Ground Cover under Deciduous Trees
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Heather Delanghe
Posted on: May 24, 2005

I have a fairly steep slope in my backyard that located under deciduous trees. It is part sunny, to deep shade in the summer. As we are in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and there is not a lot of topsoil before you hit rock. The grass there is doing poorly, but the weeds are doing very well! I would like to remove the grass/weeds and use a ground cover that is low maintenance. Would a mix of red and white clover do the job? I fear that this site is too shady for any thyme variety, and I know that the only thing worse than mowing this slope is weeding it, thus eliminating periwinkle (I’ve had periwinkle before and have had to weed 4 or 5 times a year....) I have given some fleeting thought to mint, provided that we edge the outline of the area with a deep, wide, border so as to prevent the mint from taking over the planet! However, we live adjacent to a conservation area and do not want to introduce any aggressive non-native plant in our backyard. Thoughts?

Clovers will not do well in an area shaded all summer. Why don’t you try wildflowers under the trees? Get rid of the grass and weeds, then mulch the area heavily with leaves of maples and oak, hold them down with a few maple or oak branches and the add wildflowers as you can get a hold of them. Bloodroot, hepatica, wild ginger, spring beauty, trilliums, blue and black cohosh, solomon’s seal, foamflower and bishop’s cap would look absolutely charming. You might even succeed with wild or Siberian ginseng and goldenseal. Don’t forget ferns, although some of them may be aggressive under your conditions. I predict you would soon run out of space if you really get into growing all the lovely plants that grow in a forest. Just water during a drought, since a small bit of "forest" evaporates more water than a closed large tract of forest.

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