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What Are Some Low-Maintenance, Noninvasive Groundcovers For Shade?

Pennsylvania Sedge is a lush, grass-like, non-invasive groundcover that grows well beneath trees.

“I need a straight answer. I have read so much, I am confused after reading so many articles. I need a low-maintenance, noninvasive ground cover on a mostly shady hillside. If it is invasive, it will end up causing me issues as I am unable to maintain anything that needs to be dug out by roots to stop it from spreading. I am in zone 6b. Thank you in advance.” Denise of Charleroi, Pennsylvania

Answer: All groundcovers will spread, so expect them to cover the hillside. Even native, noninvasive groundcovers may spread beyond bounds, but generally, it is not a problem when dealing with natives adapted to your region. Here are four excellent options that I recommend for your shady hillside in southwestern, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Native Groundcovers for Shade

  1. Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens, Zones 4-9) is a handsome native groundcover that is low-growing and will spread to 3 feet or more. It has white spring flowers that feed bees, and deer don’t care for it.
  2. Maple-Leaved Alumroot (Heuchera villosa var. atropurpurea, Zones 4-7) forms mounds of textural, burgundy leaves make this hardy perennial a great groundcover for shaded spots. Any Heuchera can be planted in masses to cover a lot of ground. Warning: Do not cover their crowns with mulch.
  3. American Ginger (Asarum canadensis, Zones 3-8) is a pretty, low-growing, slow-spreading groundcover with bright green, heart-shaped leaves. They produce unusual maroon spring flowers that are beetle pollinated.
  4. Evergreen American Wild Ginger (Asarum arifolium, Zones 5-9) is similar to American ginger but its leaves are evergreen beautifully mottled leaves. It is one of my favorite native groundcovers.
  5. Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica, Zones 3-7) forms fine, grassy clumps of foliage that are very attractive. It will tolerate both dry and moist shade.
  6. Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides, Zones 3-9) is an evergreen fern that grows well in dry shade once established and spreads. Plant multiple specimens to cover a lot of ground. It is my favorite groundcover for shade. (Click here to learn more.)

For a truly beautiful groundcover planting, plant many of these different plants in sweeps. Clear the ground before planting them and give them added water as they are becoming established. Working up the soil before planting and amending with Fafard® Premium Natural & Organic Compost will help the plants grow better from the start. The addition of leaf mulch will help keep weeds away.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Fafard Horticulturist

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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