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Wildflowers For Shade

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Wildflower Groundcovers and Quick Spreaders

Below you will find some Wildflowers that work well as groundcovers. Please keep in mind some of these will spread more quickly than others. The term groundcover is used loosely, an actual groundcover plant would be something like the Vinca minor - Periwinkle which when planted will fill in quickly and completely cover the ground and will stabilize the soil. As compared to let say Iris cristata - Crested Iris, which does spread slowly but does not completely cover the ground and does little to stabilize the soil. We prefer to call this type of plant a quick spreader instead of a ground cover. We will note how we classify each plant under the plants description below. We also will group these in Sun or Shade categories to help you make your decision.


Shade to Semi-shade




Asarum canadense     Canada Wild Ginger                                                                       

This ginger has kidney shaped leaves with purplish flowers just below the leaves right on the ground. It will make a ground cover in a shaded moist spot that has rich soil. The leaves and roots are aromatic when crushed.                                                                                                                                                      

 Shade, Rich Moist Soil, Spring, 6-12 in Tall, Zones 3-8

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Eurybia divaricata   White Wood Aster 


A late summer bloomer that will tolerate shade. It also spreads very nicely, and has white flowers

with gold centers. Makes a nice show when not much else is blooming in the shade.    


Shade, Rich Soil, Summer – Fall, 1-2 ft Tall, Zones 4-8

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Clintonia umbellulata    Speckled Clintonia, Blackbead Lily

An excellent ground cover for your shade garden. Has oval shaped basal leaves with white flowers atop a short stem. In the fall it has black seedpods. Needs good rich dirt to spread.

Shade, Rich Soil, Spring, 8-15 in Tall, Zones 4-8

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Convallaria majalis   Lily-of-the-Valley

An excellent ground cover with fragrant white flowers in the late spring to early summer. Will tolerate some sun in cooler climates.

Semi-shade to Shade, Rich Soil, Spring to Summer, 6-10 in. Tall, Zones 2-9

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Epigaea repens    Trailing Arbutus   Mayflower

This is an evergreen groundcover that has leathery oblong leaves and ½ inch white to pink blooms in the early spring. Must be planted in very acid dry soil, the pH must be down to 4.5. This is a very slow spreader more sought after for its foliage and blooms than as a groundcover. Get your soil right or it will not survive.

Sun to Shade, Very Acid Soil pH of 4.5, Spring, Groundcover, Zones 3-8

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Galax urceolata  Galax

An evergreen groundcover with dark green glossy leaves. Leaves will turn a maroon color in the winter if they are exposed to some sun. Must have rich moist soil and it prefers a northern exposure. It will not tolerate hot weather or dry soils. Has a white spike bloom in early summer. It is a groundcover, however it is very slow to start spreading. More noted for the leaves than the blooms.

Shade, Rich Soil, Summer, 4-8 in., Zones 4-7



Gaultheria procumbens     Wintergreen, Teaberry

Has oval shaped shiny green leaves that are atop a 3-5 in stem. The white flowers appear in the summer and are bell shaped, they are about 3/8 of an inch long. Has red berries in the fall, which will remain on the plant through the winter. Foliage will turn red in the winter if it gets some sun. Spreads slowly but is a good groundcover once it get established.

Shade to Semi-shade, Rich Acid Soil, Summer, 4-6 in. Tall, Groundcover, Zones 3-8





Geranium maculatum    Wild Geranium


Looking for some blooms in the shade, this is the plant. Has light pink to purple flowers from late spring to early summer. It will spread and make a very nice size clump quite quickly. In cooler climates it will tolerate about a half a day of full sun. This is one of our best selling plants.

Shade to Semi-Shade, Rich Soil, Spring – Summer, 1-2 ft. Tall, Zones 4-9.





Iris Cristata   Dwarf Crested Iris

This well known plant is a great early spring bloomer with light blue flowers that have a white throat.

Stays short, only about 5 inches tall. Will spread and make a groundcover if it receives some sun.

Semi-shade, Average Soil, Spring, 3-5 in. Tall, Zones 4-9




Iris cristata ‘Alba’ – White Crested Iris

The delicate 1 ½ inch white flowers have yellow patches on them with lance-shaped

green foliage.  These bloom in April and May and grow 3-8 inches tall.  Prefers part shade and well-drained soil, and given these conditions they will multiply quickly.  This one is a rare beauty in your woodland garden. Good groundcover.

