- Protect your shady sites from erosion with shade-tolerant ground covers. Liriope (Liriope muscaria) grows to from 18 to 24 inches tall with a 12-inch spread. This clumping evergreen has 2-foot-long, grass-like foliage and produces long spikes of dark purple blossoms in summer. Plant liriope in partial to full shade and well-drained soil. Liriope is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture growing zones 6 to 9.
Creeping liriope (Liriope spicata) grows from 8 to 12 inches tall with an equal spread. This thin, grass-like evergreen has dark-green foliage that turns bronze in cooler months. Creeping liriope grows best in partial to full shade and well-drained soil, and is hardy in zones 4 to 9.
Partial to Light Shade
- Partially or lightly shaded sites receive a mix of sun and shade throughout the day. Golden deadnettle (Lamium galeobdolon) grows quickly up to 18 inches. This evergreen blooms with bright yellow flowers in spring and grows best in light shade and rich, loamy, acidic soils. Golden deadnettle's stems root when they touch the ground, making this a good choice for slopes. It is hardy in zones 4 to 9.
Spurge or Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) grows from 6 to 12 inches tall and forms a dense mat of evergreen foliage. Spurge has glossy, 4-inch leaves and produces aromatic spring blossoms. Plant spurge in partial shade and well-drained, acidic soil. It is hardy in zones 4 to 7.
- Choose sun-tolerant ground covers for sites with direct sun exposure for most or all of the day. The daylily (Hemerocallis hybrida) and the tawny daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) grow rapidly up to 3 feet tall. These perennial tolerate salty sites and a range of soils, as long as they're well-drained. Both produce dense, attractive foliage that reduces erosion and bloom with large, singular flowers that attract birds and butterflies. Daylilies prefer full sun and are hardy in zones 3 to 9.
Camby paxistima (Paxistima canbyi) grows slowly to 12 inches tall with a 4-foot spread. This evergreen has glossy, dark-green foliage and blooms with clusters of red flower in late spring. Plant camby paxistima in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Camby paxistima is hardy to zone 4.
- Some ground covers need a specific soil type to thrive, while others adapt easily. The Nana Japanese garden juniper --- Juniperus procumbens "Nana" --- grows in a rounded mat up to 2 feet tall and 10 feet wide. This spreading evergreen has blue-green needles that turn purple in winter. Nana Japanese garden junipers prefer full sun, tolerate a range of soils and are hardy in zones 6 to 8.
Ajuga or bugle weed (Ajuga reptans) forms a dense, 3- to 4-inch-tall mat. This evergreen to semi-evergreen thrives in partial to full shade and a range of soils, from sand to clay. Ajuga produces spikes of blue flowers in spring that attract bees. They are hardy in zones 3 to 9.