Groundcover for a Shady Backyard

What to Choose?

When it comes to ground covers, the choices can be somewhat limited. When you think of groundcover, the image that often comes to mind is English ivy, with its low to the ground, evergreen leaves. But ivy can be awfully hard to keep in check. And in our region of the country, it has aggressively spread into the surrounding woodlands.

So what are the other options? There are a few, all with their own pluses and minuses. The lists below will give you an overview of the available options. Click on the name of the plants to see a slide shoe where available.

This list sticks to what is affordable and easily available in the nursery trade. Please note: some of these plants are more susceptible to deer damage that others. An asterisk indicates which are the most susceptible.

‘Instant’ Groundcovers

‘Instant’ groundcovers are plants that are available as small plants in trays of 18 or more. They work best for planting large areas. Usually, they are planted 6-12″ o.c. and will fill in fairly quickly. All of the ‘instant’ groundcovers listed below are evergreen.

Pictured below: a lush planting of pachysandra.

 Sun to Part Shade
Clumping Liriope* (Liriope muscarii)
Spreading Liriope* (Liriope spicata) Can be invasive.
Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Dwarf Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Compactus’)
Ajuga (Ajuga reptans)
 Part Sun to Shade
Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor) Can be invasive.
Vinca (Vinca major) Can be invasive.
English Ivy (Hedera helix) Can be very invasive.

Perennial Groundcovers

Perennial groundcovers include many varieties of perennial plants. Many have flowers and most die back in the fall. They can be planted 12-18″ to fill in quickly, but they can also be planted 18-24″ on center if cost is an issue.

Pictured below: the colorful leaves of coralbells.

 Sun to Part Shade
Daylily* (Hemerocallis spp.)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Creeping Thyme (Thymus spp.)
Ice Plant (Delosperma spp.)
 Part Sun to Shade
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.)
Coral bells (Heuchera spp.)
Hosta* (Hosta spp.)
Sedge (Carex spp.)
Lenten Rose, Hellebore (Helleborus spp.)
Ferns (several genera)
Strawberry Geranium (Saxifragia stolonifera)

Bushy Groundcovers

Bushy groundcovers are dwarf varieties of shrubs that creep or spread, but they can also be non-spreading plants that are spaced closely together. Some are flowering, and they can be either deciduous or evergreen.

Pictured below: a mass planting of dwarf abelia.

Sun to Part Shade
Soft Touch Holly
Dward Abelia
Carpet Rose
Dwarf Japanese Plum Yew
Deutzia ‘Nikko’
Dwarf Indian Hawthorn
Dwarf Nandina
St. John’s Wort
 Part Sun to Shade
Dwarf Gardenia (Gardenia spp.)
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Bed Transformation!

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when i returned to williamsburg in 2022, it was a real challenge to find a company willing to take on “yet one more customer” – i was ignored and turned down by others… but hertzler and george came to my rescue and i could not be happier – wonderful staff, professional and so friendly, i completely trust them to service my yard!  merry christmas and happy new year to everyone and H&G!


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I would like to let you know how happy we are with the service we received recently.
We had a drainage issue in our yard and did some research, learned your company was highly recommended and decided to see what your company could do.
From the first contact, we had a great experience as the lady that answered the phone was very nice. She put us in contact with Brian Kemp who we also liked from the start, and we made an appt for him to come and take a look. He was right on time, very thorough, and just a very nice fella who we both liked right away and had confidence in. We really liked how he gave us options and listened to what we wanted. We scheduled the work, it was done right on time, and it looks great! Brian was even nice enough to do a video walk through for us afterwards as we weren’t in town. Just great service from start to finish! Thank you Brian

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T.M. - Ford's Colony

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Just a short note to thank you for all the help you gave us with our garden this year. Jonathon again did a wonderful job doing the bed detailing this summer, as did the mulching crew in the spring. I don’t know the name of the woman who supervised the mulching crew, but I want to let you know how professional she was. In fact, the entire crew was pleasant to work with, especially to experience the care that they took with their work.

Thanks also for being so flexible with the changes we requested for our mowing schedule.

E.L. - Ford's Colony

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