Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - April 21, 2013

From: Indianapolis, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Erosion Control, Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Shady Perennial Groundcover Suggestions for Indiana
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Could you please recommend perennial groundcovers for Indiana that are low and leafy, self-spreading, non-invasive, deer resistant, and moisture tolerant; and that are good for erosion control on a shady, hillside, woodsy environment on various soils?

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database.  Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: Indiana, Habit – herb (for herbaceous, Duration – perennial, Light requirement – shade, Soil moisture – dry, Size characteristics – 0-1 ft.

The result of this search turned up 11 species (not all of these will work as groundcover plants). Next check this group of plants against the deer resistant list on our website.

The best prospects from this search are:

Erythronium albidum (white troutlily) Good groundcover for shady woodland sites, spreads by root offshoots and seed. white spring blooms, attractive foliage, suited to deciduous hardwood forests, non-invasive, not deer-proof (they will eat the leaves).

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) Evergreen woodland creeper, fragrant white flowers during summer, very ornamental foliage, scarlet fruit, moisture tolerant, best for acidic soils, propagate by root division, seeds or cuttings. Not on the deer resistant list.

Pyrola elliptica (waxflower shinleaf) White fragrant flowers in summer, tolerant of deep shade, difficult to establish, propagate by root cuttings or runner division, prefers acidic soils. Not on the deer resistant list.

Rubus pubescens (dwarf red blackberry) Trailing bramble with white blooms and tart edible red fruit. Prefers rich, moist woodland soil. A good groundcover plant. Not on the deer resistant list.

You may want to include taller plants (1-3 feet) in your potential groundcovers list and this would include many more plants including Matteuccia, Osmunda and Pteridium ferns, Solidago (goldenrods), Vernonia (ironweeds), Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), Chelone (turtleheads), Actaea (cohosh) and more.

 

From the Image Gallery


White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Waxflower shinleaf
Pyrola elliptica

Dwarf red blackberry
Rubus pubescens

Dwarf red blackberry
Rubus pubescens

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Tree to replace Betula nigra (River birch) in Memphis
August 13, 2012 - HI Mr. Smarty Pants, I think I need to replace the river birch tree in my west-facing front yard in Memphis, TN. I have sun all day, but it gets really hot in the afternoon. The soil in my yar...
view the full question and answer

Watering needs for a new landscape
October 11, 2008 - How much and how frequently are you supposed to water after implementing a new landscape? For example, perennials and succulents that are drought tolerant.
view the full question and answer

Native turf grass for acreage in Denison TX
January 27, 2014 - I have recently moved to Denison TX where we have 5+ acres of true crosstimbers land. I am looking for a native turf grass that will do well in sandy soil and with the water provided by nature. The m...
view the full question and answer

Drought and Shade tolerant plants for Wichita Falls, TX
July 24, 2015 - I can find lots of information about planting drought tolerant, sun loving native plants, a number of which I've planted over the years. But I can find very little information about drought tolerant ...
view the full question and answer

Small native plants to line driveway in Los Fresnos, Texas
March 15, 2010 - I have a 70' driveway. What are recommended drought resistant dwarf (no more than 3 feet) plants to line the driveway?
view the full question and answer

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

Bibliography

Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers (2000) Kay Yatskievych

Natural Heritage of Indiana (1997) Jackson, M.T. (ed.)

Wildflowers of Indiana (1988) Wampler, M. ; F. Wampler

Wildflowers of Indiana Woodlands (1994) Runkel, S.T. & A.F. Bull

Search More Titles in Bibliography