Ground Cover Plants That Love Shade Featured

What to do with those shady areas.

Big Idea

  • What ground cover grows best in shade areas?
  • What is the fastest growing ground cover plant?
  • What is the fastest growing ground cover plant?
  • Full shade ground cover plants Prescott Arizona.
  • What is the best low maintenance ground cover under trees?
  • Read more…

In Arizona, it’s easier to find plants that love sun, heat and wind. But, shady spots must be considered!

Plants that perform well as ground covers in shady areas earn this reputation because they are incredibly tenacious and thrive without much sunlight. In the mountains of Arizona, it is much easier to find plants that love sun, heat, and wind. Between the shady spots of trees, under patios, or the north side of that two-story home, the choices shrink considerably.

Part Shade Means Some Sun - A prevalent garden error is thinking a plant that tolerates shade will grow in a complete dense shade. Horticulturists define a "part shade" plant as needing 2 to 4 hours of sunlight per day, like east or direct west exposures. If you have a thick, full shade location getting no direct sunlight, make sure to choose plants rated for such sites. There aren't many of them, but several are described here.

Here are 12 common ground cover plants you should know about.

Hosta is planted under high shade tree canopies in masses where their foliage attains the most significance. Solves problem shade in sideyard conditions between multistory buildings. Ideal under shade arbors at outdoor living spaces. Excellent container plant under a patio canopy and on shaded decks and terrace.

Dark Purple Dead Nettle, Lamium maculatum, shimmering silver leaves with emerald green edges form a lush groundcover with large, abundant, deep purple flowers from spring to summer. Perfect for brightening shady areas or trailing from mixed containers.

Bugleweed, Ajuga tenorii, has gorgeous, cream-purple foliage with glowing pink edges. Royal blue flower spikes bloom in spring, often lightly repeating in late summer. This unique perennial forms a tight, cushion-like clump. Ideal for mass planting as a groundcover or border edging or for contrast in mixed containers.

Creeping Mahonia, Mahonia repens, is one of the best western natives for gardens with many oak trees and deer. Dense prickly growth can be used as an edging material to ease the transition from paving to a shade garden. A natural drought-resistant component of wild and woodland gardens for weed control and around the edges of landscape boulders. Looks captivating, spreading out in Asian-style gardens beneath shrubs that have lost their lower leaves. One of few plants to willingly grow under native juniper trees.

Coral Bells, Heuchera, sends up sprays of hot pink blooms in late spring that lure hummingbirds to the garden and features some of the darkest foliage to be found in a shade garden. The ruffled purple-red leaves add stunning depth to gardens and mixed containers. Evergreen through mild winters. Heuchera also comes in lime green, black, copper, and purple foilage.

English Ivy, Hedera helix, is the only evergreen vine that stays green in a dark shady garden. Large lustrous foliage stays waxed green through winter, forming a lush groundcover under large shrubs and trees. Quickly climbs walls, pillars, arbors, and fences without support. One of the best vines uses to dangle from the edge of hanging pots and baskets or cascading off the edge of tall urns planted with upright fillers.


Japanese Forest Grass, Hakonechloa macra, is a graceful, colorful groundcover for shady areas. Slender stems hold bright golden-yellow foliage having the effect of a miniture bamboo plant. Great in containers or color accent through dark borders.


Japanese Spurge, Pachysandra terminalis, This has long been the most reliable mountain groundcover for shade. Perfect for planting under the canopies of older trees, where little else grows. A lifesaver on the north sides of walls or north-facing slopes and between tall multistory buildings. Works nicely in the front of shaded borders or as filler between larger shrubs. Dense enough to keep down weeds, it is an excellent solution for dark parts of the garden, where other plants fear to tread.

Mondo Grass, Ophiopogon jaburan, has neat, glossy foliage perfect for contemporary shady landscapes accompanying other perennial shade-loving plants. An improved, cold-hardy selection with deep green, glossy foliage that resists winter damage and disease. White, star-shaped flower spikes emerge from neat mounds in midsummer.

Periwinkle, Vinca Minor, is one of the best groundcovers for shade, displaying large, violet, pinwheel-shaped flowers against glossy dark leaves. Sun tolerant in cool mountain gardens. In hot summer gardens, plants in dappled to deep shade. Good for use as a firescape planting.

Tiny Monsters Cranesbill, Geranium, quickly spreads, making it an excellent groundcover, with attractive, magenta flowers that bloom longer than most shade plants. Autumn shows gorgeous fall colors of purple and bronze. Locally known as the perennial geranium.


Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is a native vine specially selected to dress up those miles of stockade fence. A mountain vine with rich green foliage turns fire engine red through October with blue fruit accents. When spaced at 8' intervals, this fast-growing vine covers a boring fence within a season. Plant red walls of beauty that are both deer and javelina PROOF! One plant covers a 10' x 10' area as a groundcover and quickly climbs between boulders.

Until next issue, I'll be helping local gardeners plan exciting shade gardens here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or Top10Plants.com

Upcoming Garden Classes

August 7 @ 9:30 am – Proper Planting for Success - Privacy, shade, color, evergreen and blooms. We cover trees for every situation, especially small gardens, including trees for country gardens and trees for difficult sites. Trees for blossom, bark, fruit and colorful autumn foliage. With so many choices piking the perfect tree can be overwhelming, but not after this class. Free tree planting guide to students after this class.

August 14 @ 9:30 am - Wildlife & Bug Prevention - Late summer is not only the peak of bug season, there's also intense pressure from furry visitors in our yards. Students start with best practices to keep javelina and pack rats away, then quickly move to solutions for grasshoppers and tomato worms. You can have a nice yard with these easy-to-use tips and a few key plant choices. Frustrated gardeners will have all the tools they need to keep the garden pest free!

August 21 @ 9:30 am – Best Evergreens for Mountain Landscapes – Evergreens can be the anchor of any landscape, providing color and privacy year-round. We'll dispel the myth that the only evergreens are pine trees, when in fact they can be a multitude of different shapes, colors, and sizes—there are even evergreens that aren't green!


August 28 @ 9:30 am - Gardening for Newcomers Learn all the mountain secrets to local garden success. This is an information packed class guaranteed to increase garden blooms and fruit this year. Learn about growing zones, frost dates, soils and more; you'll know exactly what to do in the gardens after this class.

September 4 @ 9:30 am - Top 10 Trees and How to Plant them - Privacy, shade, color, evergreen, and blooms. We cover trees from every angle. With so many choices, picking the perfect tree can seem overwhelming, but not after this class. Our horticultural team will be on-hand after the class to help with individual tree situations. Free tree planting guide to all attendees.

September 11 @ 9:30 am – Climbers & Covers in the Landscape. Vines climb quickly up fence posts, pergolas, barbed wire, walls and trellis. They block, screen, and shade better than any other plants in the nursery, but not all vines are created equal. Learn these vines favorite locals, sun and shade lovers, and all the advice to get these bloomers climbing.

September 18 @ 9:30 am - Easy to Grow Mountain Plants – Rock landscapes without these core plants tend to look strange, immature and lacking. Learn how to garden with these simple, but effective planting combinations for a design that WOWs all four seasons of the year.

September 25 @ 9:30 am - Privacy Screens and the Secret Garden. Tired of looking at the neighbor's RV? This class shows off the best, fastest growing plants to fill in your privacy screens! You can screen unsightly neighbors, enhance your view, or block pesky traffic and cut noise and light pollution. Experts will be on hand to help individuals with unique situations.

October 2 @ 9:30 am - Fall ‘To-do‘ list for a Healthy Yard - Get the most out of your landscape with this easy to use checklist of fall care. Bring the color out of your fall gardens, reduce bugs next spring, or simply put your landscape to bed with these easy to use ideas.

October 9 @ 9:30 am - Autumn Colors Best Enjoyed at Home - Landscapes in autumn can be stunning, but only with proper planning. This easy care advice will bring the silver and blues out of the evergreens, showcasing brilliant bright foliage and crazy colored flowers. Make this the brightest fall of all!

October 16 @ 9:30 am – Fall Containers that Bloom like Crazy! After this class, you’ll have what it takes to design great container gardens that sparkle in the afternoon heat. Learn about proper watering, the best foods, companion plants, and more. Everyone is going to comment on your potting success! Bring your own container or buy one new and we'll have design stations open, with expert advice on hand.

October 23 @ 9:30 am – Succulents, Cacti and the Low Maintenance Garden are all the rage right now, and a great choice for busy gardeners! These are the toughest, drought-tolerant plant that will grow like gangbusters in a tight space with very little care. Students will learn how to use the local favorites that brings warm color and texture to your home.

October 30 @ 9:30 am – Showy Shrubs of Autumn - Shrubs are the backbone of a good design. They provide essential structure, beauty, fragrance and color with a great variety of shapes. Rock landscapes without shrubs tend to look strange, immature and lacking. Learn how to use shrubs to create simple but effective planting combinations for a design impact that will WOW all four seasons of the year. Free to gardeners that want more from their yard.

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Last modified on Saturday, 07 August 2021 08:59
Published in Prescott.news
Ken Lain

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site.


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