Before we talk about the 12 best shade perennial flowers for groundcovers, it’s important to get a few things straight between us. You see, any plant “covers the ground” (that’s what plant do) so we need to be clear about what you want to do in your garden.
Definitions of Groundcovers
Generally, any plant that spreads quickly and shades the ground underneath it is considered a groundcover. Most of the time, gardeners consider low growing plants as groundcovers, but when you think of it any plant can be a groundcover. If you walk in a maple tree bush, you will find few plants growing underneath the maples. They both shade out competing plants, and outcompete them for water and nutrients to prevent them from becoming established and growing well. In general, in a mature sugar bush the only place you will find plants is where the light can get through the leaf canopy.
But as I said above, most gardeners consider low growing perennial flowers as groundcovers. And the faster growing, the better.
Thug warnings. By nature, fast-growing groundcovers are thugs that easily turn into weeds so….
Aegopodium or Goutweed (Bishops Weed) is a certified thug in the garden and it should only be planted as a last resort where nothing else will grow.
Ajuga is a spreading (thug!) of a plant but this makes it an excellent perennial ground cover for tough shady spots. And there are some fantastic leaf colors now so do check this one out
Asarum is a shiny leaved plant for shade and it makes a great (slow establishing) ground cover
Cornus canadensis It is a low growing herbaceous shrub – some garden centers will sell it as a woody plant and some as a perennial flower – but it grows very well (if slowly) to form a dense mat. You will find it grows better on acidic soils than alkaline. Consider it a slow-growing plant
Galium odoratum Or Sweet Woodruff makes an excellent groundcover in a shade garden. It can be slow to establish but does form an excellent dense mat. It does bloom with small white flowers in the early spring.
Geranium maculatum Many of the geranium family plants will, if planted 12 to 18 inches apart, expand and act as a groundcover. Some such as the variety ‘Rozanne’ will bloom for an extended time in the part shade or full sun garden.
Hellebore It is a shade lover with a long blooming time, and again if planted 12 to 18 inches apart will act as an Evergreen groundcover in warm areas and a perennial groundcover – that dies to the ground – in colder areas.
Hosta. Gardeners rarely think of hosta as a groundcover but it makes an excellent groundcover in a shade garden. Gardeners can use all of one variety or, as I prefer, use multiple varieties to create swaths of different leaf colors. I note that I pretty much ignore the flowers on hosta and only leave them because the seeds will germinate and give me interesting new plants.
Lamium or deadnettle will survive in shade or sun but do not appreciate a full hot-sun garden with a lack of water. Excellent groundcover.
Periwinkle Or Vinca minor is somewhat slow to establish at the beginning, but once it gets going it will quickly colonize every bit of a garden it can reach. It is easily weeded out if it becomes too aggressive but with its shiny semi-evergreen leaves it is a good choice for a large area.
Viola Is one of those plants that once it is established, it will self-sow everywhere In your garden. This includes both the semi-shade and full sun garden and in my opinion, this is one of the noxious weeds that I never allow to grow.