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i am sortint out my mums garden, an there is one area that has a lot of shade, i would like to put a ground covering plant with some colour, can anyone recomend one


Lamium maculatum is lovely, It doesn't mind what the soil conditions are but thrives in dappled or full shade. It has silver markings on the tiny leaves and throws up purple flowers about now.

This plant is so much better behaved than any of the Vincas.



Lamium maculatum is lovely, It doesn't mind what the soil conditions are but thrives in dappled or full shade. It has tiny silver leaves and throws up purple flowers about now.

This plant is so much better behaved than any of the Vincas.


Laura Corin

I was going to suggest lamium too.

Geraniu phaeum - has purple/black splodges on the leaves and purple flowers about now.  It can be cut back after flowering and will then produce fresh new foliage.  Brunnera fomrs also like shade and have speckled, spoldged or crazed sliver variegations on the leaves and blue flowers like forget-me-nots.  dropetris ferns are god in shade as are hostas which will give floiage colour and variegations and tall spikes of white, lilac or purple flowers.

All will benefit from having plenty of good garden compost or well rotted manure worked into the soil before planting and then a good watering afterwards and until established.  Hostas will need wildlife friendly slug pellets to keep their foliage good but they're worth it.



Geranium phaeum is good, but it spreads ike a rampaging forest fire throughout the rest of the garden - be warned!  I now cut it down at the first sign of seed heads, and even so it pops up everywhere, and is too tall  and big to allow it its head as I can do with other plants.

Also for dry shade, pachysandra is very good, nicely shaped leaves and white spikey flowers.

This next bit is for gardeners with a very strong constitution.  We have a very large and well loved red sycamore half way down our garden - under which little will grow. Please sit down now if you are likely to faint ....... I have planted variegated ground elder there, it lightens up the area and looks wonderful.  As it has to really struggle for life it does not spread, it had s been there for about 10 years now, and remains more or less in place.  It is never, ever allowed to flower, it does occasionally try to hijack a lift out in a nearby pot, but so far I have spotted it and stopped the escape.    This is not something I would suggest except for the darkest, dryest & most inhospitable of places, but in these it really does do a great job.   I do have its weedy first cousin in another part of the garden, that is not welcome and seems to be trying for world domination - but we all know about that one. 

Not faining Bookertoo.  I have the variegated ground elder growing in a bed just beyond my terrace.  It has to compete with geranium macrorhizum - another good ground cover - and self seeded forget-me-nots.  The three look fabulous in spring with the flower heads on but I do cut back the flowers on the elder to stop it seeding.

What doesn't look so good is the couch grass which has invaded this space and now needs careful pulling out along with the habitual nettle invasion I get every spring. 


So glad not everyone collapses when I mention ground elder - it really is a good ground cover int he right place - mine lives with pachysandrum and bluebells, plus other oddments that come up there.  I have little bulbs that have been and gone by the time it does its thing, some pale running ranunculus (celandine to all intents and purposes)  and blue scillas. Like the idea of the geranium macrorhizum in there, may transplant a bit of that there in due course. 

Can you eat the variegated one? I dealt with ground elder in a previous garden by digging it up and eating it as green veg until it gave up.



I don't know - I have never eaten it, but do make a tea with the green one, good for post gardening aches and pains.  It was called Bishops Wort - they were the only people who were wealthy enough to get gout from rich eating it was thought. 

At garden group today one of my ladies advised that we should do youga type stretching after gardening.  She'd noticed that as she's getting older her body, especially her shoulders, can seize up when she comes in after gardening so she's started doing something based on the Cat and teh Child positions and it really helps.  I have no idea about yoga but know about stretching because I also run Hip Hop classes for teens and the teacher's warm up includes stretching.  Worth a try.

many thanks to you all for your help, it is much appreciated

Yep, I'm a lover of variagated ground elder too. I've used it before where the ordinary one was growing and it hid it really well! Everyone else thinks I'm crazy. In my current garden it is growing in a terraced bed, though, so is going to struggle to get away from me. Fab stuff for bringing a splash of light to your driest, most shady bits where nothing will grow. Particularly useful under things like laurel bushes and leylandii hedges, which are so notorious for killing off just about anything else. Looks really good with dark geranium phaeum and purple alliums all just mixed up randomly. And if is gets away, there's always bramble-killer!


Wow, so good to hear positive things about the variegated ground elder, I agree that it is super in reallly difficult dry places - previously I got some very sharp notes about it when I mentioned it.  I've not tried alliums where it grows because it is so dreadfully dry, and I don't want the elder to escape - but the geranium phaeum grows there as well, with the pachysandrum - makes a good cover for a very inhospitable area.

interested to hear you grow it over the weedy one auntie betty - doesn't the green one overcome it?  I am overun with that in part of my fruit cage - there is a bank going down to an old quarry there which is just elder, nettles and so on, so I can't really beat it.  If I thought the variegated one would help I'd be tempted to try it there. 

Spray off the offending area with bramble killer and then (after it goes brown) remove as much of the rubbish as poss, then dot little pieces of the variagated one across the area. It competes better than I expected, so does reduce the amount of the green one, but more importantly makes the whole area look prettier. ONLY consider this if you really have given up on the idea of total eradication for a good while tho! It isn't a solution - just a way of making a problem area more tolerable. That said, its no harder to get rid of than the ordinary ground elder if and when you feel like trying mass extinction again...


Thank you Bookertoo and Betty.  I'm going to try moving some of mine into my 'woodland' area where the only things prospering in one large area are nettles.  Not ideal ground cover.

I've found some proper bluebell seeds to try for a spring carpet, have geranium phaem seddlings I can move and am collecting dryopteris ferns so, just as soon as I get the all clear following my op, I'll be out there with gusto and optimism and aiming for a beautiful transformation.

Nice plan. Goes nice with violets, alchemilla, solomon's seal and hostas too. Lots of my garden is woodlandy (one big area is dry stone terracing on a disused railway embankment bordered entirely by huge hawthorns, laurels and birch). So I go in for a fair bit of shady ground cover! Tell you one thing that unexpectedly thrives... you know that variagated grass, pleiobastus i think, that you see sold the golden one sold as a pond plant, of all things... The white variagted one that looks a lot like the miscanthus but isn't does super well in dry shade. Another one that looks good with phaeum! Who knew...?!

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