Whitney Curtis

Three Go-To Groundcovers for Shade

I have three favorite “go-to” ground covers for my shady Atlanta garden. One of them I grabbed a handful of in my Mom’s garden on a visit home and brought it home in a ziploc baggie. The other two, I desperately I picked up at my local nursery when I needed something that said “full shade” on the label.


One of the prettiest leaves, I love the shape and the little white leaves that pop up everywhere when it flowers. I have seen a few gardens that grow Pachysandra successfully in full sun, but they seem to do really well in my shady environment too.

favorite ground covers pachysandra

favorite ground covers pachysandra


I think the glossy leaves of the compact ajuga plant are really attractive. The dark green and even deep purple tones provide some great color and contrast. This is the one I grabbed a handful of, it spread easily and quickly into a large swath. Planted below with hydrangea and Solomon’s Seal, ferns, hostas and a few seedlings of perennial begonia.

ground covers ajuga

favorite ground covers ajuga

Variegated Vinca Vine

This is an easy vine option that I love in my containers. My vinca vine has spilled out of the containers and pretty much covered up the surrounding area. Isn’t that the best? One plant that grows into many!

favorite ground covers variegated vinca vine

favorite ground covers vinca vine

What are your favorite groundcovers for shade? What about for sun? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Denny Schrock

gearing up for groundcovers

Spider plants are one of my favorite groundcovers. The variegated form looks great as an underplanting around roses or lining the edge of a perennial bed. Although you can purchase spider plants at garden centers or nurseries that stock indoor plants, you can also propagate all that you need by rooting the “babies” at this time of year and carrying them through the winter as houseplants.

With an average first freeze date of October 12 here in Des Moines, it’s time to snip the spiders and start some new plants for next year. I simply stick 3 or 4 of the plantlets into a 4-inch pot filled with potting soil, moisten, and keep watered well until roots form. In just a few weeks I’ll have 40 or 50 rooted plants. For more on how to start plants from cuttings follow this link.

Spider plants and Elfin thyme rooting in flats in my greenhouse.

Other tender plants that I root at this time of year include coleus and Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha). Like spider plants, rooted coleus overwinter well as houseplants. The Mexican sage needs brighter light, so it stays in the greenhouse over winter.

This year I’m also starting several flats of Elfin thyme (Thymus serpyllum ‘Minus’), a wonderful low creeper that tolerates some foot traffic. I’ll plant it as an edging around some new beds that I started this year. I guess that you could say that October 1st marks the beginning of the winter gardening season, moving from an outdoor emphasis to indoors, or if you’re lucky, into the greenhouse.

Justin W. Hancock

Cool Plant of the Day

Leptinella 'Platt's Black'Do you know what this plant is? If not, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

It’s a super-cool groundcover called brass buttons (Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’). Hardy in Zones 4-10, I have it thriving in my garden on the east side of the house, where it’s protected from the afternoon sun. The plant grows about half an inch tall and creates a delightful spreading carpet of purple-and-green foliage that looks kind of ferny. When friends visit my garden they’re almost always fascinated; many say “it looks like little worms!”

Brass buttons is a low-care plant that does best in moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. It doesn’t like drought, and can be walked on a little bit without harming it too much.

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