Invasive alternative for shady hilly area

Asked October 12, 2015, 9:52 PM EDT

My backyard is a shady, steep hill of about 40' x 20' that is covered with English Ivy. I want to eliminate this invasive but am unsure of the exact way to do so. I believe I should pull up all the ivy and mulch heavily in the fall or early spring, and then plant a native alternative that can grow on hills in the shade. I'm not sure if I need to add soil in addition to mulch and what a good ground cover native alternative would be. I would appreciate any advice you can give.

Montgomery County Maryland

4 Responses

Fall is a probably the best time to tackle this but you can do it spring or fall.

Pulling up the ivy is great. Another approach for the ivy is to mow it, then spray with glyphosate immediately. If done in the spring, you could also let the ivy begin to put out new growth and then spray, which gives more surface to absorb the glyphosate and also the new growth depletes the plant's root reserves of energy.
Then, yes, you need to mulch. 3-4 layers of newspaper covered with bark mulch will give better suppression than just 2-3" of mulch.

While the ivy is dying, you can plant either this fall or wait until spring. You can plant in cleared areas in the mulch (and cut through the paper, if you use that.) Fall has the advantage of 3 moist seasons (fall, winter, and spring) before you usually need to do much watering.

There are many ferns that will do beautifully a groundcovers, especially if you choose ones that spread. Christmas ferns are evergreen, which is nice. Hay scented ferns spread nicely. Maidenhair ferns form beautiful clumps. Sensitive fern spreads thickly.

Good groundcovers include: tiarella (running or clumping), Canadian ginger, Allegheny pachysandra (evergreen), Phlox stolonifera, and native violets.
If you plant several of these, they happiest ones will fill in for you. Be sure to water during dry spells for the first 2 years at least.


Clarification on when to plant

Thanks so much for this very, very helpful response. You suggested planting the ferns and other groundcovers in the fall after I mulch, because of the rainy seasons. Should I be concerned about fall frost killing off the newly planted groundcover? Are any of the ferns or other groundcovers you mentioned more capable of surving the cold than others? Thanks in advance for your help.

The deciduous plants will die back to the ground, but the root systems should survive and they will regrow in the spring. All the listed plants should survive the winter. None is significantly hardier than the others. It is a good idea to mulch these plants, but do not pile the mulch too thickly over the crowns of the new plants. vw