Semi-shade, Well-drained soil, Spring, White, 3-8 in. Tall, Zones 4-8







Maianthemum canadense     False Lily-Of-The- Valley

Good groundcover for dry shade area. Has white flowers in the spring followed by red berries in the late summer. The leaves are

somewhat heart shaped and shiny green. This plant stays low to the ground and will even grow under hemlocks in the dry acid soil.

Shade, Dry Rich Soil, Spring, 1-3 in Tall, Zones 3-7






Mitchella repens    Partridge Berry

A slow growing groundcover that grows in deep shade. Flowers are very small, plant is more noted for the red berries in the fall, flowers are white to pink in the spring. Leaves are small rounded with white veins. It grows right flat on the ground. Will tolerate dry shade if the soil is rich.

Shade, Rich Soil, 1 in Tall Groundcover, Zones 4-9





Pachysandra procumbens     Allegheny Spurge

Excellent groundcover for the shade. Has 3 inch ovate shaped leaves that come out bright green and then become darker and mottled later in the season. Flowers appear in the spring but are very inconspicuous; it is more notable for its foliage. Evergreen in warmer climates.

Shade, Rich Soil, Spring, 3-6 in Tall, Groundcover, Zones 5-8




Phlox divaricata    Blue Phlox

A short growing phlox that does well in the shade and has blue flowers in the spring. Will spread and make a nice clump, which will brighten up a shady corner.

Shade, Rich Soil, Spring, 9-18 in Tall, Zones 3-9.





Phlox stolonifera   Creeping Phlox

This is a good groundcover for a moist shaded area with rich soil. The leaves stay right on the ground and are semi-evergreen. Has rose-purple flowers early in the spring, flowers are 2 inches across and stand about 3-4 inches tall. Flowers are somewhat fragrant.

Shade, Rich Moist Soil, Spring, 3-4 in Tall, Groundcover, Zones 4-8




Podophyllum peltatum     May Apple

Each plant has a pair of large deeply lobed leaves, often reaching 8 inches across. The white flower nods down below these leaves. Will tolerate some sun if the soil is moist, but does best in a shady moist spot.

This is a good spreader.

Shade to Semi –Shade, Moist Rich Soil, Spring, 12-18 in Tall, Zones 4-9






Sanguinaria canadensis    Bloodroot

One of the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Has a white flower standing above its unfurled leaves, which looks maroon in color at this point. The leaves unfurl to be a lobed leaf about 3-4 inches across. The root has a red substance, and when broken resembles blood, hence its common name. Needs rich sandy well-drained soil in a shady spot, although it will tolerate some sun in cooler climates. Will spread once it gets established.

Shade to Semi-Shade, Rich Well Drained Soil, Spring, 6-12 in Tall, Zones 3-9



Shortia galacifolia    Oconee-bells

This plant is on the endangered and protected list. Each plant is sold with a special plant protection permit. Has a beautiful white bell shaped flower in the early spring. Leaves are rounded, bright green turning maroon in the winter. This is an evergreen groundcover, however it spreads slowly. It must have shade and moist rich soil or it will not survive.

Shade, Moist Rich Soil, Spring, 3-6 in Tall, Zones 5-7





Stylophorum diphyllum        Celandine Poppy

Excellent plant for the shade garden. The bright yellow flowers really stand out in a dark corner. Blooms heavy in spring, then has sporadic blooms throughout the summer. Spreads very well to make a ground cover. Prefers rich woods soil, does not like much direct sun.

Shade, Rich Soil, Spring to Summer, 1-2 ft Tall, Zones 4-9





Tiarella cordifolia    Foam Flower

A very versatile plant, will grow in sun or shade. It has green veined leaves which stay low and has a white bloom standing 6-12” tall, and blooms in the spring. It makes a good ground cover and is also good in rock gardens. In cooler climates the foliage will remain all winter and turn a pretty burgandy color.

Shade to Sun, Rich Soil, Spring, 6-12 in Tall, Zone 3-8




Vinca minor    Periwinkle 

Excellent evergreen groundcover that will spread quickly and hold loose soils. Has blue-purple flowers in the spring. Will grow in varied conditions.

Sun or Shade, Moist or Dry Soil, Spring, Groundcover, Zones 4-9




Viola blanda   Sweet White Violet

A early spring bloomer with white flowers. This one is very small and grows right on the ground. It will grow good under conifer trees. Spreads quickly.

Shade, Rich Soil, Spring, 2-4 in Tall, Zones 4-9






Viola canadensis   Canada Violet

This is one of the tallest Violets reaching 18 inches tall. Has white flowers with purple veins and the leaves are heart shaped. Spreads quickly to make a good groundcover

for a large area.

