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Groundcovers as Lawn Alternatives in Shade

Latin Name Common Name Comments

Aegopodium podagraria


Persistent, weedy groundcover that spreads via rhizomes. Tolerates many soil types, deep shade to full-sun; foliage may scorch in full-sun. Plant in contained areas to avoid becoming evasive; cultivar 'Variegatum' more desirable.

Ajuga reptans


Low-growing, attractive foliage, spreads via above ground stolons. Prefers moist, well-drained soils in heavy shade to full-sun; protect from winter winds. Cultivars vary in both flower and foliage color.

Asarum canadense

Canada Wild Ginger

Forms foliage mass up to six inches tall, spreads rapidly via rhizomes. Excellent for partial to deep shade.

Convallaria majalis


Forms thick carpet of upright leaves, spreads rapidly via rhizomes, very adaptable but does best in well-drained soils, partial to full shade. May crowd out delicate plants. Large quantities of roots and rhizomes are poisonous. Fragrant flowers are popular.

Euonymus fortunei

Purpleleaf Wintercreeper Euonymus

Trailing habit and roots readily into soil as it creeps along. Heavy shade to full-sun, prefers well-drained soils. Protect from winter winds. Scale can be a problem.

Galium odoratum

Sweet Woodruff

Delicate deciduous groundcover that forms uniform mat of bright green, persistent foliage. Small, white flowers. Prefers moist, well-drained soils in medium to deep shade.

Hosta species

Hosta, Plantain Lily

Large group of hardy, dependable plants with bold, decorative foliage forming neat, circular clumps. Plants spread slowly via short rhizomes. Adaptable, best in open shade, leaf burn problems in sun. Slugs are a common problem.

Pachysandra terminalis

Japanese Spurge

Neat, uniform, evergreen groundcover that spreads via rhizomes to form dense mat. Best in shade, well-drained soils. Protect from winter winds; may have pest or disease problems if stressed.

Vinca minor


Trailing, vinelike evergreen groundcover, which roots as it creeps along. Grows in fairly heavy shade to full-sun; although foliage tends to be deeper green and glossier in the shade. Protect from winter wind and sun. Disease problems may occur with poor drainage and poor air movement.

Waldsteinia ternata

Barren Strawberry

Forms mats of strawberry-like evergreen foliage with glossy, bright green leaves and yellow flowers. Easy to care for, plant in partial shade to full-sun.


Woodland Natives

A wide variety of woodland plants such as ferns, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and trilliums may also be used in areas where turf will not grow or is not desired. Consult native plant specialists & nurseries.

This list does not intend to be inclusive, but includes some of the better choices for shade areas.