What to plant in my shady, deer-y, back yard?

Asked September 11, 2017, 4:03 PM EDT

I took Adrian Higgins' advice last spring and placed tarps in my deep-back yard (in Rockville) to kill off some vinca that had spread beyond a (now-filled) pond. I'd like to plant a native ground cover that would survive the shade and the ubiquitous deer back there. I don't want to encourage the deer, or rabbits either. It's not particularly dry or wet back there, but it's a wasteland because of the deer--not much grows other than invasives. Can you recommend an available, native ground cover that would spread over time? Bonus if it looks great (flowers?) and/or smells good! Thanks.

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

First take a look at some general landscaping information and best practices on our website. http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/earth-friendly-landscaping
You need to start with a plan and work in stages if you cannot tackle in one season. You can create some paths or stepping stones in the area. If you want to keep grass, plant fine fescue for the shade.
Plant some low growing shrubs and groundcovers or perennials such as:
Shrubs - Itea virginica.
Perennials, groundcovers - Hayscented fern, Christmas fern, Green & Gold, Pa Sedge, etc. See our list of groundcovers for the shade and deer resistance for more selections http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/groundcover-list

See our groundcover link for planting and care information http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/flowers/groundcovers You will have to control weeds. There will be competition from tree roots so you may need to plant among the tree roots.
Mulch with about several inches of leaves or mulch. Keep the mulch away from the base of the plants. The plants will need to be watered for about two years until they become established. Water to keep the soil moist up until the fall when the ground freezes.