Looking for Invaisive Groundcover for Dry Shade

Delgardenerboy(Zone 7 Delaware)September 21, 2003

I Am looking for a invasive groundcover for a dry shade area. About half of it gets firtered shade by a Willow Tree for most of the day(Willow Roots are'nt a problem) The other half gets Sun/Full sun. The soil is a Sand/Clay/Loam mix, tho there is more Sand and Clay than there is loam. The only thing that seems to thrive here is Weed Grasses and Wild Horseraddish

I Am considering the Fallowing plants:

Pachysandra (Maybe)



English Ivy


There are allready 2 English ivy plants in back,And some blubs that i am moving this fall.

What other plants can you recomend for this area, And will the plants im considering grow in theese conditions?

I Just hope it is not too late in the season to plant perenials here...... *Crosses Fingers*

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Not many people are willing to recommend English Ivy these days because it'll get away from you eventually.

You probably are just trying to find a good solution for your difficult spot, but english ivy does more harm than good in the long run.

Here is a link that might be useful: No Ivy League web page

    Bookmark   September 22, 2003 at 6:59AM
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By the way, did you see this thread?

Here is a link that might be useful: Similar Thread

    Bookmark   September 22, 2003 at 7:01AM
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Delgardenerboy(Zone 7 Delaware)

Updated List:
English Ivy
Violet( Viola striata,Others )

    Bookmark   September 22, 2003 at 10:21PM
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You may wish to also consider Vinca minor (periwinkle).

    Bookmark   September 24, 2003 at 3:04PM
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Hell, why not just go for bishop's weed!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2003 at 7:57PM
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nankeen(z8b Portland OR)

Ligularia does well once established.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2003 at 11:29AM
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Helichrysum (silver mist licorice plant.)

Loves it dry. Spreads like crazy, and fast! Flowers in spring and has a nice fragrance. Prefer full sun, but i've found it'll grow anywhere as long as you don't overwater.

Here's a link:

Here is a link that might be useful: silver mist licorice plant

    Bookmark   October 2, 2003 at 5:26PM
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Attached is a link you may find useful for some native groundcovers for dry shade.

One groundcover I've tried in a similar dry shady spot under a japanese maple, with similar soil, is green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum). It hasn't taken over the world but it has grown a very respectable 4-6"/year since I planted it about 3 years ago. I haven't watered it since getting it established (not saying much this year, but last year was pretty dry). I got my plants from alocal nursery, but it is available from quite a few mail order sources too. It's a very nice groundcover and nicer than anything on your list. Give it a try.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Dry Shade Plants

    Bookmark   October 2, 2003 at 9:10PM
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Try Lily of the Valley

    Bookmark   October 3, 2003 at 11:07PM
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If you seriously want an invasive groundcover and this one does well in either sun or shade, than Houttuynia also called chameleon plant is for you. But be warned, you will probably never, ever get rid of it, if you change your mind at a later date and want to dig it up. Virtually any piece of root will make another plant.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2003 at 3:51PM
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civilmind(8a (Dallas))

Chameleon plant is more of a bog/water lover. It sure is pretty, tho.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2003 at 9:11AM
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Civilmind definitely not true. I'm speaking of Houttuynia (botanical name) chameleon plant nickname. This plant will take just about any condition you throw at it and still survive. It most definitely does not need any extra water or bog conditions. I have dry shade and over a dozen mature trees and I never water it, I am trying desperately to get rid of it. I don't have any boggy areas on my property and it spreads like wildfire. Anyone who plants it be forewarned.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2003 at 8:57PM
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civilmind(8a (Dallas))

Well pardon me. I tag from my chameleon plant calls it a bog plant.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2003 at 10:12AM
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civilmind(8a (Dallas))

FYI, Shade tolerant

Here is a link that might be useful: Chameleon Plant info

    Bookmark   October 7, 2003 at 10:14AM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Liriope spicata makes a nice grasslike ground cover that thrives in shade and tolerates drought. It has narrower leaves than L. muscari and spread more rapidly.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2003 at 4:19PM
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Civilmind didn't mean to offend you. I don't know why anyone would call this a bog plant. If you give Houttuynia any extra water it will totally take over your garden. I know because I started with 3 plants and now have literally a thousand. I am constantly pulling out this plague and I never water it. It is indeed an invasive groundcover for any kind of shade or sun, dry or wet.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2003 at 9:30PM
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Invasiveness is entirely dependent on the specific site - climate, soil conditions, how much natural moisture is received and held in the soil, competition from other plants/root, etc. Dry shade is a really common phenomenon around here - so many large native conifers and big leaf maples. I have found vinca, English ivy, yellow archangel and Euphorbia robbiae spread more rapidly under these conditions than many other groundcovers, also some native plants like Mahonia and Gaultheria. What may work best for you is likely going to be a case of trial and error, although I would avoid English ivy as it is classified as a noxious weed in many areas due to its aggressiveness.

