Gardening Tips by Neil Sperry: Choosing Groundcovers For Shade

Hi, I’m Neil Sperry, back in your neighborhood, Calloway’s Nursery. There are 19 of them in the metroplex and a couple in Houston under the name of Cornelius, wonderful places to shop. I love coming here.
Hi, I’m Neil Sperry, back in your neighborhood, Calloway’s Nursery. There are 19 of them in the metroplex and a couple in Houston under the name of Cornelius, wonderful places to shop. I love coming here.

Problems Growing Grass Under Trees

Let me suggest something to you. If you have tried and tried and tried again to get grass to grow beneath your shade trees, maybe, just maybe, you have too much shade. It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked. Let me suggest to you, shade-tolerant, shade-loving groundcovers.

How do you know when it’s time? Well, if you don’t have three or four hours of sunlight in South Texas, and four or five hours of sunlight in North Texas, you’re not going to get St. Augustine to grow. If you have put St. Augustine sod down and you watch it just disappear on you, you find that you have nothing but bare ground three or four months later, it’s time to take that out and replace it.

Work the soil up, work in organic matter, and choose shade-tolerant groundcovers.

Shade-Tolerant Groundcovers

Your sales reps at Calloway’s Nursery, talk to one of the Texas-certified nursery professionals. Let them show you some of the best. Work the soil down three or four inches. You can avoid those major roots of the trees, and then put the shade-tolerant groundcovers.

I’ve used that term three or four times. Which ones am I talking about? My favorite is mondo grass, regular mondo grass. It’s a plant with four names: monkey grass, Ophiopogon. It’s also called lilyturf by a few people. This is the one that gets about five or six inches tall. And the reason I like it so much and have used it throughout my landscape is that it does not have runners. You can blow the leaves out of it in autumn. It’s a lot easier to keep clean. I do not use dwarf mondo grass in great areas, large areas because it is just too slow-growing, but it’s very pretty in small areas.

Liriope, L-I-R-I-O-P-E, a lovely groundcover, it’s a little taller. It does bloom in the summer, but it is a little tall as a ground cover, and so I use it more in smaller areas for drama. English ivy is very good. You can also use Purple Wintercreeper Euonymus. They used every letter in the alphabet on that one. That’s a wonderful groundcover. It gets about 6 or 8 inches tall. It’s great in the sun. It’s great in the shade. It does have runners, but it’s really good. Even Asian Jasmine will do very well in the shade.

So, those are some of the best. I use ferns. I use a lot of wood ferns. Of course, they die to the ground in the winter, but they’re very pretty. If you combine those groundcovers with shrubs that tolerate the shade quite well, and we’ll talk about those another time, then you can have a beautiful landscape even in a shady area. It’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity for something different.

I’m Neil Sperry, proud to be sponsored by Calloway’s on both of my radio programs, on KLIF on Saturday afternoons from 1:00 to 3:00, and on WBAP on Sunday mornings from 8:00 until 10:00. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time.