Ground Covers for Shady Areas
By Steve Cramer, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension,
Most yards include shady areas where grass doesn't prosper, or bare earth beneath trees
and shrubs -- spots that cry out for some color or vegetation.
Sometimes, however, a planting of annuals or labor-intensive perennials would be
impractical in such places. A low-maintenance groundcover, however, would fit the bill.
Shade-loving ground covers that thrive in Rocky Mountain gardens include:
- Periwinkle: This plant comes in green or variegated leaf forms. Its
flowers can be pink and white, as well as the bright violet blue that gives this plant its
name. Periwinkle features oval, leathery leaves, an inch or so long. The leaves stay
attractive throughout the winter.
- Skullcap, or deadnettle, is not quite as evergreen or durable as
periwinkle. But a handful of varieties with outstanding variegated foliage are commonly
sold throughout the summer. These plants glitter for weeks with fascinating pink or white
- Barren strawberry features glossy green foliage, similar to a
glorified, brassy green strawberry leaf. Its early-spring flowers bloom like sprays of
buttercups. This plant forms a compact mat, and is fully evergreen, if it is not exposed
to too much sun and wind.
- Bugleweed makes a fast-spreading mat of oblong leaves. Depending on the
variety of bugleweed, its pink, lavender or white flowers appear in spires that appear
almost formal. Its foliage also is variable, ranging from showy tri-colored leaves to deep
purple and simply green. It does best with a few hours of direct, early morning or late
- Sweet woodruff is not evergreen, but its deep green whorls of leaves
are decorative for half the year. Its dazzling white foamy blooms last from April into
June and seem to light up dark corners like a lamp.
Photo: Judy Sedbrook
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