Ground covers are necessary in shady spots where few weeds grow, to control soil erosion and moderate soil moisture. When choosing ground covers for shade, pick varieties for their unusually shaped or colored leaves along with those chosen for their flowers.
A rapidly growing, evergreen ground cover, spotted deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) prefers a cool site in shade to deep shade and well-drained, acidic soil. Lamium grows 6 to 12 inches high with 1-inch variegated, crinkled leaves with rounded teeth. It has an unpleasant scent when the leaves are bruised. Spotted deadnettle produces lavender flowers in spring.
Running Mat Phlox
Native to woodlands with rich, damp soil, running mat phlox (Phlox stolonifera) grows best in partial to full shade in moist, fertile soil. It grows 8 to 18 inches high and spreads an equal distance. Also called “creeping phlox,” in early spring it produces purplish-blue flowers that smell like honeysuckle. Running mat phlox prefers slightly acidic soil, with a pH of approximately 5.5 to 7.
A hardy, sweet-smelling perennial herb, sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) grows just 8 inches high and is often used as a ground cover. Its bright, yellowish-green leaves resemble a daisy in that they grow out from a central point in rays, similar to the petals of daisies. Sweet woodruff prefers partial shade but will also grow in deep shade.