FWIW, Houttunyia IS considered a bog plant - its native habitat is beside streams and in marshes of eastern Asia. Like many other water lovers, it is adaptable to a range of soil conditions. The species, Houttunyia cordata, will spread far more aggressively than cultivated forms like 'Chameleon'. There are sprigs of Chameleon scattered throughout my garden (planted before I was fully "aware") but none have attempted to take over anything - they grow very modestly, even with the supplemental watering my perennial borders receive. It is, however, damn hard to remove permanently. YMMV

    Bookmark   October 17, 2003 at 9:35AM
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civilmind(8a (Dallas))

Sorry Shade Tolerant. I guess I was extra sensitive that day. :=)) My experience with the plant is limited and was just going by what the tag said. I originally planted it in a dry area and it pooped out on me. Then moved it to an area that gets more rain runoff and it's doing great. So that's why I didn't think it would do well in dry shade.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2003 at 1:58PM
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Civilmind, no problem , no offense taken. I'm more irritated with my houttuynia.
FYI gardengal, as you said depends on your growing conditions, etc. I'm in zone 6/7, definitely dry shade, as a matter of fact it's dry, rocky shade. I know I've gardened this particular site over 17 years. I also planted this variety "chameleon" before I knew it's habits. This plant, mother of thousands never receives any extra water, therefore I do not see it as a bog plant in my area, perhaps it is in warmer climates like your zone 8. Also your statement that english ivy is a noxious weed may be true for you but not in my more shaded northern zone where it grows much more slowly, again it all depends on your growing conditions.
One final thought anyone considering planting houttuynia be forewarned, it is an invasive pest that is nearly impossible to eradicate.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2003 at 5:40PM
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FWIW, there is a very nice article in the most recent issue of Fine Gardening (Nov/Dec 2003) that addresses invasive plants by region. One of the drawbacks of gardening online is that as part of the great web community, we tend to forget differences in climates and can't put ourselves easily into another's growing conditions. What is invasive in one area of the country may be considered very gardenworthy and tame in another. Most states have agencies which manage or at least tabulate invasive plants - it is always best to check first if you have doubts on the invasiveness of the plants in question in your location.

Perhaps the term we should be using in this instance is 'aggressively spreading'? And that too is very dependent on climate, soil and light conditions, natural irrigation, etc. There are so few absolutes when it comes to horticultural concerns :-)) And Shade Tolerant, I would amend your final statement to read houttunyia "CAN be an invasive pest that is nearly impossible to eradicate.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2003 at 11:05AM
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Gardengal, "Fine Gardening" magazine is an excellent resource, I saw that article too, but have yet to find enough time to dig into my copy. I agree with amending to say that houttunyia "CAN be an invasive pest", considering that some others in certain growing conditions could fare well with this hideous plant and not have it spread like a wildfire through their garden, LOL. Suffice to say, it is a pretty plant, perhaps the best place for it is in the confines of a pot with no drainage holes for the roots to escape and take hold.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2003 at 5:26PM
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DavidPat5(zone 5)

Definately Bishops weed (Aegopodium podagraria) or Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)

    Bookmark   November 30, 2003 at 12:03AM
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try epimediums.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2003 at 9:18AM
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franeli(z4 NH)

Ajuga Reptans spread wildly for me in dry shade.
It can also seed all over the place . i would call it very invasive. Nice blue flowers in spring,the bees love it.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2003 at 8:45AM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

Out of the original list, I don't consider Pachysandra to be invasive, certainly not in dry shade.

The others certainly are invasive, if that's what you want.

I would add Vinca minor to the list, it establishes and spreads very quickly in the most inhospitable conditions.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2003 at 11:55AM
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cub_de(7 DE)

I live in DE which I think the original author is from. Pachysandra does WONDERFULLY in my garden. Myrtle does pretty well also. And so does Hosta, although that isn't a creeping ground cover. Funny because my husband and I actually were trying to come up with some new plants for groundcover. We decided on Ajuga and golden star. These were recommended on a list we got from Longwood Gardens which is a du Pont estate in Southern PA.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2003 at 10:10AM
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I have both a question and a response...

