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Groundcover for a Shady, Dry Location with Dogs

We have a small backyard that is fairly shady and dry. In addition, we have two large dogs. Is there a grass that can survive these conditions? Or is there any very low-growing groundcovers that might work? For various reasons, I'm reluctant to resort to wood chips or gravel.

You are not alone. Many homeowners face the challenge of growing grass in shade. Add to this the challenge of large dogs or active children and, as you discovered, you often end up with bare soil.

Poa supina is a shade tolerant grass that will tolerate heavy traffic. A bit hard to find and pricey but may be worth the investment. Or consider a combination of mulch, groundcovers, and grass. Grow grass in the sunnier areas. Consider a shade and traffic tolerant groundcover for the other areas and woodchip mulch for those areas you can’t get anything to grow.

I have had luck growing moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) in heavily shaded and dry areas. Keep the soil moist, not wet, while the plants are getting established. Then sit back and watch it grow and spread. It will creep into areas where it is not invited. I just pull out unwanted plants when necessary. The golden leaf form (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) is less aggressive and brightens up shady locations. Combine it with hosta, ginger and deadnettle (Lamium maculatum) in areas where the dogs don’t run.

You may want to consider increasing the sunlight reaching the ground by hiring a certified arborist to thin out the trees. Investing in professional tree care pays off in the future. They can, if it is possible and advisable, help you increase the light enabling you to grow shade tolerant grass while preserving the trees.


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