Shade, Rich Soil, Spring, 12-18 in Tall, Zones 3-8



Viola papilionacea   Common Blue Violet

This is the common violet that blooms purple in the spring. It is a very good spreader and will grow in shade or semi-shade with rich moist soil. Makes an excellent groundcover, not suggested to use in a small garden as it make take it over.


Shade to Semi-Shade, Average Soil, Spring, 6-10 in Tall, Zones 4-8




Viola ‘pennsylvanica’ – Smooth Yellow Violet                

This pretty yellow violet has five petal flowers with non-hairy, one to three-lobed basal leaves. It is relatively tall for a violet growing 6-16” tall. It will work good as a groundcover.

Shade/Semi, Average Soil, Early Summer, 6-16” Tall, Spread 8”, Zones 5-8







Viola striata    Pale or Cream Violet

Has ivory-white flowers in the spring. This one spreads by runners and does well in semi-shade.

Shade to Semi-Shade, Rich Soil, Spring, 6-8 in Tall, Zones 4-8





Sun to Semi-sun Groundcovers


              Achillea millefolium Yarrow

A very tough plant that will tolerate drought conditions and average soils. Will spread quite readily making it a good choice for holding soils on banks or other well-drained areas. The white flowers resemble those of Queen Anne's Lace and last throughout the summer.

Sun to Semi, Average Soil, Summer, 1-3 ft Tall, Zones 2-9




Leucanthemum vulgare   Oxeye Daisy                                                                 

This is the common daisy that will grow in just about any climate and in any soil. Makes a terrific show in the summer months and spreads quite nicely. Pick a spot so this can form into a mass of white flowers and make a real show in your garden. Looks great when mixed in with the Black-eyed Susan’s.                       

Sun, Average Dry Soil, Summer, 1-3 ft Tall, Zones 3-10




Fragaria virginiana     Wild Scarlet Strawberry

The taste of these small wild strawberries is hard to beat. Will tolerate dry soils and sun. Has a white bloom in the spring with the fruit getting ripe in the summer. Also spreads nicely. Makes a good groundcover.

Sun, Average Dry Soils, Spring, 6-8 in. Tall, Zones 2-9




Hemerocallis fulva     Tawny Daylily

This is the good old common orange daylily. Will grow just about anywhere without any care. Blooms during the hot days of summer. Plant some and watch them make a beautiful mass of color in a few years. Quick spreader.

Sun to Semi-Shade, Average Soil, Summer, 2-3 ft Tall, Zones 3-9



Hieracium aurantiacum    Devil’s Paintbrush


A small growing flower, which is great for rock gardens. Has a brilliant red orange flower in the late spring. Will spread and make a carpet of flowers and foliage. A plant not often seen in the wild.

Sun, Average Soil, Spring, 1 ft Tall, Zones 4-9





Houstonia serpyllifolia    Creeping Bluets


A very showy little plant that is great for rock gardens. Has numerous small blue flowers with  yellow eyes, flowers are about ¼ inch across. Low growing groundcover. Will do best in a moist, semi-shaded area.

Semi-shade, Rich Moist Soil, Spring to Summer, 3-5 in Tall, Zones 5-7






Iris pseudacorus    Yellow Flag Iris

Great plant for a wet sunny spot. Has a bright yellow flower in the spring. This is a tall variety reaching heights of 4-5 feet in real wet areas. Will tolerate drier soils but will not get as tall. Is does spread at a moderate rate to form large clumps.

Sun to Semi-Shade, Moist to Wet Soils, Spring, 3-4 ft Tall, Zones 5-8






Parthenocissus quinquefolia     Virginia Creeper

This is a climber, it will cling to walls or trees, or if has nothing to climb it will trail along the ground and make a groundcover. Leaves are the attraction in this plant, they are divided into 5 parts, and turn a brilliant red in the fall. Often confused for Poison Ivy, except this plant has 5 leaves not 3.

Sun or Shade, Average Soil, Climber 25-75 ft Tall, Zones 4-9






Ranunculus repens      Creeping Buttercup

This is an excellent groundcover that will spread quickly. Has bright yellow flowers in spring with slightly variegated leaves. Do not put this in your flower garden as it will take over. It needs a large area to spread, good for holding soil on banks.

Shade to Sun, Moist Soil, Spring, 4-8 in Tall, Groundcover, Zones 3-10