliage, scarlet fruit, moisture tolerant, best for acidic soils, propagate by root division, seeds or cuttings. Not on the deer resistant list.

Pyrola elliptica (waxflower shinleaf) White fragrant flowers in summer, tolerant of deep shade, difficult to establish, propagate by root cuttings or runner division, prefers acidic soils. Not on the deer resistant list.

Rubus pubescens (dwarf red blackberry) Trailing bramble with white blooms and tart edible red fruit. Prefers rich, moist woodland soil. A good groundcover plant. Not on the deer resistant list.

You may want to include taller plants (1-3 feet) in your potential groundcovers list and this would include many more plants including Matteuccia, Osmunda and Pteridium ferns, Solidago (goldenrods), Vernonia (ironweeds), Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), Chelone (turtleheads), Actaea (cohosh) and more.


From the Image Gallery

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

Mitchella repens

Mitchella repens

Mitchella repens

Waxflower shinleaf
Pyrola elliptica

Dwarf red blackberry
Rubus pubescens

Dwarf red blackberry
Rubus pubescens

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Drought-resistant and grub-resistant grass for Smithville TX
October 02, 2012 - I want a drought resistant grass for a sunny area that is also resistant to grubs. I have lots of grubs but want a healthy soil of good microbes. Any ideas? Zoysia, Buffalo? I noticed that Tech Turf r...
view the full question and answer

Plants for sunny dry soil location
August 22, 2010 - Do any native plants exist in a highly sunny very dry soil location? (high overhang prevents rain but allows sun)
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for a Sunny, Steep Slope in Maryland
April 29, 2013 - I need a groundcover for a sunny dry steep slope in Towson, Maryland. The slope goes from the parking lot down to a deck area.
view the full question and answer

Pollinators for Palm Springs, CA
June 18, 2015 - Just moved to Palm Springs, California. Hot and dry, desert region. What bee and pollinator-friendly plants would do well with full afternoon sun?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for Jonestown/Leander
September 01, 2010 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, I am new to Texas we bought a house here in Jonestown/Leander that has absolutely no plant life whatsoever I was wondering if you could provide me with the names of some drough...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.


Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers (2000) Kay Yatskievych

Natural Heritage of Indiana (1997) Jackson, M.T. (ed.)

Wildflowers of Indiana (1988) Wampler, M. ; F. Wampler

Wildflowers of Indiana Woodlands (1994) Runkel, S.T. & A.F. Bull

Search More Titles in Bibliography

© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center