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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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Wednesday - September 11, 2013

From: Neptune Beach , FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant
Title: Salt-tolerant groundcover for shade with no water supply
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We have a home in Neptune Beach (Jacksonville) Florida (NE Florida). We have a large area outside our ground floor master bedroom that is completely covered (there is a large solid deck above it). It has total shade and no watering system. Right now it is just dirt. We would like to be able to make it look more inviting and beautiful. Instead of using pavers or stones, can we use a ground cover and/or plantings? Is that possible? If so, what would you suggest that would thrive? We are also 2 houses from the ocean so the plantings would need to be somewhat salt resistant? Any help would be greatly appreciated to make this area attractive and welcoming. Best Regards, Pam

ANSWER:

That's really a triple whammy—salt tolerant, no moisture and completely shaded!  I could find you lots of beach groundcover (salt tolerant) that grow well in full sun, but plants that thrive in full shade is the hard part!   Here, however, are a few that could work.

There are two evergreen vines that are moderately salt tolerant and will function as groundcovers.

If you would like to put some small shrubs under your deck, Morella cerifera [synonym = Myrica cerifera] (Wax myrtle) is listed by University of Georgia Marine Extension Service CoastScapes as being highly salt tolerant.  There are dwarf cultivars available and they will do well in part shade.

All of the plants above will grow in relatively dry conditions, but they are going to need frequent watering to become established.  You could do this by hand or with water sprinklers attached to hoses.

 

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