Native ground cover for dry part shade

Asked June 28, 2019, 2:05 PM EDT

Greetings, I have a problem area in my garden that I am hoping you can help me with. When I bought my house, I inherited a large mulched bed beneath a mature beech tree, with nothing growing in it. Over time, I have attempted to introduce a wide variety of native plants, but very few things (aside from dandelions and crab grass) have prospered. It’s an extremely difficult spot, as the soil is extremely compacted, and the beech tree seems to suck out every bit of moisture. To make matters worse, the amount of light seems problematic for a lot of plants. It is in shade most of the day, but gets a few hours of intense afternoon sun. I am looking for a native ground cover that can deal with these conditions. I have tried wild ginger, Allegheny pachysandra, ostrich fern, hay scented fern, sensitive fern, foam flower, creeping phlox, green and gold, and few other things I can’t recall. Of these, only the green and gold has fared well, and it tends to look a little baked by the middle of July. The wild ginger, Allegheny pachysandra, and sensitive fern come back every year, but they have barely grown at all. The rest have either died, or are extremely stunted. I’m hoping you can suggest an aggressive spreader that can cope with these conditions, and hopefully out-compete the weeds. I’ve read that Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) will handle dry conditions, and form large colonies, but no nurseries in the area seam to carry it. I would really appreciate any suggestions. Thanks so much for your help.

Baltimore Maryland groundcovers plant selection native

1 Response

Dry shade is one of our more difficult planting challenges. Under a mature Beech makes it more so. (Though we count you very fortunate to have a mature Beech!)
They have shallow roots so be careful and use minimal soil disturbance and do not pile on inches of soil or mulch.
If the Chrysogonum virginianum/Green and Gold started well, we would add more.
There aren't that many plants to choose from, but take a look at this publication for others that may be suitable: https://extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG120_Nat...


Christine