Ed, from Alpharetta, writes:
I, along with many others, would surely appreciate your thoughts and insight regarding ground-cover options for highly shaded areas with poor drainage. Because of the tree buffer on Haynes Bridge Road, the “courtyard” behind my townhouse is always wet and moldy or dried up. In either situation, grass will not grow. I’m thinking of putting down stone.
Well, Ed, before you put down stone, which is certainly a nice option, please know that there are many plants that thrive in moist shade.
All landscape plants need the following: soil, air, water, light. You will have to assess your site for these criteria. But, given what you’ve shared with me above, here are some ferns, grasses and creeping plants for you to consider that could function as ground-covers in your situation:
- Acorus gramineus, Japanese sweet flag
- Carex muskingumensis, palm sedge
- Saxifraga stolonifera, strawberry Geranium
- Xanthorhiza simplicissima, yellow root
- Athyrium filix-femina, lady fern
- Adiantum pedatum, maidenhair fern
- Lysimachia nummularia, creeping jenny
- Pachysandra procumbens, Japanese spurge
While not ground covers, here are some flowering plants that might thrive in your conditions:
- Brunnera macrophylla -has a small, forget-me-not like flower in spring
- Begonia grandis – hardy Begonia
- Astilbe chinensis – has either pink or white wispy tufts of flowers
- Ligularia stenocephala, ‘The Rocket’ Ligularia – showy, yellow flowers
There are a few bulbs that can handle moist, shaded conditions and they could highlight your yard. I would still try to put these on high ground, if you have any.
And if all else fails, you can always plant Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’!
Don’t forget to prepare your site well before planting. Preparation, even in moist, shady spots is essential, so loosen the soil and add some organic material. Ironic as it sounds, you will need to make sure your newly planted site has water. You never know when we will get into a dry spell.
Please see my Plant Sources page under the Alpharetta Post heading for names of local nurseries and mail-order nurseries.