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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.

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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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Monday - June 27, 2011

From: Long Island City, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: ground covers for shady areas in New York City
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: What would be the best ground covers for big shady areas in New York City instead of lawns?

ANSWER:

I'm sorry your question and answer seemed to disappear into the Internet without leaving a trace.  Here is essentially what I wrote:

There is quite a variety of 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 speicies like Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry), Viola pedata (Birdfoot violet) (if the site is dry),or Viola sororia (Missouri violet) (if the site is moist).  Ferns should do well.  In moist spots, Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern) or Osmunda regalis (Royal fern), and in dryer spots, Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern).  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.

Clicking on the names shown above will give you more information on each one.

 

From the Image Gallery


Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Birdfoot violet
Viola pedata

Missouri violet
Viola sororia

Cinnamon fern
Osmunda cinnamomea

Royal fern
Osmunda regalis

Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides

Shrubby st. john's-wort
Hypericum prolificum

Starry false lily of the valley
Maianthemum stellatum

Feathery false lily of the valley
Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum

Great blue lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica

New england aster
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

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