Ground Cover for Shaded Yard

Asked April 1, 2019, 1:41 PM EDT

Hi! I am interested in determining what kind of native ground cover I can use in my yard instead of grass or along with grass. Originally my plan was to use a tall fescue blend, but the shade and moisture retention of my yard make me feel this won't fair as well as other plants. My yard is almost entirely shaded. It's long and narrow, and at the back there is a significant slope with two massive mature chestnut oak trees. The drip line of these trees entirely covers my yard. From the afternoon to the evening, some filtered light comes through, though buildings block the setting sun after a certain point. Patches of crabgrass grow around pavement stones, and vines grow around the trees, but the rest of the yard is dirt. I suspect the trees in my yard are going to make a difficult time of growing any ground cover. When the summer hits, the soil stays fairly wet and earth worms rule the scene. I have a dog, so I need something fairly sturdy in terms of ground cover, and I'd like to pick something that grows well locally in similarly shaded moist conditions. Sorry I don't currently have any pictures. I'd be happy to take some and attach with a return correspondence. Thank you so much!

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

Grass does not grow in dense shade and needs at least 4 hours of sunlight to grow. Also, the type of grass that can tolerate some shade are fine fescues but they do not perform well under heavy foot traffic (dogs), will not tolerate wet conditions, or high rates of nitrogen fertilizer. Here is some information on growing grass in the shade.

Based on your description consider some lawn alternatives. You need a landscape plan.
Consider options like native groundcovers (ferns, golden groundsel), shrubs and shade perennials, conservation landscaping, beds and borders, a woodland garden, etc. If you have a dog, consider mulched paths as groundcovers will not tolerate foot traffic. Take a look at our lawn alternative page and resources to get started. The resource Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat offers color photos and plant selections

Another opotion is to connect with a member of the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professionals association. Members of this group specialize in conservation landscaping, using native plants, and maintaining sustainable landscapes. You can use the searchable directory on their website to find a landscape professional near you.