Is vinca minor (periwinkle) truly invasive if roped in a bit? I'm considering it seriously for a large swath under mature oaks in average shade, clayey/gravelly soil and no supplemental water.

And, the Missouri Dept. of Conservation 'Grow Native' site (good site) suggested the following as compact ground covers for dry shade:
Wild Sweet William (Phlox divarcata),
Sand Phlox (Phlox bifida) and
Squaw Weed (Senecia obovatus)
Wondering if y'all think these ground covers will actually 'cover' or just be spindly? And if you answer spindly - what to substitute them with?

I know - lots to ask but you guys are the best!
Thanks, Jill

Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Grow Native

    Bookmark   December 27, 2003 at 12:33PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

Vinca minor spreads rapidly. The stems are prostrate and root at intervals, then whole new clumps grow from the rooted spot. It will grow happily and vigorously in dry shade. It will completely cover the ground in a solid sheet of criss-crossing stems, and eventually cover any small plants that are in its way. It will spread a foot or two each year and you can control it if you attack it once or twice per year. It is a complete pain if you let it spread amongst other ground covers.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2003 at 6:03AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Some listed dry shade tolerant plants from Graham Stuart Thomas Perennial Garden Plants (but be sure to check your own hardiness zone for these, I didn't look them up)

"Plants tolerating the difficult proposition of dry shade":

Anemone nemorosa
Campanula latifolia
Iris foetidissima
Grasses Carex pendula, luzula, milium
Ferns Dryopteris, polypodium, polystichum

    Bookmark   January 3, 2004 at 6:08PM
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Hooti(z5 NY)

Dear Delgardenerboy,

I am with you on strategy, though it seems to bother alot of people - if you have somewhere nothing else will grow plant those plants everyone says you cant get rid of *grin*.

My invasive plant of the year is Lamium var. Orchid Frost. It has lovely ornamental frosted leaves and tons of pink flowers from spring until fall. I think it likes water alot, but seems to do okay with dry, you just get more flowers if you water it.

We have places even weed grasses won't grow, and wild violets do well there. Of course they flower before the leaves are out, but stay green leafed all summer.

Mint sounds like a really good bet, and you may want to talk to some people on which species like it especially dry. I have lots of mint but I think dry zone seven may be different from dry zone five. Dry here means no standing water (okay slight exaggeration, but only slight)

Snow on the Mountain and Periwinkle run amok here but as I said, we have fairly moist soil except that which has been overproccessed in the past, and that only is dry during July droughts.

If the Wild Sweet William is what I think it is,(and I am going on matching it to mine in my field guide) it is not really a ground cover, but a tallish plants with lovely flowers. It tolerates partial shade but I don't think it would flower in deep shade. We have what appears to be Garden (fall) Phlox in deep shade and it flowers well though, so who knows? I find there is only slight correlation between what books and web pages say a plant will do and what it actually does for me (smooshy face).

I would say defintely go for the Lamium, wild violets or mint. The violets wont run astray, the Lamium at least will look pretty if it does, and if the mint gets to hyperactive you can make tea at least. *grin*


    Bookmark   January 5, 2004 at 8:58PM
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Mint plants miniaturize the shadier it is(bright shade for me)...mine have leaves smaller than my thumbnails, and the plants stay below 8". It doesn't exactly cover the ground, though.

Vinca forms giant thickets here, climbing and twining with wild blackberries to form four-foot tangles that smother everything else...its flowers are very pretty, though...maybe if you live in a place with snow, it would die back and not get out of control. I would definitely choose it over ivy.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2004 at 3:39PM
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qbirdy(z4/5 Central NY)

For out and out invasive try vinca and creeping charlie

    Bookmark   March 28, 2004 at 9:51PM
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ingek(z7 LI NY)

Shade: I have English ivy, pachysandra, vinca, creeping charlie, hosta, epimedium, ferns, and chameleon.
Ivy and pachysandra are 'cast iron' plants. Pachysandra is almost impossible to banish...it too will grow from chunks of root left when taming it..mine kept migrating into the lawn. Vinca runs on the surface and is more delicate and easier to discourage. All the others vanish in the winter here. I think I would still plant ivy.. I've had 20 years of ease and pleasure with it. I think shearing deserves more study... it might make all the difference.
30 years ago my mother warned me not to plant English ivy, but I had some romantic images of it. For years it inched along, giving me green cover in the darkest corners all year round. However, it has gone too far now and I just paid several people a fortune to rip it out in places and beat it back in others. There is an interesting debate over whether or not it kills the trees it climbs. One landscaper suggested letting the ivy cover the dying hemlocks to provide screening. During a gardening tour on TV the head gardener mentioned shearing the ivy, to renew it. But I haven't seen that anywhere else.
I've also learned it harbors spiders.
I cleared it out in one area to plant other things but now I find the bare earth depressing in the winter. The ivy has such a rich texture when so much else is dormant.
Actually, I began planting different varieties... some that were not supposed to be tolerant of frost... so I have some interesting leaf variations.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2004 at 8:44PM
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LondonShade(London, UK)

