7 Low Maintenance Ground Covers That Thrive in Shade and Look Great in Even a Yard's Darkest Corners

If you're looking to block out weeds or simply want to elevate a landscape that sits in the shade, then you've come to the right place. Here are a few green natural beauties, chosen by an expert

Bright purple Liriope muscari pictured next to a green lawn
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The right ground cover in the right area is key, and a good, low-maintenance ground cover for shade is a great way to green up areas where grass simply won't grow — after all, most grass types need a good four to six hours of sun a day.

Known to spread fairly quicky, ground covers are fun way to color and foliage to your landscape. They're also great for decorative purposes, low-maintenance solutions and ideal for enriching soil. But how do you choose the right alternatives for a shade garden?

'When selecting low-maintenance ground cover plants for shaded areas, it's important to consider their shade tolerance, preferred soil conditions, and suitability for your local climate and hardiness zone,' Andrew Gaumond Horticulturist & Editorial Director at Petal Republic tells us. 'I also recommend opting for plants with appropriate growth rates and non-invasive habits to complement your wider garden design. What's great is you can also prioritize those with minimal watering, pruning, and pest resistance needs'.

If you're keen on keeping things low maintenance or simply want to try a different option to lawn, then we've got you covered. Here are 7 low maintenance ground covers for shade — chosen by an expert.

Which ground covers will thrive in a shady yard?

Vinca minor lesser periwinkle ornamental flowers in bloom

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether its finding the best groundcover to prevent weeds or you're looking for walkable groundcover plants — there is a range to choose from, but when it comes to groundcovers for shade, we've asked Horticulturist and gardening expert Andrew Gaumond from Petal Republic to break it down for us.

Ready to share his top picks, Andrew says: 'these plants not only look fantastic but are also low-maintenance and provide a range of benefits, including weed suppression and soil erosion control'.

Without further ado, here are 7 low-maintenance groundcovers for shade.

1. Fern

Fern Leaves seen close up

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Green, gracious and remarkably versatile for indoor and outdoor use, Andrew says fern is an ideal plant for low-maintenance groundcovers for shade.

'What's great about ferns is that they offer lush, feathery foliage and thrive in shaded, moist environments,' Andrew tells us 'Plus, many varieties offer year-round texture and greenery to shaded areas and are generally low-maintenance once established'.

To get the most out of these leafy greens, be sure to have your fern care in check!

Hardiness zone: Dependant on the variety
Soil type:
Well-drained, moist
Height: Can reach up to 12 inches tall

2. Sweet Woodruff

Our Lady's Lace or Sweet Woodruff flowers in soft sunlight on a green background in springtime

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Known for its little dainty white flowers, the Sweet Woodruff is truly an unmissable groundcover. These delicate blooms will no doubt make your garden look fuller.

Andrew tells us: 'I love the brilliant white flowers and fragrant leaves of Sweet Woodruff plants. A key benefit is that they spread quickly in shady garden spots and thrive in damp to moist soil'. He says this groundcover is also ideal for deterring pests.

Hardiness zone: Dependant on the variety
Soil type:
Well-drained, moist
Height: 6-12 inches tall

Andrew Gaumond expert
Andrew Gaumond

Andrew hails from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of his childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, Andrew holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic

3. Lamium

Flowering medicinal plant Spotted dead-nettle (Lamium maculatum) growing on the lawn

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Also great as a filler plant for sparse flowerbeds, Lamium maculatum thrives best in part shade.

'These shade-loving plants feature intriguing variegated foliage and small pink, white, or purple flowers,' Andrew adds. 'They're also adaptable to moist soil types adding visual interest with its foliage and flowers'.

Hardiness zone: 3-8
Soil type:
Well-drained, rich soil
Height: 6-9 inches tall

4.  Ajuga

Violet carpet bugleweed flowers. Ajuga reptans or blue bugle plants growing in spring garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ajuga, also known as Bugleweed, this colorful bloom with a variety of foliage colors reaching deep burgundy and sometimes even pink — is the perfect fit for ground covers.

Andrew seems to agree and says: 'This fast-growing ground cover plant offers a lovely selection of blue, white, and even purple blossoms. It'll adapt well to various soil bases and can even help prevent soil erosion'. Depending on the type, this plant can bloom in the spring and summer.

Hardiness zone: 3-9
Soil type:
Well-drained
Height: 1-6 inches tall

5. Epimedium

Leaves of the barrenwort (Epimedium), Botanical Garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Epimedium or barrenwort is a lovely leafy foliage that will grow to spread and wrap around your garden beautifully. It's also ideal for landscape edging, so you can elevate your backyard how you please.

'Epimedium boasts beautiful heart-shaped leaves and delicate flowers and grows more than happily in shaded areas. Once established, it’s drought-tolerant and provides ample ground cover under trees,' Andrew says.

Hardiness zone: 3-9
Soil type:
Well-drained, loamy
Height: 8-10 inches tall

6. Vinca Minor

Vinca minor flowers in a backyard

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Vinca Minor is a lovely evergreen ground cover with delightful white or blue flowers, Andrew explains. 'These hardy plants are drought-tolerant, and their dense growth habit can also help suppress weeds'.

Vinca Minor (Periwinkle) is probably one of my favorites, as it carries a luscious purple blooms with a airy green foliage. But as beautiful as these blossoms may be, that can become invasive in certain regions around the world — particularly North America and New Zealand.

Hardiness zone: 4-9
Soil type:
Loamy, sandy
Height: 6 inches tall

7. Liriope 

Liriope muscari, commonly called lily turf which featured next to dark green leaves

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Also known as one of the best plants for front yard paths, the Liriope or Lilyturf will certainty add character and color to any space.

Andrew tells us: 'Liriope offers beautiful grassy foliage and purple to white flowers that thrive well in shady garden locations. Once established they're incredibly low-maintenance'.

Hardiness zone: 4-19
Soil type:
Well-drained, moist soil
Height: 12-18 inches tall


FAQS

What are ground covers used for?

Fern leaves in a garden, wood fern Dryopteris Felix-mas

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are many reasons to add ground covers into a backyard. Whether you're looking to add color into your landscape or spruce up your space — ground covers are an ideal choice for doing just that.

You can also use ground cover to serve as covers for hot and dry areas in your garden, to black out week or to help cover large slopes.

Are any of these Ground Covers invasive?

Before planting ground covers into your yard, it's important to understand which plants can go beyond aggressive and become invasive.

You can check the list of invasive and noxious plants for your state on the United States Department of Agriculture website before you add them into your outdoor living space.

A few ground cover plants that are known to be invasive includes: Chameleon Plant, Evening Primrose, English Ivy and last but certainty not least, Goutweed.

Advice & Gardens Editor

Faiza is the Advice & Gardens Editor at Livingetc. She previously worked for The Independent as a News Feature Writer, where she wrote articles on lifestyle, entertainment, news and more. She also worked as an Audience Editor for the newspaper for over two years. Spending a few years in the newsroom, Faiza also previously worked for Sky News as an SEO reporter, where she produced stories based on trending topics. Lifestyle and Interior design is a space Faiza has been interested in for quite some time and as she continues to grow in the field, she will be diving into an interior design course to further her skills. Faiza has a background in SEO, social media and reporting. Her passion for writing goes beyond her work as she loves all things poetry and creative writing.