groundcover for poor, clay shade area

iarizzoJuly 4, 2007

Hello from Sioux City, Iowa! I'm looking for a fast spreading perenial ground cover for an area that is mostly shade, dry, poor clay/rocky soil, under a large tree and deck. Grass has never grown here as far as I know - been living here 10 years. I've tried wild flowers, etc - nothing seems to take hold. I have some day lillies along one fence, but otherwise, I've had no luck getting anything to grow. I like natural gardens, especially plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Area is fairly large; want something with minimum maintenance. Can be low or medium high; I have a cat and dog that are outside, so nothing that would harm them. Any help is appreciated!



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There is a highly invasive groundcover (weed?) that some people plant as a groundcover that will literally grow anywhere called Creeping Charlie or Creeping Jenny. It blooms with violet flowers and hugs the ground. Some people think it makes a great mat to walk on. It is highly invasive however and can smother out your lawn, but if nothing grows anyway, this will.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 1:10AM
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Have you tried amending the soil?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 5:50AM
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jspece(Josh - z4 IA)

Snow-on-the-Mountain (Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum') should do the trick, but be SURE it is what you want! Once it gets started, it is very, very difficult to get rid of!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 2:34PM
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dirtdoctortoo(z4b/5a IA)

There are places even creeping charlie won't grow. I have one of those and unfortunately it sounds an awful like what you describe. Very poor clay soil, in dry shade, with a maple tree sucking up any of the available moisture. Even mint doesn't grow there. I finally just mulched it You can set some pots with flowers out there. At least I don't get many weeds coming up through the mulch and its not a heavy layer. Heavy layers of mulch smother tree roots. If you find something that does grow in these conditions let me know. mmo

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 7:02PM
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Thanks for the information! I have attempted to amend the soil, but don't have the time or money to really do it right. I will see if the creeping charlie works - if not, I'll go with pea gravel or rocks to try to keep the mud down when it rains, and put out pots of shade loving plants. During the Spring it is awfully muddy, and of course, the favorite place for my dog to run around in. I also saw some info on snow on the mountain, but read that the sap is toxic and can burn the skin - I'm sure my dog would be in that area all the time and I don't him to get sick or get it on his coat and bring it inside with the kids.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 9:36PM
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I've had good luck with getting beacon silver to grow in similar soil

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 2:33PM
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giantslug(4b/5 SW Minnesota)

Canada violet, Virginia Waterleaf, and Virginia creeper grow well and spread to cover the ground in dry shade and clay soil where I live (southwest Minnesota).

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 8:35AM
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I have the same problem under a silver maple, only the ONLY thing that would grow under it WAS creeping charlie! NASTY stuff. It will take over any grass you have in your entire yard along with your neighbor's yard and it's hard, hard, hard to get rid of. My solution was an area of flagstone and river rock where I can put a nice bench. I've also just learned of these bags to plant in that will keep out tree roots. I've just today ordered some to plant hostas in. Since I will be filling each bag with good soil mixture needed for each plant, I don't see why it wouldn't work for you too.
Think long and hard before planting creeping charlie. If you were closer, you could have all the free CC you could dig from my lawn! LOL!

Here's what I did under the tree. It's only half done in this picture. Have since added another 3/4 ton or river rock.

Here is a link that might be useful: root bags

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 12:56AM
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I'm looking for a ground cover that grows wild in Eldridge and Quad cities area. One person called it yellow toes. Grows similar to creeping charlie beside highways etc....HELP PLEASE

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:05AM
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The yellow toes mentioned may possibly be birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Often seen on the road sides and planted as a forage for cattle, horses, goats and other grazers, it is in bloom right now. It is non-native (Eurasia and N.Africa) and moderately invasive but is a member of the pea family so will add nitrogen to your soil.

As for Gill over the Ground, or Ground Ivy, which is what I prefer to call Creeping Charlie, I LOVE IT!! It is not hard to pull. It provides a great mulch in my flowerbeds until things get going, then I just pull it back. As far as lawn goes, I would rather have a lawn full of it than grass any day. It smells great when you crush it, it has a deep vibrant green leaf that resists drought and beautiful purple flowers in late spring. It is much better than grass any day.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 11:29PM
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