Growing Asarum, or what is sometimes called Wild Ginger (although you won’t want to eat it), and these ornamental gingers will definitely appeal to you if you like variegated foliage and shady ground covers. They thrive in a shade garden where a tough ground cover is needed.
- Height: 15 cm (6-8 inches)
- Sunshine: Shade
- Propagation: Division
- Planting Distance apart: 30-45cm (12-18 inches)
- Hardiness: USDA 3
- Flowering: not showy – held under the leaves
- Use: evergreen ground cover (note some of the fancier Asian species have variegated leaves)
- A. Canadense is a native North American species and hardy right down into zone 3. It has light green leaves with heart shaped leaves making it an attractive and easily grown ground cover for the shade to light sun. I had several large clumps growing naturally on the farm along hedgerows where they get the late afternoon sun but are protected the rest of the day.
- The flowers are held down below the leaves and are not something you’ll write home about.
- A. europeanum is notable for its glossy green leaves. They are smaller and more rounded than A. canadense but this plant is regularly sold by garden centers as a shady ground cover. Hardy down to zone 4 and easy to grow in almost any soil, it will require moisture to expand into a ground cover; it does not thrive in dry shade.
- A shuttleworthii is a North American native that has wonderfully dark green leaves with silver markings. It is semi-evergreen and I confess I have killed it in my zone 4 garden. I note that it is rated in various catalogs as either zone 5, 6 or 7 in hardiness. (I’d bet on zone 5)
Grow it in a shade to semi-shade setting in fertile soils and you’ll have success. This is what gardeners call a choice plant.
I note that there are a variety of Asian species starting to enter the market. Unfortunately for my garden, most of these are rated as a zone 6 or 7 plant. And I can’t stretch the boundaries that far on a regular basis.
Watch for A maximum, A naniflorum, A. virginicum and their hybrids. The plant breeders are improving the variegations in the leaves of these species and the plants will certainly charm the unwary gardener.
Asarum is one of the easier and most lovely of the non-invasive groundcovers.