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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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Tuesday - July 05, 2011

From: fairfax, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Pests, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Mosquito-deterring plants for shady hillside
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We have a part to full shaded hill side/ native woodland area that was once covered with english ivy..we managed to get rid of all the ivy but now we are overtaken with violets..maybe they are even native..but they are everywhere and they are drowning out all other plants and are harboring tons of mosquitos.is there another choice of ground cover for the area? we have cinamon ferns/maiden hair/ service berry/ fringed bleeding hearts/ cardinal flower/ sea oats all doing very well..

ANSWER:


Mr. Smarty Plants assumes that you have pinpointed violets as the plants that harbor mosquitos.  They do have broad leaves growing close to the ground, where they will retain moisture.  Mosquitos will also hide in other humid locations, such as a dense cluster of ferns.  I suggest that you replace the violets with plants that send their stems higher and/or have few or small leaves near ground level.  For example, Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), Packera aurea (Golden ragwort)Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower) and Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry). There are many other plants to choose from, depending upon your conditions, e.g. full shade, part shade, moist, dry, need for low-growing or taller species.  Grasses generally do not do well in shade, but you could use a sedge, such as Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge).  This would look nice interspersed with other short species like Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry), .  Ferns should do well.  If taller plants are desirable, consider Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby st. johnswort), Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum (Feathery false lily of the valley), Maianthemum stellatum (Starry false lily of the valley), and Lobelia siphilitica (Great blue lobelia)Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New england aster) should thrive in partly sunny areas.

Certain plant species have been shown to have insect-deterrent activity.  Most of those species I found are not native to your area.  The sages generally occur naturally further west, but one species, Salvia azurea (Pitcher sage), is native to Virginia, and it may have unreported deterrent properties.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Golden groundsel
Packera aurea

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Shrubby st. john's-wort
Hypericum prolificum

Feathery false lily of the valley
Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum

Starry false lily of the valley
Maianthemum stellatum

Great blue lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica

New england aster
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

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