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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - July 08, 2013

From: Charlottesville, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant
Title: Low-growing plants for a slope in the shade
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, I'm looking for native plants to put in the shade (within the drip-line) of a well-established American Holly. The area gets deep shade; it is also on a very gentle north-exposure slope. We have dry clay soil in this area. I would like a mix of species that would thrive with little care and eventually spread to cover the ground--but they don't have to be low-growing. Up to 3 feet tall would be fine. Many thanks for your help!

ANSWER:

The following plants will grow in the shade and are all less than 3 feet tall or can be maintained at that height by pruning.  All should do well in clay soil.   I found these plants by doing a COMBINATION SEARCH in our Native Plant Database.  I chose "Virginia" from the Select State or Province slot, "Shade" from Light Requirement and "0-1 ft.", "1-3 ft." and"3-6 ft." from size characteristics.   You can do the same search to see more possibilities for plants.   Be sure the read the entries under GROWING CONDITIONS on each species' page, especially the Soil Description, to be sure the growing conditions meet your site's characteristics.

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis) is perennial with evergreen foliage and blooms April, May and June.

Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox) is perennial with evergreen foliage and blooms March, April and May.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry) may grow a little taller than you like, but it can be pruned to keep it low.  It does well in clay and full shade.  It has purple berries that persist into winter.  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden and Texas Gardening Info

Aralia nudicaulis (Wild sarsaparilla)  Here is more information from Plants for a Future.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) is low-growing, grass-like and semi-evergreen.  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden and Illinois Wildflowers.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) grows very well in shade and part shade and clay soil.  The dried seeds are attractive into the winter and can be removed in the spring when the new green leaves begin to form.  Here's more information from Nadia's Backyard.

Geum canadense (White avens) with evergreen foliage and blossoms in April, May and June.  Here's more  information from Plants for a Future.

Packera obovata (Golden groundsel) has evergreen foliage and blooms well in the shade.  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

 

From the Image Gallery


New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Wild sarsaparilla
Aralia nudicaulis

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

White avens
Geum canadense

Golden groundsel
Packera obovata

More Groundcovers Questions

Groundcover for area with impact from rain from roof
June 25, 2010 - The small garden on the side of my townhouse gets some hard rainfall during every storm. We've found ways of redirecting and using much of the rainfall (gutter and downspout to rain barrel, permeable...
view the full question and answer

Invasive non-native mulberry and groundcover in Jacksonville FL
October 02, 2011 - Northeast Florida (Jacksonville) inland. My mulberry tree provides dense shade in the summer and filtered light the other seasons, leaving sand in its growing area. What fast growing ground cover woul...
view the full question and answer

Identification of groundcover plant in north Georgia mountains
September 16, 2011 - Was trail riding in N GA mountains - saw pretty ground cover plant ? vine - small green leaves with whitish borders almost look like clover leaves and has small bright red red berries - this was Aug 2...
view the full question and answer

Plants to grow between concrete pavers on the patio in Rock Hill, SC..
December 31, 2014 - I have a patio of concrete pavers, about 2 feet by 2 feet each. It gets very little sun. No morning sun at all. The zoysia grass we have between the pavers now does not grow well at all. Do you ha...
view the full question and answer

How to combat weeds growing in mulch
September 12, 2008 - Trying to decide on either ground cover plants, or some type of gravel. We have a new house where the builder has planted small shrubs in the full sun flower bed next to house. The bed has mulch at th...
view the full question and answer

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