Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

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
1 rating

Monday - May 31, 2010

From: Lake Villa, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Ground cover for shady slope in Illinois
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty: I have a shady sloping area that I am trying to cover with low fast growing, perennials that will keep maintenance to the minimum and prevent erosion. Grass would be very difficult to cut. Non invasive please.

ANSWER:

Ferns are the first plant to come to mind and there are several evergreen ones—Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern), Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern), Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort), and Polypodium virginianum (rock polypody).  Here is more information about the Christmas fern, marginal shield fernebony spleenwort, and rock or common polypody. All these ferns are generally less than 2 feet high.

Another suggestion for an evergreen plant is Lycopodium digitatum (fan clubmoss).  A synonym for the botanical name is Diphasiastrum digitatum and here is more information about it.  It grows to only about 1 foot, but may be difficult to establish.

You can see our list of Illinois Recommended natives that are commercially available and suitable for landscaping.  If you use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option in the sidebar you can limit the list to plants that grow in the shade by choosing 'Shade...' under LIGHT REQUIREMENTS.   You can also use other criteria to limit the list even more.  Here are a few possibilities from that list.  None of these are evergreen.

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)

Asarum canadense (Canadian wildginger)

Campanula rotundifolia (bluebell bellflower)

Dicentra cucullaria (dutchman's breeches)

Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum (feathery false lily of the valley)

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells)

Polygonatum biflorum (smooth Solomon's seal)

Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)

Uvularia grandiflora (largeflower bellwort)

Uvularia sessilifolia (sessileleaf bellwort)

Here are photos from our Image Gallery of some of the plants above:


Polystichum acrostichoides

Asplenium platyneuron

Lycopodium digitatum

Asarum canadense

Mertensia virginica

Polygonatum biflorum

Podophyllum peltatum

Uvularia sessilifolia

 

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

mixed species privacy hedge in Central Texas
March 24, 2016 - I need to plant a privacy hedge along a fence line. I am in east Austin, blackland prairie soil. The soil is rich, usually at least moist but not soggy, and I find lots of worms when I dig. The fen...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for shady acreage in Paige, TX
February 10, 2009 - My family recently bought property in Paige, TX. We thinned out the dense vegetation leaving pines and some oak and juniper. The ground is now bare sand throughout much of the property, except for th...
view the full question and answer

Drought-tolerant plants for deep shade in Florida
June 23, 2012 - I am looking for indigenous, drought tolerant, leafy dense plants (kind of hosta like) that will grow in deep shade (under a tree that gets little sun) in Jacksonville, Florida.
view the full question and answer

Restoring the woods in Central Austin.
May 08, 2012 - I live in Austin, south central between Red Bud trail close to the low water bridge and Bee Caves road. My question: I want to make the wooded sections of my yard attractive. They have filtered sun...
view the full question and answer

Flowering plants for shade in St. Augustine FL
May 25, 2009 - I would like to know what flowering plants I can purchase that grow in a shaded area in St Augustine Florida
view the full question and answer

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