Shady spots in the garden don’t have to be barren. There are so many plants that will thrive in the shade--probably a lot more than you think-- from perennials to annuals. Gardeners can choose ferns, woodland flowers and luxurious ground covers. Whether your shade garden will be an accent or a focal point, here are some plants that should fit right in.
A very pretty shade perennial to consider is bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis). It blooms with pink, heart-shaped flowers in May, but some varieties ― the “fernleaf” types ― will bloom all summer, which makes them a nice addition to an area filled with foliage plants.
Consider the ‘King of Hearts’ variety if you’re looking for a summer bloomer and ‘Bleeding Hearts White’ will bloom from spring through early summer. Most bleeding heart cultivars are hardy to USDA zone 4a.
Another plant that will add a pop of color to the shade garden is the annual ColorSummer Wave® Large Blue Torenia (Torenia ‘SUNrenilabu’). This little plant packs a wallop in not only color but fragrance as well (the leaves, not the flowers). It bears amethyst-colored, viola-like flowers from spring to fall. You’ll love this one for its heat and drought tolerance too.
Epimedium (Epimedium spp.) grows to a height of 12 to 18 inches, making it the ideal ground cover. It blooms in the spring with small red or yellow flowers.
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), a member of the rose family, is another ground cover to consider for those darker places in the garden. It blooms in the summer with small, yellow flowers.
Gorgeous Foliage Plants
No self-respecting shade garden would dare call itself complete without a few striking foliage plants and hostas (Hosta spp.) fit the bill. Hosta keeps a low profile, so it's great for the front of the garden or bed, but you can place them in among the taller plants as well.
Give that barren spot a shot of the tropics by planting a fern or two. Ferns do require rich soil, very much like what you would find in the forest where they grow naturally. They also like moisture so don’t let the soil dry out.
If the shade in your garden is provided by certain trees – the black walnut, for instance – finding plants that will thrive beneath them may be challenging. In the case of the black walnut you’ll need to use plants that are resistant to juglone, a substance it emits that kills other plants. Talk to your local nursery professional for help in choosing the right shade plant.