Category Archives: Groundcovers

Goat’s Beard

Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
Aruncus dioicus

Goat’s Beard has decorative finely-cut foliage and will create a bold, showy effect for a moist or partly-shaded spot all season. Dense, feathery plumes of tight white flowers rise well above the foliage spring to summer.

Goat’s Beard is an excellent background plant or grouped in a woodland setting. It dies back to the ground in winter, only to return gloriously in the spring. Goat’s Beard spreads slowly by rhizomes to form attractive patches, and can be planted in more sunny areas provided there is good moisture. It’s a “host” plant to the Dusky Azure Butterfly.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Perennially Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals, Pollinators
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 5-15ft
  • Mature Width: 3-5ft

False Solomon’s Seal

False Solomon (Maianthemum racemosum)
Maianthemum racemosum

False Solomon’s seal is a clump-forming perennial which typically grows 2-3′ tall and slowly spreads by thick rhizomes, often forming large colonies in the wild. Features unbranched, gracefully arching stems of alternate, oval, pointed, light green leaves with conspicuously parallel veins. Tiny, fragrant, creamy white flowers appear at the stem ends in terminal, plumy, spirea-like racemes (hence the species name) in spring.

Flowers are followed by greenish berries which turn an attractive ruby red in summer, often persisting into fall unless earlier consumed by wildlife. Foliage turns yellow in fall. Foliage resembles that of the true Solomon’s seals (Polygonatum spp.), but the latter have distinctly different flowers (i.e., bell-shaped flowers which droop from the leaf axils all along the stems).


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1-3ft
  • Mature Width: 1-2ft

Kinnikinnick

Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Kinnikinnick is a species of Arctostaphylos, one of several related species referred to as bearberry or kinnikinnick. The distribution is circumpolar, widespread in northern latitudes, confined to high altitudes further south. In North America, it ranges from arctic Alaska, Canada and Greenland south to California.

It is a small, spreading procumbent woody shrub 5-30 cm high. The leaves are evergreen, remaining green for 1-3 years before falling. The fruit is a red berry. The leaves are shiny, small, and feel thick and stiff. In spring, kinnikinnick produces white or pink flowers. They are a common plant on Jack pine sites. They grow well in dry, sunny gardens.

Uses

Kinnikinnick has historically been used for medicinal purposes. It contains the glycoside arbutin, which has antimicrobial properties and acts as a mild diuretic. It has been used for urinary tract complaints, including cystitis and urolithiasis.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 5-8in.
  • Mature Width: 2-15ft

Star-flowered Solomon’s Seal

Star-flowered Solomon's seal (Maianthemum stellatum)
Maianthemum stellatum

Beautiful blue-green foliage, white flowers spring through summer, and red and white striped berries. Great for woodland gardens.

  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1-2ft
  • Mature Width: 1ft

Red Columbine

Red columbine (Aquilegia formosa)
Aquilegia formosa

Red columbine (or Western columbine) is a common and attractive wildflower. It is native to western North America, from Alaska to Baja California and eastward to Montana and Wyoming. The name red columbine is also used for a number of other members of the genus Aquilegia.

Within its range, red columbine can be found across many habitats, including chaparral, oak woodland, and mixed-evergreen or coniferous forest. It prefers moist locations such as stream banks.

The plant grows to 8-48″ in height, averaging around 1-2ft. The red and yellow flowers appear from April to August (with some variation between regions), and are about 5 cm long. The red or orange spreading outer parts of the flower are sepals, and the yellow inner parts are the true petals. The petals bear spurs that attract the plant’s pollinators, sphinx moths.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 3ft
  • Mature Width: 1-2ft

Oregon Oxalis

Oregon oxalis (Oxalis oregana)
Oxalis oregana

Oxalis oregana, also known as Redwood sorrel, is a species of the wood sorrel family, Oxalidaceae, native to moist Douglas-fir and Coast Redwood forests of western North America from southwestern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. This attractive groundcover can spread vigorously when planted in favorable conditions.

It is a short herbaceous perennial plant with erect flowering stems 5-15 cm tall. The three leaflets are heart-shaped, 1-4.5 cm long on 5-20 cm stalks. The inflorescence is 2.4-4 cm in diameter, white to pink with five petals and sepals. The hairy five-chambered seed capsules are egg-shaped, 7-9 mm long; seeds are almond shaped.

Oregon oxalis photosynthesizes at relatively low levels of ambient light (1/200th of full sunlight). When direct sunlight strikes the leaves they fold downwards; when shade returns, the leaves reopen. This process only takes a few minutes and the movement is observable to the eye.

The tangy leaves of Oregon oxalis were eaten by Native Americans, probably in small quantities, since they contain mildly toxic oxalic acid (hence the genus name).


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 6-8in
  • Mature Width: 2-3ft
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