gardeners/landscapers: recommend native grass-like plant for MD

As the title says, we are looking for some type of native grassy or ground-covering plant that will do well in a shaded area. We have a lot of mud right now since the yard gets tons of foot traffic.

We’re in Maryland; the soil in the yard is very clay-ey. When we get rain it remains very damp because we have so much shade.

Any thoughts/suggestions?

Shady, eh? Just off the top of my head, there’s pachysandra, bishop’s weed, thyme, or hosta. Ferns will grow there. Have you considered intentionally growing moss?

There aren’t too many plants that will tolerate tons of foot traffic. Can you control/direct that with stepping stones or gravel and plant the remainder? AskNott has some good choices above and I would add Ajuga, Liriope and Vinca. I would combine a few different types and divide and replant the more successful for the less so in the future. You should plant the lower ones near the walk area and larger on the outer areas. You could select some larger Hostas to give you more coverage. Do you have a photo(s) of the area?

Hostas, Vinca, Ferns et al

Vinca minor

Vinca & Hostas

Ajuga & Acorus or Liriope

Liriope spicata

Some good suggestions have been made. Liriope is the only semi-grasslike plant that’s been mentioned.

If the situation is seasonally (or permanently) soggy, in shade, with bad clayey soil and gets foot traffic, forget about growing plants and think about mulch instead.

If people and animals can stay off it, variegated bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria “Variegatum”) is about the toughest ground cover I can think of. It is also an aggressive spreader (not a problem if there isn’t lawn or other valued planting that it can invade).

I think moss or ferns may be our best bet.

We actually have bishop’s weed in the slightly sunnier areas of the yard and it hasn’t spread to the areas where we’re hoping to grow something. Liriope looks great but the fact sheets specify well-drained soil.

The foot traffic stems from the fact that our yard is a convenient shortcut to the middle school and its playing fields–we are fine with this because the kids are generally well-behaved. I’ve been thinking of putting down some type of gravel path or stepping stones to guide them toward one side of the house.