Houttuynia / chameleon plant
This looks lovely. Would it be as wonderfully invasive as it sounds in London, England? If so, anybody want to send me a bit?? Sounds as though lots of you loathe it so much you'd send it to the far reaches of the galaxy given half a chance.
In my very shady London garden, nothing much grows apart from Ivy. I'm not sure if its the English Ivy you talked about , but it certainly spreads.
Interesting discussion, must fine out what 'zone' I'm in and what they mean so I have more of a clue what conditions you are enjoying over the pond there.
I love this site!
Happy Easter all

    Bookmark   April 7, 2004 at 7:08PM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

We let vinca fill in plots surrounded by concrete sidewalk. THe runners formed a mass inches thick that I couldn't get a shovel into. Eventually they spread thru the sidewalk separator lines and came up in the lawn. It was so hard to pull up the escapees, and I couldn't get to the parts under the concrete feeding the spread. Plus the vinca made a loose leggy mass you would never want to step into, much less sit on. It was a spider forest and the under layer below the leaf mass was creepy. The shaded underleaves stayed dirty and buggy. Now we have creeping charlie which forms the same shovel resistant mass of iron hard runners. The longer you leave charlie alone the tougher it gets. Charlie can be mowed, and has pretty tiny blue flowers, with geranium style leaves. But it smells like geraniums. When I walk over the charlie the plant oils rise up so strong it tickles my nose and sometimes burns my eyes. (we have a lot!) The smell gets on shoes, and clothes so you dont want to have a picnic on a mature charlie bed. The only place charlie cant live on my property is the flooded land. This ground was planted with grass, but is flooded to 1/4 or 1/2 inch at least half the year. We have the prettiest delicate green sod there which does not grow high, so it looks almost like creeping bent. This sod is barely rooted and can be lifted off like a rug. One dry year and charlie will conquer it.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2004 at 9:35PM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

Here is a good link for the temperatures of the USDA garden zones

Here is a link that might be useful: Digital Seed Garden Zones

    Bookmark   April 16, 2004 at 9:58PM
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ooh, i was just considering planting vinca minor on my shady slope in the backyard. maybe its not such a good idea, flowerkitty??

    Bookmark   April 17, 2004 at 7:10PM
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I have pachysandra and vinca and euyonemous(sp?).

I love, love, love the vinca and find it easy to control (so far) with the black plastic landscape border material which goes 3 in or so below the surface. I use a string trimmer or hedge clippes before the runners have a chance to root. I really only need to trim it 1/month. I also have a "wild" area in the back of the lot which I am trying to tame ane replant with vinca.

Pachy has been a bit disapointing as it looks great only 20% of the time. I have spent very little time troubleshooting the stuff. The pachy is in a damp area.

Euyonemous is probably closer to what I consider invasive and I am looking for technique/location to expoit this stuff. I have seen it in a low hedge that was nice.

I used to have ivy and find that it is easy to maintain if you run over it with the mower in spring and cut it back to maintain 12 inch border from areas that you want ivy free (like trees and buildings). The ivy came with the house and I became very respectful of it after scraping it away from the brick and finding that the ivy's bond to the wood trim was stronger than the nails securing the trim!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2004 at 12:53AM
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magazinewriter(z5 Mich)

What a relief!
I dared to call some of these plants invasive on the Loosestrife posting and I was severely criticized. Evidently, there's a technical definition of invasive -- and vinca, buttercups, obedient plant, beebalm etc. don't fit into that definition.
Do I care? No!
But the folks on that thread sure do.
I'm surprised they haven't added their two cents to this thread!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 3:43PM
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Janine Starykowicz

I have sedum acre growing under a young weeping willow. I also have species tulips and muscari in the spring. The sedum has little yellow star flowers in the spring, just medium green foliage the rest of the time.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2004 at 2:07AM
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Perhaps this has already been mentioned, but I think lamium is wonderful in dry shade. With its silver leaves, it brings light to dark places. It has pretty flowers and flowers for a long time early and then again late summer/fall. It is full enough to hide cones and most tree debris. A lot better than ivy or vinca IMHO. In zone 5 - 6 where we are it even stays green most of the winter. It looks spectacular with a purple ajuga.
Sweet woodruff is also nice although not as pretty as lamium.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 10:50PM
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Dieter2NC(z7b NC)

