Ground cover plants that do exceptionally well in shaded areas include ajuga, vinca minor, lamium, houttynia, English ivy, pachysandra, cranesbill geranium, ferns and hostas. Several herbs thrive in partial to total shade, notably European ginger with its spicy aroma, and the textured sweet woodruff, with its delicate white flowers in spring and star-shaped leaf whorls.
The popular shade-loving hosta is available in sizes ranging from miniature to over 3 feet tall, with leaf colors of solid green, variegated green, and white, chartreuse and gold. Hostas bloom at different times during the summer, depending on variety, with purple and white bloom colors.
Ajuga, a creeping evergreen plant, quickly fills in a bare shaded area and prefers fairly moist soil, but they are adaptable to most soil types. Ajuga blooms blue, purple or pink in the springtime and retains its glossy green leaves throughout the season.
A wide swath of lamium is exceptional under a shade tree and fills in completely to inhibit invasive weeds. Lamium varieties bloom in shades of pink, purple, lavender and white, with leaves ranging from green to white edged in green.
For frothy flowers in a shaded spot, astilbe, also known as false spirea, is a perfect perennial ground cover. It spreads to fill in an area with a ferny foliage and summer blooms of pink, white and purple.
Spotted dead nettle, also called lungwort, lights up a moist shady area with its white spotted leaves and pink and purple blooms.