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

Tufted Hairgrass

Tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa)
Deschampsia cespitosa

Tufted Hairgrass is found around the world including the eastern and western coasts of North America, parts of South America, and Eurasia. It is a native, perennial, tussock forming grass found along stream banks and in moist meadows, fields, wet ditches and open areas surrounding lakes and ponds. Tufted hairgrass is a large densely tufted, course, long lived, perennial bunch grass. It has bright green foliage and a large volume of fountain-like seed culms emerging in early spring, making it highly aesthetic. Tufted hairgrass prefer open sites. This grass is rarely, if ever an under story species of temperate forest communities (Brown et al. 1988).

In the Pacific Northwest tufted hairgrass form pure stands in wet and intermittently flooded areas such as tidal mudflats and estuaries plant communities. It grows in seeps bogs, and brackish waters along the coastal waterways. It is very salt tolerant grass and, as a result, is commonly included in many restoration or re-vegetation projects where brackish water exists.

Tufted hairgrass is also a rapid colonizer of disturbed sites at high elevations (8,000 ft – Cascade & Sierra Range). Such characteristics make it valuable for reclamation of disturbed high elevation mines, ski slopes and high elevation meadows. Tufted hairgrass, unlike blue wildrye, is genetically heterogeneous, self-incompatible and requires wind and insect pollinators for effective fertilization. Tufted hairgrass should be included in wetland, restoration projects since it provides very dense nesting foliage and has a very long summer green period. It is also a valuable stream bank erosion plant where long-term stabilization is necessary, and should be established with a nurse crop (blue wildrye, meadow barley, California brome, Alaska brome) or native straw mulch for superior first year establishment.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 2-3ft
  • Mature Width: 1-2ft

Narrow-leaved Mules Ear

Narrow-leaved mules ear (Wyethia angustifolia)
Wyethia angustifolia

Also known as “Narrow-leaved Mule’s Ear” or “California Compassplant”. The inflorescence produces one or more large sunflower-like flower heads at the top of the hairy stem. Large lance-shaped, basal leaves with several smaller, alternate, stem leaves.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing:
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 2ft
  • Mature Width: 1ft

Western Bleeding Heart

Western bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa)
Dicentra formosa ssp. formosa

Bleeding heart’s showy flower resembles a heart split open at the base, releasing its contents. It has delicate-looking fernlike leaves, with pink flowers that bloom from April to June. Bleeding heart prefers rich soil and some shade. It will thrive planted under evergreen trees or along stream banks. Heights of 26 inches can be reached though 12-16″ is more common.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 1-1.5ft
  • Mature Width: 1.5-2ft

Hooker’s Fairy Bells

Hooker’s Fairy Bells (Disporum hookerii)
Disporum hookerii

Lovely, outwards-flaring flowers of greenish-white to cream over deep green leathery foliage, with characteristic long, drip-tips to the leaves.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height:
  • Mature Width:

Broad-leaf Shooting Star

Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii)
Dodecatheon hendersonii

This bulb-producing perennial begins in late winter with thick spoon shaped leaves at the base of the plant. Showy flowers appear in early spring on top of a tall 12 in (30 cm) leafless flower stalk. Flowers are inside out with petals magenta to deep lavender to white, with a white strip before the black fertile part. It blooms February to May and is summer deciduous, dying back to the ground after the rains cease.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1ft
  • Mature Width: 6in
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