You might try vinca minor mixed with chrysogonum (green & gold). I added a link for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: green and gold

    Bookmark   October 12, 2004 at 5:22PM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

If you value anything in your yard, DON'T PLANT CREEPING CHARLIE!!! LOL It's like the kudzu of my yard...hand in hand with the wild/indian strawberries!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2004 at 1:15AM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

I second that ademink. Creeping charlie or ground ivy as we call it grows wild here and I don't believe its possible to get rid of it. I have dug, pulled, sprayed and it keeps spreading. We did put extra lime in one spot in the lawn andmuch of the ground ivy died out so that might actually be the answer.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 7:21PM
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WhtRos(USDA z5a IL)

I highly recommend Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) mentioned earlier. Shows up very nice in shade and love the yellow flowers in spring. Mine is growing on a hill between the house and a maple tree. So only gets sun in early spring and moisture drains away from it. Has been spreading nicely for several years. Also don't have a problem with weeds growing it it like I do other ground covers. Best wishes, Barbara.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2004 at 12:27AM
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nafreeman(z10 San Diego)

I really like the look of Lamium maculatum that you had mentioned. However, websites are saying it's only good zones 4-8. I was considering using vinca underneath a short overhang on the side of my house, but after hearing from flowerkitty, i know i don't want spiders. Do you think it might make it down here? The area i'm planting is almost 100% dark shade all the time.
thanks for the great info everyone!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2005 at 1:48AM
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dianne1957(NC 7b)

I have had great success with Sweet Woodruff. It is a low growing ground cover, looks delicate but is tuff as nails. It grows like a mat covering and choking out weeds. It is easy to transplant, each year dig out chunks and press into loose soil. Looks beautiful and gets tiny white flowers in the spring. Extremly low maintnence. May have to pull some weeds when it is getting established but after that it comes back every year with a vengance. Attatched a link with a good picture of the plant.
Also for dry shade try ribbon grass, the english ivy, creeping myrtle vinca, varigated vinca, lily of the valley, with "caution" bishop weed, and also with "caution" crown vetch. Ground covers seem slow at first but once established look out!........Good Luck.........Dianne

Here is a link that might be useful: Sweet Woodruff

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 8:48PM
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von1(z4 NY)

I have a woodland phlox that forms a low growing base, then in the Spring shoots up stems about 6 inches high with oxalis type flowers in blue, white, pink shades. It has quadrupled in size in about 4 years. Not real speedy but just imagine if you bought plants of several colors for the same area. Visual pictures! Thats what we need with 6 foot snow banks still!BOO HOO

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 7:58AM
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Lamium (deadnettle) is pretty and seems to tolerate dry conditions. It can be dug up. I'd never plant mint--the runners pop up everywhere and are very hard to get rid of. I once planted bishop's weed under a large Norway maple--it was the only thing I could get to grow. The tree was hit by lightning and then cut down, and I then spent a year getting rid of the variegated bishops weed (which got an ugly rust every year anyway). I also have English ivy (this is on a steep hill) and am wondering whether I should get rid of that before it's too late! I guess we all have to be careful of what we wish for!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 8:59AM
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mudblood(MD 6b)

Totally agree with the Sweet Woodruff recommendation. I have both the Woodruff and Pachysandra as groundcover in very dry deep shade. They both get the job done, BUT...the woodruff is *infinitely* easier to dig out, divide, move around, etc. Pachysandra forms a very dense clump that is murderous to remove at a later date. Woodruff, on the other hand, has fine shallow roots and spreads like a delicate carpet. I just removed an entire bed of Pachysandra today and am replacing it with woodruff and other shade loving perennials. Unlike the Pachysandra, the Woodruff also plays nice with other plants.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2005 at 9:27PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

How about:
(for shade)
Asarum europaeum or canadense
Oxalis oreganum
Saxifrage primuloides
Geranium macrorhizum
(for sun)
various sedums
creeping veronicas
Don't know their zones, and almost everything grows here.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 6:19PM
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An extra vote for sweet woodruff which is in bloom right now and looks great. Not hard to keep under control but it sure spreads. I started with a thumb sized pot of the stuff and it is now yards across. Works well with spring bulbs and then with other shade plants as it is a surface rooter.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 6:45PM
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