Ground cover plants are invaluable. They don’t just give the garden a general lift, they’re also a valuable foil for larger plants, add colour to the gaps between shrubs and perennials, and deter weeds from colonising bare soil.
Filling every spare inch of ground with plants is important if you have a small garden. And they cope in various degrees of shade, adding an extra element to tricky areas of dry shade under trees or at the base of walls, or on the other hand, in damp shade.
Related content: Six Plants for Full Shade, Best Summer Shade Plants, Ponds in Shady Gardens.
Discover seven flowering ground cover plants for shade, to pep up dark spots, below.
Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’
This spreading perennial is the perfect low-maintenance ground cover, 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.
Purple-bronze leaves of ajuga ‘Black Scallop’
Bergenia x schmidtii
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.
Large oval leaves and pink flower clusters of bergenia
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.
Jagged leaves and fluffy cream flower spikes of tiarella
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.
Vivid-blue brunnera flowers
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.
Pinky-blue forget-me-knots along the bottom of a fence
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, where they’ll bloom from June to August.
Purple-pink foliage of heuchera ‘Sugar Plum’
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.
Glossy, serrated pachysandra leaves
Pales for shade
Pale flowers show up much better in darker spots, helping them to brighten up shady areas, so save any dark flowers for sunnier spots.