Virtues: We love Asarum canadense for its velvety, heart-shaped rich green foliage that grows pleasantly low to the ground in shady locations—making the perfect groundcover for shade gardens under trees. In spring, a solitary dark, reddish-brown flower blooms close to the ground, at the center of the two basal leaves’ stems. These peculiar flowers are often concealed beneath the expansive foliage.
Common name: Wild ginger; Canadian wild ginger; Canadian snakeroot; Indian ginger. The root of this captivating groundcover has a scent and flavor reminiscent of true ginger—giving rise to the name wild ginger.
Botanical name: Asarum canadense
Flowers: In spring, a single cup-shaped burgundy flower, with 3 united sepals, blooms at ground level between the middle of each pair of leaves. The flowers are usually obscured from view by the sprawling foliage.
Foliage: Two broad, furry, heart-shaped dark green leaves emerge from each rhizome. The leaves have veining that contributes a textured effect..
Habit: These herbaceous perennials typically reach 6 to 12 inches high with a slightly larger spread.
Season: Asarum canadense is a striking deciduous groundcover for spring and summer interest.
Origin: Native to eastern North America.
How to grow Asarum canadense: Wild ginger is most successful in moist, slightly acidic, rich, well-drained soils. They thrive when planted in part to full shade with regular watering. USDA Zones 4–6.
Image: Michael Wolf
Learn step-by-step how to successfully grow a shade garden with the Garden How-To University: Shade Gardening.
The Horticulture: Gardening In the Shade CD offers great strategies for gardening in the shade.
Grow beautiful, low-maintenance perennial gardens successfully in shade with helpful tips from Top Ten Lists for Beautiful Shade Gardens: Seeing Your Way Out of the Dark.
The Horticulture September/October 2012 Issue (Digital Download) focuses on plants and design ideas down low to the ground.
Perennials is an indispensable reference to more than 2,000 perennials.