Perennials perfect for shade gardens

It’s the hidden, shady corners of our landscape that sometimes are forgotten. This is a huge missed opportunity to bring color, texture and interest to your garden. 

Just what is a shade area? Think of the spaces under trees or large shrubs, up against your privacy fence, or even under your porch, where the sun shines for 2-3 hours or less each day. There are countless varieties of shade- loving plants who thrive in these cool, quiet spaces, blooming and growing under conditions other plants could never tolerate.

Here is a short list of Perennial plants that love the shade. Mix these beauties among your larger shrubs and trees. Plant summer blooming bulbs around the perennials for a punch of stunning color.

Screen Shot 2021-06-10 at 1.36.37 PMPycanthemum Blue Mountain Mint Commonly called mountain mint or short-toothed mountain mint or clustered mountain mint, this plant a clump-forming aromatic perennial that typically grows 1-3’ tall. It is native to Eastern North America, where it typically grows in grassy open places, meadows, fields, low woodland areas and occasionally in dry upland woods, but not in alpine areas as somewhat inaccurately suggested by its common name.

Leaves can be used to make mild tea. Native Americans used this plant for treatment of fevers, colds, stomach aches, and other minor physical ailments. 

Summer flowers with underlying silver bracts are ornamentally attractive, particularly when grouped or massed. Best when allowed to naturalize in native plant gardens, cottage gardens or meadows. Also beautiful for herb gardens, border perimeters and butterfly gardens

shutterstock_1907801437Geranium Cranesbill Many perennials are mostly grown for their blooms because their foliage doesn’t offer much interest. Geraniums, however, can have very pretty foliage. Depending on the species, many have deeply lobed and dissected leaves. Some come colors such as gold, burgundy, bronze, gray, and green. Toward the end of the growing season, several species also put on a display of fall colors, showing off orange, red, and yellow.

PlumbagoCeratostigma plumbaginoides Commonly called plumbago or leadwort, ceratostigma is a wiry, mat-forming perennial which spreads by rhizomes to form an attractive ground cover. Typically grows 6-10″ tall on generally erect stems rising from the rhizomes.  Five-petaled, gentian blue flowers appear above the foliage appear in late Spring and last all summer to the frost. Flowers resemble those of woodland phlox.

BrunneraBrunnera is one of the prettiest plants to include in a shady garden. Commonly called Siberian bugloss, false forget-me-not, or heartleaf, this plant’s petite blooms compliment attractive, glossy foliage.  Brunnera plants have leaves that are glossy green or in variegated hues of gray, silver, or white. Blooms appear in early to mid spring.

Brunnera in pitcherWhen growing brunnera, locate the plant in part to full shade, and in well-drained soil that can be kept consistently and lightly moist. Brunnera plants don’t do well in soil that dries out, neither will they flourish in soggy soil. Brunnera reaches 1 ½ feet (0.5 m.) in height and 2 feet (0.5 m.) across and grows in a small mound.

astilbe-vision-purple-2Astilbe False Goats Beard Astilbe flowers can be recognized by their tall, fluffy plumes that tower above frilly, fern-like foliage in the shade garden. These attractive flowers make great companions for other shade tolerant plants, such as hosta and hellebores, with contrasting foliage and coordinating blooms.

Astilbe plants grow in shade, but flowers are more productive in an area where gentle morning or dappled sun can reach them for about an hour or two.Astilbe flowers also need correct soil and moisture to flourish. Astilbes prefer rich, organic type soil. Organic material such as compost enriches the soil and adds drainage.

shade gardenHosta are America’s most popular perennial garden plant for very simple reasons:

  • Hostas thrive in shade
  • they are extremely easy to care for
  • the plants naturally propagate. Hostas are among the very easiest of plants to split up and share with others. A very small piece of root is all it takes to create a new plant. 

Hostas are low-growing, clump-forming perennial plants grown mostly for their lovely foliage, but beyond this, a single description is almost impossible, since there are hundreds of varieties available in a wide range of sizes. The foliage colors can vary from pale yellow to the deepest of blue-greens, with many variegated forms also available. Leaf shapes can be anything from long and sword-like to huge and round with corrugated textures.

HOSTA MULTIPLE shutterstock_122207680Hostas produce blooms on long stalks that extend well above the clumping foliage in late spring or summer, but the foliage is the main attraction. White or purple flowers attract bees and other pollinators like hummingbirds.

Hosta varieties include fast-, medium-. and slow-growing plants. Smaller varieties tend to grow fastest and can reach their mature size in three to five years; larger types may take five to seven years. 

To learn about more varieties of plants that grow in the shade, visit our other blog posts here and here