Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
Not Yet Rated

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

Native plants for area shaded by crabapple in Philadelphia
September 19, 2008 - Can you recommend native plants about 4' tall to plant under a crabapple in the corner of a yard in front of a fence? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Plants for steep slope in shade in Iowa
July 02, 2010 - I work for a small non-profit shelter here in Dubuque, Ia. that has a very steep slope behind the building that needs some sort of plant or grass planted to stop erosion. The slope gets little to no s...
view the full question and answer

Part shade garden to attract hummingbirds in Texas
July 14, 2008 - We are inexperienced gardeners. We have a bed (2.5' x 6') with sun in the morning and shade in afternoon and want to attract hummingbirds. Salvia coccinea sounds easy, but what else could we plant...
view the full question and answer

Shade-loving native plants for South Carolina
January 08, 2008 - I am looking to incorporate a native plants section in my backyard. Shade seems to be a limiting factor in some parts, especially where I would look to create a natural hedge bordering my neighbor's...
view the full question and answer

Plants for wildlife and trees for shade.
September 29, 2007 - We live in Kempner Texas, our land has mostly cedar trees. We would like to make a wildlife habitat on the back side of our property. Can you recommend plants that will grow in shade to partial sun,...
view the full question and answer

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