7 Ground Covers That Thrive in Full Shade - Backyard Boss
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7 Ground Covers That Thrive in Full Shade

When it comes to planning your garden, there are multiple components to consider. Do you want any trees? Should you use perennials or annuals? What are your hardiness zones? Another key consideration is choosing which ground cover plants to grow!

Why grow these types of plants? One of the reasons is due to the aesthetic appeal they bring to a garden, blanketing it with thick foliage. Other reasons include reducing the occurrence of weeds, insulating soil moisture, and acting as a living mulch. Ground covers have plenty to offer!

But when your garden lounges in the shade all day, what ground covers survive? Learn about some of the best ground covers to add to your garden that thrive in full shade!

Wild Ginger

close up wild ginger
Image credits: Kylbabka via Shutterstock

Known as wild ginger, Asarum canadense is a heart-shaped ground cover plant that loves the shade. Despite its name, this plant is not the same ginger found in the kitchen. However, it does have roots and flowers that carry a heavy scent of the spice. In some cases, it acts as a substitute for ginger!

To provide wild ginger the best chance, offer well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. The soil needs regular moisture for optimal growing conditions. Additionally, the ideal hardiness zones for this plant are within zones 3 to 7.

Sweet Woodruff

close up image of a blooming sweet woodruff plant
Image credits: May_hokkaido via Pixabay

Decorating garden beds with bright green leaves and delicate white flowers, sweet woodruff is an excellent option for ground cover. This shade-loving perennial flowers in late spring but is most commonly known for its pleasant-smelling leaves when dried.

The dried leaves of sweet woodruff are said to give off scents of vanilla and mowed grass. The leaves are useable in the kitchen as well as a medicinal herb. Another common use for them is within the traditional May Wine that comes from Germany. May Wine is named for the time when leaves were most commonly harvested and is a beloved sweet beverage!

To care for this plant, use soil that is well-draining, yet moist. Always plant in areas with an abundance of shade, as too much sunlight scorches the leaves and harms the plant.

Strawberry Begonia

Strawberry begonia flowers in white pots with lush leaf growth and beautiful pink flower buds
Image credits: Yoga Kharisma via Shutterstock

‘Strawberry Begonia,’ also known as Creeping Saxifrage, is a perennial that originates from Eastern Asia, Western China, and Japan. This plant thrives when in the shade and is perfect for ground cover, but also is successful in hanging baskets.

The ‘Strawberry Begonia’ is recognizable by its leaves. They are similar to that of a typical begonia featuring broad, round foliage that grows on a stalk with silvery veins within each leaf.

In the late spring or early summer, this plant is found blooming with distinctive white flowers speckled with pink. Each flower has a pair of large petals at the bottom and a few smaller petals on the top. A beautiful addition to brighten up those shadowy garden beds!

Mountain Spurge

Green leaves of Pachysandra ground cover
Image credits: Vladimir Martinov via Shutterstock

Looking for another flowering perennial that loves the shade? Mountain spurge is an herbaceous plant that produces white clusters of flowers on spikes in the early spring. It has dark green leaves that spread over beds through the use of rhizomes.

This shade-loving, ground cover plant also has the potential to continue on as an evergreen in the right conditions. It grows best for those living in areas within hardiness zones 6 to 8. Remember to only plant this ground cover somewhere with plenty of shade as too much sunlight causes damage to the leaves.


Watering Hostas
Image credits: Nadya So via Shutterstock

Looking for a plant that is low-maintenance, a perennial, and content to grow in the shade? A hosta plant is the solution!

There are dozens of different species of hostas and thousands of cultivars. Some common ones include ‘Liberty,’ ‘Vulcan,’ and ‘Guacamole’ hostas. Many of these varieties love the shade and display greenish blue leaves of varying patterns and hues.

To care for a hosta, ensure there is adequate moisture in the soil as well as good drainage. When given the proper care, hostas spread their leaves outwards, growing more each year. When your plants become overly large, propagate them through division and place them in other parts of your garden!


Close up image of lamium ground cover
Image credits: Marina Yalanska via Unsplash

If you want a unique type of ground cover that adds greenery to your garden, look no further than lamium. There are about 50 species of lamium, but the most common include Album,’ ‘Beacon Silver’, and ‘Pink Pearls.’

This ground cover plant is also known as deadnettle due to its nettle-like leaves, however they lack actual stinging hairs. The soft, silvery leaves add contrast to a garden, and the purple/pink blooms stand out within other foliage.

When growing lamium, avoid overly wet and compact soil. The best soil has plenty of nutrients, contains loam, and has excellent drainage. Provide these conditions for your lamium and it will thrive in the shade!

White Wood Aster

White Wood Aster Plant
Image credits: Henk Vrieselaar via Shutterstock

The ‘White Wood Aster’ is a perennial that grows low to the earth through extending rhizomes. Over time the spread of the rhizomes creates colonies which further cover the ground in established areas.

These types of asters bloom late in the summer to fall, displaying multiple thin white petals which are known to draw butterflies. 

‘White Wood Aster’ does not require as much water as other ground cover options. It is able to withstand dry soil that is slightly acidic. This plant thrives in dry conditions so long as there is plenty of shade!

Time to Cover Up the Garden!

Is your garden dappled in shade? Does it never see the sun? Whatever amount of shade you have in your garden, there are plenty of ground cover plants to add.

Grow something low-maintenance like hostas or showcase beautiful tiny flowers like the ‘White Wood Aster.’ Whatever your preference, find the plant that covers the ground and keeps your shady garden looking vibrant and lively!

What are some of your favorite ground cover plants to grow? Comment below and share what you like to plant and how much sun they get!