Q: What groundcovers can you recommend for shade? I’ve removed all the English ivy and need something before erosion starts. I like evergreen ones, and I also have deer problems.
A: Many of the following are deer resistant, if not completely deer proof. Allegheny pachysandra, for example, is a four-season actor in the garden with quirky spring flowers and attractive mottled leaves that deer don’t touch. Other evergreen choices include Christmas ferns, wood ferns (semi-evergreen), moss, and golden groundsel (yellow spring flowers about 1-inch tall).
Deciduous groundcovers can prevent erosion, too, as their roots hold soil even after leaves fall. Proven choices include Canadian ginger, Phlox stolonifera (purple spring bloom), Tiarella (white spring bloom), Iris reticulata (purple spring flowers) and many ferns including hay-scented fern.
Matching plants to soil types can be crucial for success. An excellent reference is the free online Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed. It has color photos and growth conditions (soil type, sun and moisture levels) in an easy chart format.
Temporarily lay timbers or branches across a slope to slow down run-off during plant establishment. Then supplement rainfall religiously for at least two years to get plants established.
By Ellen Nibali, Horticulturist, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center. Ellen writes the Garden Q&A for The Baltimore Sun.