Perennials for Shady Dry Area on Zone 4/5
May 2, 2005 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I have a spot on the East side of my garage that just won't support grass. It's in deep thick shade and gets little water. The soil is heavy and clay-like. What kind of perennials would work here? Have you done this before? Have you any pictures?
posted by kc0dxh to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
I immediately thought of goutweed. There are two varieties, one that has plain green leaves and another that is variegated, it has lacy off white flowers that come up in late spring. It can be quite invasive if it is neglected but I never had a problem with keeping it contained to where I wanted it. I had some planted in heavy clay next to a fence that got no sunlight at all and it thrived there. Hosta's might work as well though they might need an occassional watering.
posted by squeak at 11:05 AM on May 2, 2005

I just planted a bunch of sweet potato vine in the shady spot in my yard. Kind of interesting looking. I'll let you know how it does....
posted by Doohickie at 11:39 AM on May 2, 2005

Vinca (periwinkle) will grow pretty much anywhere even with low light and moisture -- just make sure it doesn't escape, because it spreads fast via runners like brambles do. I think the variegated variants are less aggressive.

You don't mention your climate zone, but I used periwinkle in England in a similar spot to yours, where it looked pretty; now in California vinca is the bane of my garden among the redwoods.
posted by anadem at 2:57 PM on May 2, 2005

posted by Ken McE at 4:13 PM on May 2, 2005

posted by caddis at 5:50 PM on May 2, 2005

Amend the soil and plant a row of Hostas. In a few years they'll be as big as hogs but a bit prettier. Second the pachysandras for something that doesn't die back.
posted by docpops at 5:53 PM on May 2, 2005

Hosta gows well in shade. Tidy, hardy, not very exciting. Comes in many sizes and shades. I have a lot of shade and have developed some fondness for hosta.
In good soil, it will spread, and can be divided.
posted by Mom at 6:10 PM on May 2, 2005

A lot of the plants that are suggested for this type of location (difficult growing conditions) end up being very invasive once they grow beyond the shady spot and into a nice, moist, sunny area. Goutweed is a good example of this. If you plant it, it will be everywhere. And you'll never be able to get rid of it.
My advice is (as docpops suggests) put in some good soil and some manure. This will solve a lot of your problems because almost nothing will thrive in that crusty, heavy clay.
Also, look for lists of plants suggested for growing under mature trees, especially maples. Conditions under a big maple are dry and shady, just like your spot. Of course, plant suggestions will be different depending on where you are, so it's best to find a book/magazine that is specific to your part of the world.
posted by nprigoda at 6:48 PM on May 2, 2005

You should be able to break the clay by spreading gypsum, then add a trailer load of stable manure (straw + horseshit), then leave it to its own devices for a year. If you don't get something coming up from the stable manure, I'll be surprised.
posted by flabdablet at 7:29 PM on May 2, 2005

English Ivy will grow anywhere, thrives as a ground cover, is evergreen (as is Pachysandra) and is impossible to kill. It will be hard to contain, though, if that's a concern.
posted by xammerboy at 11:38 AM on May 3, 2005

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