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Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

Posted by mrehberg z 2&3 / Alaska (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 24, 07 at 23:40

Hi all,

Wondering if anyone has suggestions for perennial ground covers. We have a heavily shaded front lawn that no longer grows grass, it's just moss and soil now. The gardens in this part of the yard are ferns and hostas, and they do great. But for the former lawn, we're looking for something low and thick..

Does anyone have suggestions for low-growning ground covers in this situation? If you have a ground cover you're happy with, zone 2-3, please let us know.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

I really like Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum). It has pretty little leaves and starry white flowers and smells nice when crushed. It is a steady grower but not invasive.

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I also like Solomon's Seal in shady areas, but it's probably a little taller than you are looking for.

Hope that helps!

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

What about Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)?
I see it in a few catalogues. My wild plant book says it likes moist woodlands, but it grows wild around here in dry, sandy, poor soil and always amongst the trees. I love it because you get the foiliage, then the flower and then great fall color with the red berry clusters and the leaves turn red as well. I'd say it would be low maintenence once its established, but by the sounds of things it takes a while for it to get there. It seems to form a nice carpet, although I've never grown it in the garden, we just have a lot of it growing wild around here. I might try transplanting some this year to go under my shrubs in the garden .

This link to another GW forum had some propagation info.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bunchberry

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

I agree with northspruce that sweet woodruff is a lovely ground cover; however in my garden it is invasive, and I wish I had put it in a more 'wild' location.

In groundcovers though, I want invasive. We're really happy with bishop's weed (perennial snow-on-the-mountain). It may be a little taller than you want, though. It thrives in poor soil, sun or shade, and spreads quickly~

Hope this is helpful,


RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

Thanks for these ideas, they're great!

We tried the small dogwood when we first moved - collected it from the forest but the transplant didn't take. Probably worth trying again.. come to think of it, maybe an ideal groundcover would be to transplant lots of the low forest floor plants we have around here. Even the moss growing all over our sparse lawn would fit in!

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

I planted Geranium macrorrhizum Ingwersen's Variety and Geranium cantabrigiense Biokova in a similar situation where nothing would grow and they have made a beautiful ground cover. The bloom time is short but lovely, the leaves are scented and they turn a nice colour in the fall.

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

Lamium might work as well, particularly if the area gets average to moist soil conditions (you mention moss grows there). Not sure if you want a groundcover that can be walked on, if so then scratch lamium (though I have stepped on mine a few times it's not really a rough and tough walkable type groundcover.)

Also, I am not sure I'd plant it in the entire front yard, but it can look striking in sections and combined with ferns and hostas.


RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

Yes, I forgot about Lamium, I would recommend it too. And of course there is always Lily-of-the-Valley. I wouldn't do a whole yard of it either but a patch might be nice.

The woodland plants sound like a nice idea too. Let us know what you do and how well it works!

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

Thanks for posting this! I have a similar issue in my backyard - the weeds totally took over last summer, and so I'm looking for a few different ground covers.

You may want to try Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) - it should work for you, because I'm in zone 5. My mom gave me just a few pieces a couple of years ago, and it has spread nicely in my front bed. I think it prefers partial shade, as I've noticed it spreading better under some of my plants. It has really nice little white flowers that bloom fairly late in the Spring, and I think the green leaves are pretty. Mine is about 6-7 inches high. It is a hardy little plant!

Here is a link if you want a little more info. Good luck, and thanks to everyone above for the suggestions! :)

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

Not sure what zone anchorage is but a friend grew wooly tyme in zone 3 it smells nice when you walk on it with nice little purple flowers. Slow growing and non-invasive in zone 3.

RE: Perennial ground cover for shade in Anchorage

My most hardy, and *almost* invasive groundcover is Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans). It has attractive leaves and small purple flowers. It's easy to remove from areas I don't want it but have to keep it well back from the border edge or it would be in the lawn and more difficult to pull.

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is another you might consider, it's hardy to zone 3 altho didn't take in my dry shady area. Neither did Sweet Woodruff to my dismay altho that may be because my soil is alkaline and it prefers a more acid soil supposedly. Also that shady area is dry because of the large trees.

In areas that are difficult to grow it might be preferable to landscape to make it into a sitting area with bark or gravel mulch, perhaps stepping stones, a bench or chairs, small table, and garden decor.

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