Ground Cover Plants For Shade (10 Shade Tolerant Ground Covers)


Ground cover plants can prevent soil erosion and add style to your yard.  Some ground cover plants can even survive and thrive in shady garden locations.

So, what are some ground cover plants for shade?  Ground cover plants for shade include: Bishop’s Weed, Cinnamon Fern, Creeping Jacob’s Ladder, Crested Leopard Plant, Foamflower, Hellebore, Hootenanny, Northern Inside-Out Flower, Pencilled Cranesbill, and Silver Siberian Bugloss.  Some of these plants have attractive foliage or flowers to add style to a shaded area of your garden.

Of course, some of these plants survive in full sun, while all of them can tolerate partial or full shade.

In this article, we’ll talk about 10 ground cover plants for shade.  We’ll also take a look at what to provide for each one as far as light, water, and other important growth factors.

Let’s get started.

10 Ground Cover Plants For Shade

There are plenty of ground cover plants for shade, but here are 10 to start with:

  • Bishop’s Weed
  • Cinnamon Fern
  • Creeping Jacob’s Ladder
  • Crested Leopard Plant
  • Foamflower
  • Hellebore
  • Hootenanny
  • Northern Inside-Out Flower
  • Pencilled Cranesbill
  • Silver Siberian Bugloss

Let’s start off with Bishop’s weed.

Bishop’s Weed

Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria) is a perennial ground cover plant that produces white flowers in late spring or early summer.

Bishop's Weed
Bishop’s Weed is a perennial ground cover that produces white flowers and thrives in shade.

Bishop’s Weed needs moderate moisture levels and resists drought, making it suitable for xeriscaping.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Bishop’s Weed tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate acidic, alkaline, or neutral soil (pH of 6.1 to 7.8).

Bishop’s Weed can tolerate extreme cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 3 (as cold as -40 degrees Fahrenheit or –40 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 10 to 12 inches, with a width of 23 to 35 inches.  It resists both deer and rabbits.

Bishop’s Weed is self-fertile, and you can also propagate it by division.

You can learn more about Bishop’s Weed from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Bishop’s Weed from Sooner Plant Farm.

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum) is a perennial ground cover fern that produces inconspicuous flowers.

Cinnamon Fern
Cinnamon Fern is a perennial fern that can tolerate both shade and moist soil.

Cinnamon Fern needs moderate to wet moisture levels, making it suitable for bog gardening.

Cinnamon Fern tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate acidic to neutral soil (pH of 4.6 to 7.5).

Cinnamon Fern can tolerate extreme cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 3 (as cold as -40 degrees Fahrenheit or –40 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 4 to 6 feet, with a width of 24 to 36 inches.  It resists deer.

You can propagate Cinnamon Fern by division, and it also spreads by rhizomes.

You can learn more about Cinnamon Fern from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Cinnamon Fern from Native Wildflowers Nursery.

Creeping Jacob’s Ladder

Creeping Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans) is a perennial ground cover herb that produces small (1 to 2 inches) blue flowers in late spring or early summer.

Creeping Jacob's Ladder
Creeping Jacob’s Ladder is a perennial ground cover that produces small blue flowers and can tolerate shade or wet soil.

Creeping Jacob’s Ladder needs moderate to wet moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Creeping Jacob’s Ladder tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH of 6.1 to 7.5).

Creeping Jacob’s Ladder can tolerate extreme cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 2 (as cold as -50 degrees Fahrenheit or –46 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 12 to 18 inches, with a width of 12 inches.  It resists deer.

You can propagate Creeping Jacob’s Ladder by division or from seed.

You can learn more about Creeping Jacob’s Ladder from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Creeping Jacob’s Ladder from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Crested Leopard Plant

Crested Leopard Plant (Farfugium japonicum) is a perennial ground cover herb that produces small (1 to 2 inches) yellow flowers in summer or early fall.

Crested Leopard Plant
Crested Leopard Plant is a perennial ground cover with large leaves. It does well in shady areas.

Crested Leopard Plant needs moderate moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Crested Leopard Plant tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH of 5.6 to 6.8).

Crested Leopard Plant can tolerate cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 7a (as cold as 0 degrees Fahrenheit or –18 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet, with a width of 2 to 20 feet.

You can propagate Crested Leopard Plant by division.

You can learn more about Crested Leopard Plant from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Crested Leopard Plant from Garden Direct.

Foamflower

Foamflower (Tiarella) is a perennial ground cover herb that produces clusters of foamy white or pink flowers in spring.

Foamflower
Foamflower is a shade-loving perennial ground cover that produces clusters of white or pink flowers in spring.

Foamflower needs moderate moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Foamflower tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate slightly acidic to neutral soil.

