I have a hilly, mostly shaded, bare area in my yard. The soil is rocky and there is quite a bit of runoff after heavy rains. I have tried unsuccessfully for years to grow grass in this area. Can you please recommend some sort of ground cover that will help curb erosion and be aesthetically pleasing?
You may want to start with a soil test for pH and nutrient deficiencies. Results will give you this. http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/soils/soil-testing
Consider a mix of plant species so you do not lose the whole stand to a disease or insect problem. Also, you will have to keep the plants well watered for a season to get them well established. Mulch lightly and keep away from the plant stems.
Here is a publication on erosion http://mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/documents/tip3.pdf
It may be helpful to go to a large nursery for their recommendations. You can always get back to us with a list.
Consider: Chrysogonum virginianum , sedum ternatum, ferns such as Christmas ferns, Hay scented ferns, Maidenhair ferns, and sensitive ferns. Other groundcovers, include tiarella (running or clumping), Canadian ginger, Phlox stolonifera, Pa sedge, solomon's seal, and Euphorbia.
If you have part shade consider Gro Lo Sumac.
Here is our groundcover list http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/groundcover-list
our groundcover website http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/flowers/groundcovers, and a publication called Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat https://www.fws.gov/Chesapeakebay/pdf/NativePlantsforWildlifeHabitatandConservationLandscaping.pdf
Do not plant English ivy, vinca minor, or Japanese pachysandra as they are invasive and are known to move into and take over natural areas.