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
3 ratings

Thursday - August 09, 2012

From: Kenmore, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant
Title: Low maintenance, shade tolerant groundcover for Pacific Northwest
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What's a good low maintenance, shade tolerant ground cover for the Pacific Northwest? It needs to have good erosion control, too.

ANSWER:

There are several excellent sources to help you choose your plants.  Your county, King County, has a Native Plant Guide with plant lists and How-to articles.  The Washington Native Plant Society has a page, Native Plants for Western Washington Gardens and Restoration Projects, with plant list categories which includes a list for Groundcovers:  Evergreen, Deciduous.  Here are suggestions from these sources for shade tolerant groundcovers with additional information from our Native Plant Database:

Linnaea borealis (Twinflower) is evergreen and here is information from Washington Native Plant Society and from King County Northwest Native Plant Guide.

Mahonia nervosa (Cascade barberry) is evergreen and here is information from Washington Native Plant Society and from King County Northwest Native Plant Guide.

Achlys triphylla (Sweet after death or Vanilla leaf) and here is information from Washington Native Plant Society and from King County Northwest Native Plant Guide.

Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger) and information from Washington Native Plant Society and from King County Northwest Native Plant Guide.

Cornus unalaschkensis (Bunchberry) although not evergreen, it is perennial with rhizomes that will aid in erosion control.  Here is information from King County Northwest Native Plant Guide.

Polystichum munitum (Western swordfern) is evergreen and grows to 3 feet but could function in a groundcover area.  Here is information from King County Northwest Native Plant Guide and from Washington Native Plant Society.

You can find more possibilities in Native plants for deep shade on the King County Northwest Native Plant Guide page.

Washington State University Extension's Gardening in Western Washington has links to publications, fact sheets and websites that you might find helpful.

 

From the Image Gallery


Twinflower
Linnaea borealis

Sweet after death
Achlys triphylla

Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Western swordfern
Polystichum munitum

More Groundcovers Questions

Understory plants for Tuolumne Co., CA
May 14, 2007 - My driveway is lined with purple plum trees. I would like to grow something underneath them. What can I grow that will not harm the root system/health of the trees?
view the full question and answer

Groundcover or grass for Panama City, Florida
April 19, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants I live in Panama City Florida and am having great difficulty growing a lawn. I would prefer no lawn as grass, it seems a pointless use of resources but my husband requires gr...
view the full question and answer

Native Groundcover Suggestions for Under Florida Oak Trees
April 03, 2015 - I am looking for native plants that will do well under several oak trees in Northeast Florida. My yard doesn't get much sun and I'm told I have acidic soil. Are the any plants that would do well wit...
view the full question and answer

Destructive landscape crews in The Woodlands TX
October 20, 2012 - Hi. We need help. We recently moved to a house where landscape crews have been blowing away the leaf litter from the front yard for many years. The underbrush was also cleared long ago. The result...
view the full question and answer

Short or mowable plant for walkway
June 03, 2008 - I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers ...
view the full question and answer

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