groundcover for shade, that you can walk on?

ktmeyerMarch 9, 2009

Ok, since you guys are such a wealth of information, I'm going to ask another question. We have an area of the back yard, between the screened in porch and the back fence that is VERY shady from oak trees. It also has a swingset/fort in the middle of it that my son and his friends play on. Currently it is all dirt and oak leaves. (was that way when we moved in 6 months ago). Is there anything that would grow there, even sparsly, that would look better and be easy care? Even if it wouldn't grow directly under/around the swingset because of the kids playing, we could put mulch there and some kind of ground cover around it. Maybe even a mulch path to and from if need be. But I don't want to mulch that whole half of the yard, especially as the dog wan't pee on mulch, she's too well trained to go on grass/plants.

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Hi I have the same trouble. I hope that a savy expert can help us. I am at lost, I have tried Princess Bermuda grass, and San Agustime palmetto. I want a nice grass to grow there but not luck at all. Hope somebody can help Thank you

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:44PM
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nothing. aside from mondo grass (the dwarf variety), which is quite lovely and somewhat treadable but expensive and slow to spread, there's nothing.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 5:08PM
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What about Ivy or something?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 6:23PM
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I am trying peacock fern, so far, it is spreading nicely.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:03PM
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Why waste money on plants that are not going work? If there's that much shade, then go with mulch. If the area is really big, perhaps you could get some large, flat boulders to use as benches. Plant Bromeliads and ferns around them. But use Pine Bark Mulch for the rest of the garden and Pine Straw around the swings.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:06PM
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Gather people's bags of leaves that they leave on the curb . Right now is leaf hunting season . Oak leaves are a wonderful and free mulch . I snagged 15 bags the other day and they hardly made a dent in my yard . Add free wood chips from tree companies when you can get them .
Some people are lucky enough to get their city to deliver wood chips right to their house ! If you see a tree company near-by , ask them if they want to dump their chips at your house . Free is the best .
Plants love to live in this kind of mulch. Ferns and bromeliads would do well .
Sounds crazy - but this makes a wonderful soft carpet and smells good and becomes rich soil eventually - all for free !

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:21PM
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The area is already pretty covered with leaves, that's one of the reasons the grass doesn't grow there. I'm more concerned with the areas around that. There aren't any ground covers that work in shade that the dog can tromp through sometimes?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:43PM
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Sorry, but there really aren't. You asked about ivy... it gets bigger and taller than you expect and ends up being a lovely home for citrus rats. Rocks and mulch (leaf, pine bark, or pine needles) would be very nice.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 8:16PM
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barbers(9b Orlando)

what about asian jasmine? i have some under my grape arbor that is doing okay despite the dog. I don't think it would take lots of tromping.

I use mondo grass between pavers and it has taken the stomping of my little guy for a year. But it is pricey, you'd have to put in a lot of them.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 8:56PM
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ICK! NO RATS! I will never look at Ivy the same way again! Alright, mulch it is, with some shade loving plants along the fence, patio, and around the trees.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 9:11PM
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along the paths, consider adding some shade-loving, flowering annuals (impatiens, torenias) and perennials (Brunfelsia) in bit pots, lots of broms, azaleas, dietes vegata... full shade areas can be very pretty and low maintenance.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 7:40AM
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Polka Dot plants (Hypothenses??) are great plants for a ground cover. I have a whole area behind my pool screen that is filled with them. They come in green and white, pink and green, red and green, They do reseed themselves if you let them flower but if you are walking on them, that may not be a problem. They have filled in between the cracks in our stepping stones and do well in the winter if in a protected area by the trees. Try a few and see what you think.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Irma_StPete(z9 FL)

Ha! Googling Hypothenses all I get related to plants is someone on GardenWeb asking about Polka Dot plants. :)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 12:14PM
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I've seen ajuga replens at HD in flats. I loved it in PA but don't know if it will last here. It is a flat purple-green leaf, spreads by runners, and flowers once a year with little purple spikes. Also, polka dot plant is hypoestes, but you've probably already figured that out.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 12:43PM
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Except for a few long runners of Saint Augustine grass, there was nothing growing under my three oak trees. I had planted one Wart Fern - Polypodium scolopendria under an orange tree at my previous home. When I moved out I pulled out about 50 strands of Wart Fern of various lengths to plants my oak trees at my new home. It is now growing very well under the three oak trees in my yard. Each frond stands 12"-15" straight up and they are spaced apart somewhat. Since the fronds are quite wide, from a distance it just looks like the ground is covered. I find the spacing between the fronds to be ideal for under my oak trees. Here in southwest Florida my oak trees drop leaves and branches all year. Since the fronds don't grow closely together the leaves and branches just fall on the ground between them. In two years the leaves have created a thick layer of mulch on our typical sandy soil. I leave the smaller branches where they fall because they can't be seen from a distance.

I have several areca palms growing in pots under the trees and they are growing well. However, the oak leaves tend to build up between the individual arecas because they grow so closely together. Personally I don't think Bromeliads and normal ferns are a good choice under oaks in Florida because the oaks leaves collect in their foliage.

The original question requested a groundcover that could be walked on. I make it a point not to walk on the Wart Fern because I believe that that would damage the stem of the fronds. Otherwise I find it to be an ideal plant for under oak trees in Florida.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 2:10AM
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jason83(Zone 8b/9a (North Florida))

How about pachysandra or vinca minor?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 4:08AM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

It's not native to Florida, but this past summer I had an invasion of Diamondflower weed through-out my yard. And I just let it grow. This stuff is super soft to walk on and took repeated pathing quite well, even in the one shady area. However, as temps started to drop, it was the first thing to disappear.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:33AM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

Agreeing w/ fawnridge - if this is an area where kids will be playing, mulch would likely be best for the most heavily trodden spots, since playing on it would probably kill anything else you plant.

I keep the leaves under my live oak as a groundcover (& it seems to keep the acorns from sprouting), w/ borders of bromeliads & ferns. I have a few shrubs that seem to be doing ok in the heavy shade: firebush, justicia & Panama rose, and/ a red-orange Phillipine violet (Barleria repens) that is a rather invasive groudcover, but easy to pull up.

Check out Floridata's plant list for info & lists of plants by desired features like shade, type, etc...

Here is a link that might be useful: Floridata

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 10:48AM
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One advantage of allowing leaf cover is that it provides much needed habitat for birds whoprimarily feed among fallen leaves.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 6:36PM
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I was looking for something that could be walked on and found Thymus p. 'Coccineus' called the Walk-On-Me Plant or Mother of Thyme. It's a 3" tall, aromatic creeping thyme. Partial shade to full sun, rapid spreading. It even attracts butterflies. It sounds perfect for my needs and I think for yours, too.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:52AM
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Jasmine minima will grow under an oak (at least I have had that experience; everyone is different). It grows in full shade. Maybe you could try planting one as a test. As far as natives, there is Peperomia, 8 inches high. I do not have any experience with it, though. Peperomia grows in full shade to partial shade. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 11:49PM
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If you were to trim the oaks (an arborist could do some light pruning) and let in some light shade, as an option, you would have Florida native Frog-fruit or Phylnodiflora. It gets 4 inches high and takes sun to partial shade. At that point, with partial shade, you would also have Perennial Peanut as a possibility, though I do not know its exact light requirements: it states full sun to partial shade.

But if that is not on the table for consideration, then the plants should be able to tolerate full shade. Oregano can be planted in the shade and gets 6 inches high, though I do not know how much foot traffic it can withstand.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 12:05AM
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