Large oval leaves and pink flower clusters of bergenia

Flowering ground cover plants for shade

Ground cover flowers are fantastic for shady spots – we pick some of our favourites.

Ground cover plants are invaluable in the garden. They make a valuable foil for larger plants, add colour to the gaps between shrubs and perennials, and help prevent weeds from colonising bare soil.

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Ground cover plants are particularly useful in shady parts of the garden, where other plants struggle to grow. Areas beneath trees and shrubs are often difficult to plant up as the soil is so dry, but there are some ground cover options that can fit the bill.

More on gardening in shade:

Discover seven flowering ground cover plants for shade, below.

Filling every spare inch of ground with plants is important if you have a small garden.

Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’

Purple-bronze leaves of ajuga 'Black Scallop'
Purple-bronze leaves of ajuga ‘Black Scallop’

This spreading perennial is the perfect low-maintenance ground cover plant, with attractive foliage that adds rich, glossy colour to borders. ‘Black Scallop’ also sends up short spikes of dark blue flowers from April to June. Partial to full shade is ideal for ajugas.


Elephants ears, Bergenia x schmidtii

Large oval leaves and pink flower clusters of bergenia
Large oval leaves and pink flower clusters of bergenia

This bergenia thrives in deep to partial shade and tolerates cold winds. It bears clusters of cup-shaped, pink flowers through April to May and its large glossy evergreen leaves develop a maroon tint in winter.


Tiarella

Jagged leaves and fluffy cream flower spikes of tiarella
Jagged leaves and fluffy cream flower spikes of tiarella

Partial to full shade is best for these pretty perennials. Plant in groups to get maximum impact from the frothy flower spikes, which appear from May to July. It also offers bronze leaves in autumn. Useful under trees, tiarellas need little attention once established.


Brunnera

Vivid-blue brunnera flowers
Vivid-blue brunnera flowers

Reliably tough, even in poor soil, brunneras are perennials with a daintier side, with pretty forget-me-not flowers in spring. Find a partially-shaded spot and give it moist but well-drained soil. ‘Jack Frost’ has striking silver leaves with green veins.


Forget-me-not

Pinky-blue forget-me-knots along the bottom of a fence
Pinky-blue forget-me-knots along the bottom of a fence

This delightful, long-flowering favourite is great for filling gaps between perennials from April to June. Myosotis is easy to grow and self-seeds readily, even in dappled shade beneath deciduous trees.


Heucheras

Purple-pink foliage of heuchera 'Sugar Plum'
Purple-pink foliage of heuchera ‘Sugar Plum’

The eye-catching foliage of heucheras and heucherellas creates year-round interest at the front of borders. Choose from the huge range of leaf shapes, colours and patterns, and plant in groups for impact. Partial shade is best.


Pachysandra terminalis

Glossy, serrated pachysandra leaves
Glossy, serrated pachysandra leaves
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This evergreen perennial with glossy foliage will carpet the ground in even the most difficult of dry, shady spots and provide flowers from May to June. If you have dense, overhanging trees where nothing else will grow, try pachysandra.