Foamflower can tolerate cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 4a (as cold as -30 degrees Fahrenheit or –34 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 10 inches, with a width of 10 inches.

You can propagate Foamflower by division, runners, or from seed.

You can learn more about Foamflower from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Foamflower from Prairie Nursery.

Hellebore

Hellebore is a perennial ground cover herb that produces small (1 to 2 inches) blue, pink, or white flowers in late winter or early spring.

Hellebore
Hellebore is a shade tolerant perennial ground cover with blue, pink, or white flowers.

Hellebore needs moderate moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Hellebore tolerates partial or full shade, but can also survive in full sun.  It can tolerate somewhat acidic soil (pH down to 5.5).

Hellebore can tolerate slight cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 8b (as cold as 15 degrees Fahrenheit or –9 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 12 inches, with a width of 24 inches.

You can propagate Hellebore by seeds, but this can take 6 to 18 months or longer.

You can learn more about Hellebore from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Hellebore from Wayside Gardens.

Hootenanny

Hootenanny (Houttuynia cordata) is a perennial ground cover herb that produces tiny (less than 1 inch) green or white flowers in spring or summer.

Hootenanny
Hootenanny is a perennial ground cover that produces tiny green or white flowers and lives in shade.

Hootenanny needs moderate to wet moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Hootenanny tolerates partial or full shade, but can also survive in full sun.  It prefers neutral soil (pH 6.6 to 7.3).

Hootenanny can tolerate severe cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 4a (as cold as -30 degrees Fahrenheit or –34 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches, with a width of 12 to 48 inches.  It resists both deer and rabbits.

You can propagate Hootenanny by division of crowns or rhizomes.

You can learn more about Hootenanny from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Hootenanny from Direct Gardening.

Northern Inside-Out Flower

Northern Inside-Out Flower (Vancouveria hexandra) is a perennial ground cover herb that produces showy white flowers in late spring or early summer.  These flowers grow with their opening facing towards the plant, rather than outwards!

Northern Inside Out Flower
Northern Inside-Out Flower produces showy white flowers that open towards the plant instead of outwards.

Northern Inside-Out Flower needs moderate to wet moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Northern Inside-Out Flower tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil.

Northern Inside-Out Flower can tolerate severe cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 5a (as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit or –29 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 12 to 18 inches, with a width of 12 inches or more.

You can propagate Northern Inside-Out Flower by division rhizomes.

You can learn more about Northern Inside-Out Flower from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

Pencilled Cranesbill

Pencilled Cranesbill (Geranium) is a perennial ground cover herb that produces showy white or pink flowers with purple or lilac veins (possibly blooms year round).

Pencilled Cranesbill
Pencilled Cranesbill tolerates shade and produces flowers with purple veins.
Image courtesy of user:
Jonathan Kington via:
Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Flower_of_the_Pencilled_
Cranesbill_(Geranium_versicolor)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1896131.jpg

Pencilled Cranesbill needs moderate moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Pencilled Cranesbill tolerates partial or full shade, but can also survive in full sun.  It can tolerate slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH of 6.1 to 7.8).

Pencilled Cranesbill can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 8b (as cold as 15 degrees Fahrenheit or –9 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 1 to 2 feet, with a width of 24 to 32 inches or more.

You can propagate Pencilled Cranesbill by division or stem cuttings.

You can learn more about Pencilled Cranesbill from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Pencilled Cranesbill from Plant World Seeds.

Silver Siberian Bugloss

Silver Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) is a perennial ground cover herb that produces showy blue flowers in late spring or early summer.

Siberian Silver Bugloss
Silver Siberian Bugloss is a perennial ground cover that prefers shade and produces showy blue flowers.

Silver Siberian Bugloss needs moderate moisture levels.  It needs good drainage in a container.  Too much water will cause root rot and eventually kill the plant.

Silver Siberian Bugloss tolerates partial or full shade.  It can tolerate acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil.

Silver Siberian Bugloss can tolerate some cold.  As an outdoor plant, it is hardy to Zone 8b (as cold as 15 degrees Fahrenheit or –9 degrees Celsius).

This plant grows to a height of 15 to 17 inches, with a width of 28 to 30 inches or more.  It resists both deer and rabbits.

You can propagate Silver Siberian Bugloss by division in spring or by root cuttings in winter.

You can learn more about Silver Siberian Bugloss from the National Gardening Association’s Plant Database.

You can find Silver Siberian Bugloss from Bluestone Perennials.

Conclusion

Now you know about 10 ground cover plants for shade and how to take care of them.  They might also provide inspiration to help you to fill in the landscape for shady parts of your yard.

You might also be interested to learn about some drought tolerant shrubs for shade (read my article here to find out more) or check out my article on evergreen shrubs for shade.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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