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Despite a soft, delicate appearance, trailing indigo bush is one of the toughest groundcovers around. The feathery, silvery green compound foliage makes the clusters of tiny, rosy purple flowers stand out at close range. The blooms, which occur most heavily in spring and summer, return sporadically the rest of the year. This plant is excellent for stabilizing soil on slopes because its stem nodes root wherever they come in contact with the ground.
Darmera's flower stalks emerge from the ground on naked stems in spring, and are followed by cupped, rounded but indented leaves up to 24 inches across. The foliage forms a lovely, vase-like clump, 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The flower clusters are composed of many 5-petaled, starry, pink or white florets with conspicuous stamens. This native of the western U.S. is found growing along woodland stream banks, and helps to add a tropical look to temperate gardens. Darmera makes a distinct and long-lasting foliage statement in moist conditions, and exhibits autumn color also.
Covering itself with glowing fuchsia daisy-like flowers with many narrow petals, 'John Proffit' makes a beautiful groundcover or container plant. The succulent foliage looks like it has small pieces of ice on it (hence the name "ice plant') and is evergreen in warmer climates. Growing to only a few inches tall, it can spread almost 2 feet wide. It blooms from late spring to early fall.
Mesa Verde® is a moderately-spreading ground cover with small, bright salmon pink flowers that bloom from midspring till late fall. It is tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions, from poor or sandy to well-drained.
Summer-long bloom and a tough constitution make the mat-forming ice plant a perfect groundcover. Two-inch magenta blossoms with white anthers are produced in midsummer and late summer.
This fern's lacy foliage smells of freshly mown grass and carpets the woodland or a moist, partially sunny site. The green lushness turns golden in the fall. It is a good choice for rapid naturalizing. Use in a woodland garden or near water features.
A tuft of thin grassy foliage with gray and gold variegation distinguishes this cultivar. Early summer brings 3-foot-tall, airy plumes of tiny flowers that look beautiful when backlit by the sun. As fall approaches, the foliage turns golden with pink-coral tips. This grass even grows well in shadier sites. Plant in a border, woodland garden, or shaded rock garden.
This compact variety performs well as a groundcover and is an excellent choice for the mixed border or rock garden.
Dianthus 'Bath's Pink' is a stunning, wide-spreading ground cover with grassy, blue-green foliage and pink flowers. Use it to edge a bed or grow it in your rock garden for a splash of cool color. To keep its blooms going, be sure to deadhead.
Fringed flowers in shades of bright red with white centers open without fragrance in summer.
This compact species forms broad mats of blue-gray linear leaves and is perfect for a rock garden setting. The purplish-pink flowers are solitary, toothed, and deliciously fragrant.
Silvery-blue mats of evergreen, linear foliage. Well-known and loved for the showy, profuse, single, magenta blooms, spring-fall. 'Firewitch' exudes the spicy scent of cloves. Very hardy; good performer. Moderate to fast grower. Heat resistant and tolerant of humidity. Excellent for use in containers, as an edger, in rock gardens, scented gardens and the front of the border. If cut back, they often rebloom in early fall. Considered deer resistant once established. Attracts butterflies! Very suitable for gardens in the South. -Santa Rosa Gardens
This softly textured tender perennial (or annual) produces delicate, loose spires in summer and fall. Diascia is at home spilling onto a walkway or filling in between more structured plants.
Rows of white flowers dangle above the fern-like foliage, opening in April and continuing intermittently until October.
Don't let its delicate appearance fool you: Western bleeding heart is hardy and tenacious. This elegant, herbaceous perennial spreads slowly from rhizomes to form drifts of soft blue-green, ferny foliage in shady woodland areas. Above the leaves in late spring, pink heart-shaped flowers hang gracefully from long, arched stems, attracting scores of hummingbirds but not the local deer. It is surprisingly drought tolerant during the summer months.
Long silvery stems, sometimes reaching 4 feet or more, bear silvery, small leaves. Use this striking plant as a groundcover or in containers.
Originating in mountainous woodland and stony habitats from Europe to western Asia, yellow foxglove is tolerant of dry shade but flourishes with moisture. Arising in midsummer from neat clumps of fine-toothed foliage, a mass of soft yellow open bells, speckled brown inside, blooms along one side of a 3-foot-tall stem. Usually described as a perennial, it is more accurate to call it a biennial or short-lived perennial. If the flowering stalk is cut down after blooms have faded, it may rebloom in the fall. When a few flower stalks are left, the plant self-seeds.
This dramatic fern diplays 4-foot-tall arching fronds that form impressive clumps with age. It is a hybrid of two native ferns and makes a wonderful groundcover.
This is a handsome and lush, semi-evergreen vase-shaped fern with thickly textured leaves that is suitable for specimen treatment. It reaches 3.5 feet tall. Grow in a woodland or moist shade garden.
Tokyo wood fern's ladderlike, upright fronds provide a strong vertical accent to its surroundings. The vase-shaped clumps grow to 18 to 36 inches tall. Grow in a woodland or shade garden.
Q&A Ground covers for dry shade
by Barbara Ashmun
Moss Makes a Lush Carpet
This easy-to-tend ground cover forms the foundation of a sculpted woodland retreat
by Jeff Osser
Conifers for Shade
Yes, you can grow evergreen trees and shrubs in shade. Who knew?
by Christine Froehlich
10 Combinations for Shade
The secret is in using color to pump up the interest in low-light spots
by Inta Krombolz
Bringing Sun and Shade Together
Show off what these extremes have to offer, then unite them with some common ground
by Dan Johnson
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