June 22, 2011

unique plants for a shade garden

Back when I was planning my backyard garden, I got pretty obsessed with finding the prettiest, most uncommon plants for my very shady space beyond the typical ubiquitous choices like hostas, ferns, lily of the valley, and bleeding hearts. All of which I have in my yard and love, by the way. It's just that I also wanted some variety, and some uniqueness in the shade. Here's what I came up with, some of which I've already incorporated, and some of which are still on my to buy/plant list.

from left to right: 1. bergenia 2. hellebore 3. chinese ground orchid

Have you planted any varieties of these? Are there others I should know about? What's your favorite shade garden plant?


Anonymous said...

I use sweet woodruff as a shade ground cover and hostas. Impatients are a nice shade annual with wonderful colour too.

Rene said...

Lenton roses are one of my favorites! The ground orchid is really pretty and one that I have never seen before. Nice round-up!

hollyG said...

This is on my to-do list to do more research on this topic, so this is perfect! I always just think of hosta but there are so many other great options (as you've shown). I love the checkered lily.

Carrie @ Hazardous Design said...

Thanks for compiling this list. Outside of Hostas and Bleeding Hearts I have no idea what else to plant in my shady areas.

My Little Bungalow said...

This is wonderful because much of our yard -- both front and back -- is shady, so these ideas are most welcome. I love ferns, and of course hostas work nicely in shade. I also have coral bells with variegated leaves which I love. They have the sweetest little pink spring blooms. I've tried astilbe but it wasn't successful in our garden. Thanks for the ideas!

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

I love lily of the valley, thanks for reminding me of this. We had it at our first home and it smelled amazing. I always looked forward to the time when it was in bloom.

Fran said...

These are all so beautiful and foreign (and intimidating) to me. Well, now I know who I need to contact when I need help gardening!!

Kim@Chattafabulous said...

My mom has a huge bed of hellebores that have naturalized over the years. They are so beautiful in late winter when everything else is still sleeping!

Kristina said...

My husband is obsessed by Sweet Woodruff — it's so fast-spreading I'm afraid it will be a problem in a couple of years, but it does pull out easily enough, and it keeps the weeds down beautifully. I also like pulling up clumps of naturalized violets from the lawn and replanting them in the shade garden.

My other shad-loving favorites are:

Ligularia Britt-Marie Crawford - a large-leafed burgundy-to-black foliage plant

All kinds of pulmonaria (I find the white polka-dotted leaves just charming)

Brunnera Jack Frost and Looking Glass - large leaves with a silvery-white overlay, like deadnettle

Japanese Forest Grass - such a workhorse, and its golden cascades add depth in sun or shade.

casey at loft and cottage said...

Kristina, thanks so much for your feedback. Many of your suggestions are very new to me, so I will definitely check them out, esp. the ones that'll add some different color into the garden, like the forest grass and the ligularia. Thanks!

p_thibodeau said...

Sweet woodruff is really a wonderful groundcover, like the other commenters have said.

The brunnera also fits nicely with other shade plants.

Any species of corydalis will add some long-lasting blooms and give you a nice forest wildflower look.

Of all the herbs, lemon balm and mints are quite shade tolerant. Most mints spread like crazy, but lemon balm stays neat and smells wonderful.

We have some wild geraniums (cranesbill geranium) in a part of the yard that gets only two hours of morning sun per day, and they do amazingly well there.

Final suggestion: go to a big nursery and buy a selection of the more exotic looking hostas (1 or 2 of each) and plant them all together, replacing the boring looking ones.

Nice blog you have, Casey!

casey at loft and cottage said...

Wow, Phil, thanks for your awesome (expert-like) recommendations! I'm printing this out to take with me to the nursery!

Anonymous said...

What are some good shade plants that will do well in a 10-12 in window box?

Anonymous said...

Blood root is a nice option for shade. They bloom early and have a pretty, really different leaf shape. I use those along with Mayapple for forest gardens. Calla lilies are exotic and beautiful looking but depending on your zone, you may have to bring in the bulbs.

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