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Canadian Wild Ginger, a Dense Groundcover for Shade Gardens

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.

wild ginger asarum canadense

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.