Groundcovers for Shade
While we may be gardening in the Sunshine State, many gardeners still face the challenge of growing in the shade. Beautiful trees in the landscape may provide respite from the heat, but their cooling shade also makes it hard for some plants to grow. Fear not though dear gardener, there is a right plant for almost every place.
Groundcovers are an important part of any landscape. Statement plants can be eye-catching, but a good groundcover provides the perfect backdrop for your other plants to shine. Groundcovers also help increase soil moisture, while preventing weeds and soil erosion. Generally, people think of lawngrass as the go-to groundcover—but most varieties of lawngrass won’t thrive in shade.
In areas of your yard that have consistent shade, you’re better off planting a groundcover that’s easy to grow in low-light conditions. Just remember that unlike turf, groundcovers won’t tolerate foot traffic, so you’ll need to plan for walkways or paths.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, the following plants can be grown throughout Florida in partial to even dense shade, depending on the specific plant.
With bold leaves that provide a dark green mat of foliage, Algerian ivy is a great groundcover for gardening in the shade throughout Florida. While tolerant of full sun conditions, Algerian ivy does best in partial to full-shade areas. The ‘Variegata’ cultivar has grey-green or blue-green leaves with green-flecked, cream-colored margins; ‘Canary Cream’ has cream-colored margins on green leaves. Algerian ivy is less aggressive than its cousin, English ivy, which was at one time a recommended groundcover—until its habit of climbing up trees was noticed.
Asiatic jasmine is a fast-spreading, densely growing groundcover that will thrive in sun or shade. This plant requires very little maintenance; just occasional trimming of edges is needed to keep it looking neat. Asiatic jasmine is actually easiest to control when it is a bit neglected, as too much water, sun, or fertilizer can turn it aggressive and unruly. It's also salt tolerant, making it a great groundcover for coastal areas.
Cast Iron Plant
If you’re looking for something with a little more dimension for a shady spot, the cast iron plant may be for you. This evergreen perennial has glossy green leaves that grow upright reaching about 1 to 2 feet tall. There are a number of variegated cultivars to choose from as well. Cast iron plant is ideal for adding a little tropical flair to North Florida, as it's also cold hardy.
Mondo grass is an evergreen that is actually a member of the lily family. This grass has blade-like slender leaves that curve back toward the ground, giving this plant the appearance of turfgrass.
Swamp fern is a Florida native that is particularly well-suited for areas that are shaded and moist. This upright fern can actually grow pretty tall for a groundcover, reaching 4 feet in height. For a little extra visual interest the new growth on this plant is coppery pink which then becomes dark green with age.
While shady areas can be difficult to grow in, there are quite a few options out there—much more than listed here. Don’t let the shade get you down! After all, a problem spot in your garden is really just an opportunity to try something new.