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Need English Ivy replacement in shade Metro DC

Posted by shadysite 8 (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 22, 10 at 15:38

We moved into a house that has a sloping backyard populated by beech trees with high rising root systems and English ivy, forsythia, azalea, and the invasive Asian honeysuckle tree. We pruned the beech trees to allow a very small amount of sun, but they are 50-75 years old so we're not cutting them. We love the azaleas and have added to that. I clear English ivy and wild rose whenever I get a chance, but


We've tried Allegheny pachysandra and peaberry -- both native to our woodlands area and very slow growing. We have a good stand of native may apple which I hope will spread. We found some Virginia sweetspire and chelone on freecycle, planted them in the fall, and have hopes despite the fact that everything is still under three feet of snow.

Any other suggestions? The area slopes to Rock Creek, so we would like to absorb as much water as we can; the soil is dense clay but we have been building it up by composting leaves and creating some natural log terracing to add to the humus content; we do have a few patches of crocus which surface the spring after we've ripped out an area of ivy.

Forgot to add....I am increasingly allergic to poison ivy, so my husband has tried to pull as much of that as we find, but it seems to spread each year!

Thanks in advance to the wonderful participants in this forum, Lisa

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Need English Ivy replacement in shade Metro DC

Clematis is supposed to do well in shade and my mom just showed me a picture of a new purple clematis that grows like a ground cover. It was very pretty. I don't remember what magazine it was in, but I'll ask her.

RE: Need English Ivy replacement in shade Metro DC

Virginia sweetspire (Itea) will be good because it suckers and that will help to hold the slope. Other native suckering shrubs that are shade tolerant are: Calycanthus floridus (sweetshrub), Corylus cornuta (beaked hazelnut), and Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum).

Groundcovers to consider: Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), gingers (Asarum sp. and Hexastylis sp.) and foamflower (Tiarella).

Closer to the creek you can use more wet tolerant plants like cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea ), Viburnum nudum, and spicebush (Lindera benzoin) - these also create dense root systems.

RE: Need English Ivy replacement in shade Metro DC

Lamium is a great plant for a shade groundcover:

could also try this version:

Mazus reptans is another one that spreads well in shade:

RE: Need English Ivy replacement in shade Metro DC

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7b, NC (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 23, 10 at 13:19

Most ground covers take some time to get established...and then take off. Rule of thumb is "1st year sleep, 2nd year creep, 3rd year LEAP."

Are deer an issue? This will greatly affect my answer.

RE: Need English Ivy replacement in shade Metro DC

Thanks, You all are amazing! lavender_lass, the clematis I've tried haven't been happy in our amount of shade, but also, the raccoons seemed to dig them up quite a bit. Perhaps I'll try again and surround them with chicken wire to discourage critters, especially if you send me a link to the groundcover one.

Esh ga, we bave been considering viburnum acerfolium so may take the plunge with that and my back neighbor told me last year that she was putting in the hazelnut, although I haven't seen it across the fence yet. I'll check out the calycanthus floridus and we are definitely going with some ferns and transplanting some of the asarum I already have in another area. Tiarella hasn't cooperated in another area but that may be a dryness issue. I'll definitely try some of the water soaker plants too!

Puffie, beautiful color on all three of those and I have a promise of some lamium and will look for more trades.

Mjsee, I'll keep the take off point in mind! One more year! I want it to happen, but the person who gave me some of the allegheny spurge also felt it was really slow to expand and she'd had it ten years.

Lots of deer in the area, but our backyard is fenced and many neighbors are fencing, so I'm not worried about deer particularly; we have a bit of a protecteed zone. I have to be very careful about what I put in the front. I have a nice selection of hostas in one area in the back closer to the house, but have been told they don't do so well on the water uptake. I am trying to put as many native North American plants on that particular slope because I think they will be most adapted to the beeches and do the best job at absorbing the immense amount of water that cascades down in heavy rainfalls.

You are all wonderful and many thanks!

RE: Need English Ivy replacement in shade Metro DC

This is more than a year later, but Chrysogonum virginianum, or Green and Gold, is native and makes a great shade groundcover, it grows really fast.

Here is a link that might be useful: More info here

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