Options For Ground Cover In My Backyard

Groundcover in shade

Q: I need advice on how best to cover the ground in my backyard. It is on the west side of my two-story house and there are lots of tall trees, both of which block sunlight most of the day. I don’t like to water. We tried English ivy many years ago but it took over the entire backyard. I’m not a fan of pine straw and am wondering what other options you suggest. 

A: Even though we think of English ivy as an invasive pest, sometimes it’s the only plant that can grow and spread in heavy shade. I know you tried it before, but consider English ivy again. It needs no irrigation and you could keep it from climbing trees by using a lawn mower or string trimmer to circle each tree and chop off the ivy leaves once or twice a year. There would be little harm in mowing a wide area in spring each year to keep it looking maintained. I suppose you could plant liriope (monkey grass), Liriope muscari, which will slowly spread. Even better, but harder to find is creeping monkey grass, Liriope spicata. It grows faster than Liriope muscari but neither is as fast as ivy.

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