Every garden seems to have places where a groundcover is needed. Often these places are problem areas due to such factors as shade, soil conditions, or slope. These places may be difficult to mow or weed but still need to look attractive. Ivy and periwinkle are the plants that are usually associated with the word groundcover, but many more plants can do the same job as well or better. Among these are native plants. 

Here is a list of five easy to grow native plants that can be used as a ground cover in the cool shade of a woodland garden.

Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

The soft yellow flowers of this hardy evergreen plant brighten a woodland area in spring where the glossy green leaves quickly form a light green carpet. The plant even grows well in the dry conditions under trees and is tolerant to foot traffic.

    Height: 3-8 inches
    Bloom Time: Spring to early summer
    Light: Partial shade to filtered sun
    Hardiness: Zones 4-8

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum dilatatum)
Have deep shade? Canada mayflower thrives in deep shade and is a good choice for nutrient-poor sites. The plants spread rapidly and quickly by rhizomes and cover an area with their bright green foliage. The glossy, heart shaped leaves are brightened by spikes of small white flowers in spring to summer. Each flower produces a red pea sized fruit that is relished by mice, chipmunks, and ground loving birds.

    Height: 6-8 inches
    Bloom Time: Spring to summer
    Light: Full to deep shade
    Hardiness: Zones 3-8

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis oregano)
You don’t have to be Irish to love the shamrock-like leaves of wood sorrel. In addition to their rich green color the change with the conditions opening and closing in response to rain, dry soil, and light. In spring, small single white or pinkish flowers appear to add a delicate touch to the carpet of green. Plants thrive in rich, moist, soils and spread quickly by creeping rhizomes.

    Height: 8 inches
    Bloom Time: Spring through summer
    Light: Partial shade to deep shade
    Hardiness: Zones 7-10

Inside-Out Flower (Vancouveria hexandra)
With a name like inside-out flower, this plant is bound to attract interest. As its name suggests the flowers appear to be inside out because the petal-like sepals are abruptly reflexed. Unfortunately, the flowers are very small and relative inconspicuous so the apple-green compound leaves are the main attraction. Plants spread by underground rhizomes.

    Height: 6-20 inches
    Bloom Time: Spring to early summer
    Light: Full shade to partial shade
    Hardiness: Zones 3-8

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
As the common name suggests, wild ginger roots has a spicy taste and can be used as a flavoring like ginger. The unique flowers are purplish brown and appear underneath the leaves so are usually hidden. The leaves are large and heart-shaped with hairy stems and are make a rapidly spreading ground cover.
Height: 6 inches
Bloom Time: Late spring
Light: Full to partial shade
Hardiness: Zones 3-8

When selecting a groundcover a gardener wants a plant that is attractive for as long as possible, spreads rapidly, but is not invasive. As a result some groundcovers will be more appropriate than others for any given garden depending on the conditions of light, moisture, and soil. To find the best groundcover for your garden, ask around, visit gardens and notice what does well and what does so well you may want to avoid planting it because it’s a thug.

Native Plant Pointer

By Chuck