Shade grasses/ wooded area?

kev921hsMarch 25, 2006

I hope to take advantage of a wooded lot my uncle owns; he has a small cabin on it and I'd like to plant some sort of grass immediately around it.

The land is home to a few species of trees at least. I was able to identify some black cherry and yellow birch. Also I believe there are several small beech trees growing. Most of the larger trees are something I haven't yet identified; my best guess is a type of maple or ash. In the summer, most of the land would be shaded by these trees, which range in height from 30-50 feet.

Is there any kind of grass (or maybe something similar) that I could plant as a sort of "forest floor"? We'd prefer something other than dead leaves and mud/dirt. Even something that might grow in thinly would be an improvement; I don't expect to get a full thick lawn. Thanks...

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There are some grasses which grow in shade (japanese forest grass, northern sea oats, some sedges) but I don't think these are what you want as they form clumps and don't cover much ground. Sounds like you want some shade tolerant groundcover. There are many, although none of them will take as much foot traffic as regular grass. Possibilities are vinca (which has the advantage it is evergreen), sweet woodruff (which I grow in my woods), lamium. These all spread fairly quickly after they settle in (e.g. they take a couple years to take off).

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 6:57PM
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shelley_r(7b NC)

Personally, I would use only native plants in a forest. Vinca would definitely NOT be my choice. I'd just go with the sedges and ferns and put in mulch paths.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 9:42PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

How about moss. I've seen soe great moss lawns.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 9:58PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

All the options mentioned are valid, and if you search this and maybe some other forums for "groundcovers" you will find a wealth of info. However, if you still want a lawn-type thingy, then just ask at a garden centre for the most shade-tolerant grass. And as you said, keep your expectations low :-)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 11:48PM
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Thanks for all the advice! If it's not obvious yet that I'm new to this sort of thing, it is about to be - can someone tell me, what type of plant are sedges?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 10:57PM
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Sedges is the common name for Carex, which is not technically a grass, but shares a lot of characteristics with ornamental grasses and is typically grouped together with them. Just google carex or carex grass and a lot of webpages listing various varieties of carex will come up. Most (but not all) thrive in shade. there are green, gold, and all sorts of variegated varieties. Even interesting brown ones, but these require some sun.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 5:45AM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Why don't you naturalize your woodland floor? In 2 years I've added 50 new native species to our small woodland space and it's been fun to try to locate new plants, shrubs, trees or seeds that are from our local area. I've even nicked a few seeds from the garden center when I see seed pods on the plants ;o)


    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 6:24PM
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I'm begging you to keep the plants native and non-invasive! I just bought a house on a wooded lot and I have to say the removal of 40 years growth of invasive vinca, ivy, and BAMBOO is nearly impossible!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 8:14AM
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chitown(Z5 IL)


We use woodland brome in our restoration projects at the conservation district. It's a native perennial. You can look at up at for more info.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 9:49AM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

I just read an impassioned plea in a garden magazine about sweet woodruff - apparently it can be very invasive. I would not recommend it or the vinca for your cabin. The most shade-tolerant grass is probably your best bet.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 10:37AM
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I agree with Chestpark. I am fighting control over English Ivy and periwinkle. They are fine to plant in a yard, but you have to watch what is planted in the woods or next to a woods.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 6:02AM
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I think that the person that suggested planting vinca should read a book or two about invasive weeds.DO NOT PLANT VINCA IN A WOODLAND SETTING EVER!It is abosolutly the last plant you should be propagating.There should be a law against it,and,in fact,there is in conneticut.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 2:07AM
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I think it was me that mentioned vinca and your point is well taken. Vinca is a major problem in many woods. In my own 1/2 acre woods, vinca minor, pachysandra terminalis, and galium odoratum were planted by a previous owner 40-50 years near the woodland edge (but in the woods) and they haven't been a problem in that they form about 100 square foot patches each, separated by paths, and there is no sign of any of them across paths. Perhaps it is the colder climate (US zone 5), rocky soil or greedy maples. Probably the latter as the woods in this area are almost all maple (sugar and norway, which have interbred). I welcome those patches as reprieve from the garlic mustard. In fact, for some reason in my woods, the vinca coexists with trout lilies, jack-in-pulpits and other natives, while I've had almost no garlic mustard in that area. On the other hand, as I remove garlic mustard from other areas, I've planted/propagated native species (trillium, bloodroot, mayapple, mertensia, and many others) although, unfortunately, none of these are really ground-covering in my woods so battling GM is ongoing. I am also slowly trying to reduce the norway canopy, planting hemlocks and red oaks, and if this is ultimately successful, perhaps that patch of vinca which seems fine now will become a problem.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 5:23PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I'd like to put another plug in for moss, If you let it get established it can handle ocasional foot traffic, and it will form a dense lawn, depending on species it could form a smoothe lawn or large mounds across the forest floor.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 12:13AM
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Dont think of grasses in a woodland setting.Most grasses are weeds in this context,and any grass seeds you would be able to buy certainly would be.Sedges would be appropriate though,and seeds could be collected from the surrounding woods.Take a cue from natural setting that the cabin is situated in,and use the plants you have at hand.Anything you would find at a garden center would certainly look out of place anyway.Avoid those places!Its tough to maintain sod in a shady area that will stand up to foot traffic any

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 12:42AM
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Tiarella makes a lovely native shade ground cover. But if you are going for a grassy look, I would second the sedge--- I particularly like carex flaccosperma... Some more of my fav native groundcovers (not grass-like though) are wintergreen (nice berries), wild ginger, and meehan's mint. The wintergreen is evergreen and food for birds. Good luck!


    Bookmark   May 13, 2006 at 11:30AM
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