We are often asked, “what perennials can I plant in the shade?”, the options for sun are enormous but in shade we are more limited. Here I will show you five interesting plants for the shady garden, not necessarily the most popular, and I choose to ignore hosta because everybody has this already.
For starters all shade areas are not the same, there are degrees. There is light shade: east open sky. Medium shade east exposure with some over head cover or north exposure open sky. Full shade, heavy cover, close to a north facing structure.
In light to medium shade a few choices include; Bleeding Heart, Campanula, Columbine, Geum, Jacob’s Ladder, Paeony, Primrose, Heuchera and Trollius.
Heavy shade is the most difficult choices more limited; Asitlbe, Bergenia, Hosta, and Soloman’s Seal. Please note that these plants also are fine in lighter shade as well.
Astilbe is one of my favorite perennials and is very popular for good reason. The tiny fuzzy blooms are arranged on plum-like inflorescences range from 6 ” to 4′ tall. There is a multitude of cultivars ranging from 1 – 4′ tall and shades of pink, red mauve and white. They bloom in the spring to early summer and have attractive fern-like leaves. The only caveat is that they don’t tolrate drouhgt and will look rough if grown in dry soil.
2. Jacobs Ladder
Jacobs Ladder( polemonium) grows well in light to medium shade.
This tidy looking plant gets it’s name by alternate leaflts arranged ladder-like along the long leaves, the variegated leaf cultivars are especialy attractive. The most common cultivars you will see have striking blue flwers and make a great addition to perennial beds and mixed borders. The neat looking plants range from 18-24”.
Primrose is colourful, old fashioned favourite, also commonly used as a flowering pot plant. A cheerful harbinger of spring that gives you colour when there might be much going in the garden yet. There are 100’s of species but the tent to like the cooler times of year and often go dormant during high summer.
4. Solomans Seals
Soloman’s Seal is a graceful , tall plant adds an architectural quality due to it’s unique growth habit. The tall arching stems have neatly arranged leaflets each adorned with a greenish-white, pendulous flower hanging from the leaf nodes, a truly elegant sight. The majestic forms a clump spreading by rhizomes in a neat pattern. The perfect speciman plant.
Bergenia is another plant that i really love. The thick, lush leaves have rich, deep burgundy fall colour. The bright pink flowers scape upto about 18” above the foliage. Most effective when planted in large groups.
My apologies if your personal favourite wasn’t described here, this is just a quick overview of what is available with regard to shade. Pop in during the growing months and see for yourself all your choices.