Evergreen noninvasive groundcover for shade and clay

billczAugust 9, 2007

Just in front of my house I've put in a row of azaleas and rhododendrons. I've planted bulbs and a few odd perennials around them. But I'd like to have a low carpet of a well-behaved evergreen groundcover underneath it all for year-round aesthetics. My preference in flower color is red, white or blue. In the summer it is almost full shade - just a little dappled sun in the afternoon. The soil was heavy clay and slightly acid, but I when I built the bed in Spring of 2006 I tilled in lots of peat and gypsum, not to mention some sulfer, bone and blood meal.

My first choice was wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). I planted a lot last fall. Only about half did anything this year, and those that did only showed a few leaves. At this point even those leaves don't look good - many have brown spots. The local extension service thinks it is the clay.

My second choice would be Mitchella repens, but from what I read it won't do well in heavy soils either. Vinca minor and pachysandra do well in the yard, but I assume they will crowd out everything else, maybe even the shrubbery!

What about Galax? The Internet is inconsistent about its invasiveness, and it is not clear to me how it will do in heavy soil. Then there is Mazus reptans. I get a mixed message on soil type and how it handles full shade. Also, what will it look like in NJ in the dead of winter?

Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.

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Down here in Georgia I have plenty of clay too. I have Mitchella repens and it is a great spreader. Like many plants, the first year is not much but by the second and third it was moving along. Love those white flowers and red berries.

I also have Galax and it is much slower to spread. In fact in most areas it is still just the original clumps. It is a beautiful plant and I love the bronze color in the fall, but I don't consider it to be a groundcover here. Certainly not invasive in the least.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2007 at 10:57AM
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Variegated lamium maculatum does great in my clay shade and is also drought and heat tolerant. The variety I have has yellow flowers are yellow for a few weeks in Spring, but there may be other varieties. It is evergreen in zone 7a. When it throws runners farther than I want them it's just a matter of pulling the ones I want to thin out or a little hand trimming.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 7:18PM
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I have two varieties of low sedum that are evergreen. Unfortunately their names have been lost. They grow in sun, shade and everything in between -- never invasive. You can explore it at local nurseries, both are succulent types. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 8:07AM
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I live in zone 5 and need a perennial ground cover for an area under a clump of bamboo. This spot never gets sun, is always damp (or wet) and has heavy soil. I understand bishop's weed will grow there, but do not want it because of its invasive tendency.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 9:34AM
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Pachysandra is a terrific ground cover for shade. Not invasive, does well in wet or dry areas, evergreen even in my zone 4 garden.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 8:16PM
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weddlz(z5 IL)

I have had success with Pachy, a beacon silver lamium and periwinkle in my area.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 1:08PM
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I had lamium in Michigan and it was invasive. Is it not elsewhere?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 5:57PM
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Ajuga is nice. Some varieties are better tolerant of clay than others.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 1:37PM
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periwinkle, although pretty, is very invasive in my Oklahoma garden. I am constantly pulling it out and still it thrives.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 1:34PM
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I like periwinkle as well. It does spread, but is easy to pull out where I don't want it. I like the fact that it stays low and covers the ground, but does not bother the ferns and hostas that share its space. I also love all the beautiful blue flowers in spring that provide color while I am waiting for the hostas and ferns to emerge.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 6:19PM
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Here, pachysandra is the spawn of Satan.

See how sweet woodruff (gallium odorata), or one of the other woodruffs, behave in your area, I've found it to be well behaved here & it is shallow rooted so the underlying clay shouldn't bother it.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 9:23AM
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