Learn More About Ground Covers For Shade

By: Kathee Mierzejewski

Your garden doesn’t have to just be around the foundation of your home or out in direct sunlight. You can find hardy shade ground cover for those areas in your yard that are somewhat blank and shady. There are many different ground covers for shade areas in your yard. You just have to put your imagination cap on and decide exactly what you want to do with those areas.

Suggestions for Ground Cover for Shade

There are some great ground covers for shade. Below are some common suggestions to consider.

Hosta – One of the most popular shade ground covers are the hostas. Hosta plants are a great ground cover for shade that can handle shade so long as the soil is well drained. They look good in foundation gardens, but they also look good when well placed around trees.

Periwinkle – If you have a hilly area around some trees, such as on the bank between your yard and your neighbor’s, you can plant something like periwinkle. Periwinkle is a great hardy shade ground cover and actually has pretty light blue or lilac colored flowers. Be careful with periwinkle, however, as it tends to take over the area it is in quite rapidly.

Pachysandra – Another popular shade ground cover is pachysandra. Pachysandra reaches up to a foot in height and has large dark green leaves. These are great as a filler for foundation gardens that include larger bushes. As ground covers for shade go, pachysandra is perfect for these areas because it can cover the ground under the bushes and prevent weeds and other things from growing, giving your foundation garden a neat look.

Ajuga – A great creeping evergreen plant that quickly fills in empty areas is ajuga. Bluish to purple blooms add to its charm in spring. While ajuga ground cover plants like fairly moist soil, they’re adaptable to many other soil types and will even tolerate a little drought.

Sweet woodruff – Sweet woodruff is yet another commonly used shade ground cover as well as a fragrant one. The plant has star shaped whorls of leaves with lacy white flowers, adding interesting texture to shady areas of the garden.

Lily-of-the-valley – Known for its fragrant white flowers, lily-of-the-valley brightens up shady areas of the landscape. Preferring moist conditions, you may need to keep an eye on it since the plant spreads quickly and can get out of hand.

Deadnettle – Spotted deadnettle ground cover prefers moist soil but can perform well in a dry shaded area too. The spotted foliage and purplish blooms will highlight shady areas, but be careful when planting spotted deadnettle, as it’s known to become invasive under good growing conditions.

Golden star – Also known as green and gold ground cover, this plant provides eye-popping, star-shaped yellow blooms amidst a background of green foliage. It loves part shade areas of the garden and performs well in many soil types.

Shady areas in your garden call for shady ground cover plants. You don’t want to leave shady areas blank because your yard is like an artist’s palette. You need to plant what you can where you can. Hardy shade ground cover is perfect for these areas because some flower, and others have beautiful green leaves. These things will pick up those boring shady areas in your yard and complete your landscaping in a nice way.

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Read more about Shade Gardens

15 Best Ground Cover Plants For Shade

Shade-loving ground cover plants are the perfect solution for a variety of landscaping issues such as:

  • Weed growth under trees and bushes
  • Soil erosion
  • Lack of textural interest
  • Coverage of hard-to-grow areas
  • Lack of color

Here are our top 15 ground covers for shaded areas, as well as a few that can handle full sun. Whichever variety of ground cover you choose, they’ll help your garden become the envy of the neighborhood!

What are the best plants to grow between pavers?

The options below are by no means the only ones, just some of the popular ones, and you have different options depending on whether your path basks in sun or hides in shade.

Above: Different varieties of thyme such as ‘Minimus Russetings’ and ‘Purple Carpet’ soften the pavers in this Brooklyn rooftop garden. Photography by Marni Majorelle. For more, see Brooklyn Oasis: A City Roof Garden, Before & After.

Full Sun:

  • Creeping thyme (Thymus spp): Considered one of the finest ground covers for filling in between flagstones. It meets all of the criteria of a good plant employee. This petite herb comes in many varieties, all with tiny, rounded fragrant leaves in shades of dark green, lime green, and even yellow with a white edging. Elfin or woolly thyme are especially good varieties that will grow in difficult soils, stay flat and are frighteningly easy to grow.
  • Dymondia (Dymondia margaretae) is a good alternative. Its phenomenally flat, tidy appearance bears slender leaves that are green on top and gray underneath. A slight upward curl on each leaf edge provides a frosted, two-tone look and it occasionally bears small yellow daisy flowers.
Above: Dymondia softens the edges of the natural stone paver. Photograph by Kier Holmes.

Part Sun:

These creepers are content with coastal full sun to partial shade. Inland, all prefer some protection from the hot, mid-day sun.

  • Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a fluffy perennial with a meadowy appearance. Its small, white daisy flowers rise above soft, apple-green, ferny leaves. Downside: this plant requires moderate water and a trim after flowering.
  • Jewel mint of Corsica (Mentha requienii) also requires regular water. It forms a low mat of miniature green leaves that resemble moss, and if you walk on them they will release minty wafts reminiscent of toothpaste.
Above: Corsican mint set between concrete pavers, awaiting to release its minty fragrance.

Blue star creeper (Isotoma) has starry, pale-blue flowers atop a bed of very flat, bright-green leaves. It blooms most heavily from spring through summer, with occasional flowers appearing the rest of the year. Although looking delicate, this ground cover is quite tough.

Above: Isotoma in full, glorious bloom. Photograph courtesy of Great Garden Plants.

  • Irish moss (Sagina subulata) is not moss, technically speaking, but sure resembles it. A longtime favorite filler in Europe, this perennial grows quickly into an impenetrable green and mounding rug of almost uniform texture. The textural effect is nice, and the plants require virtually no maintenance—double nice.

Above: Brooklyn-based O’Neill Rose Architects planted a mix of Irish moss (Sagina subulata) and thyme between the bluestone pavers at the edge of a swimming pool. For more of this project see Swimming Pool of the Week: A 1920s Summer House at the Edge of the Woods in the Berkshires. Photograph by Michael Moran courtesy of O’Neill Rose Architects.
  • Lawn grass. Yes, turf grass makes an excellent filler between your pathway stones, especially if they are on the larger side and are set a good distance apart. Downside? Grass requires a fair amount of mowing, fertilizing, and watering. However, with smart design and proper paver height placement, you can literally mow right over the pavers as if they weren’t there.
Above: Photograph courtesy of Janice Parker Landscape Architects. For more, see Ask the Expert: 8 Ways to Add Pattern to a Landscape.


  • Baby’s tears (Soleirolia soleiroli) is the classic verdant creeper that with enough moisture perfectly runs through crevices.
  • Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) bears larger leaves than many creepers. Small, white flowers bloom from late spring through the end of summer, then go to seed (translation: an army of volunteers may follow and spread everywhere).
  • Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) is an excellent choice when you want a dark green carpet year-round. Dwarf mondo grass is an especially good choice that I routinely plant in all types of landscapes from Asian to modern. Slow, but well worth the wait.
Above: Mondo grass nicely resembling a green Flokati rug. Photograph by Kier Holmes.

Watch the video: Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives

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