Great Plants for a Shade Garden
When we bought our current home 3 years ago, our backyard landscape was completely new to us. Our entire yard is bordered by a very mature patch of woods, and that means we get a lot of shade. Shade is welcome during the hot days of summer, but we have had to figure out (through trial and error along with online research) how to grow plants in the shade. While I would not consider us to be expert gardeners, I thought I would share some information with you on the great plants to use in a shade garden.
Most gardeners have an area in their yard that is partially or completely in the shade. Finding plants for a shade garden can be tough, but not an impossible task. One thing to remember is where you find certain plants out in nature. For instance, tropical plants are used to being in full shade since they are under the canopy of forest trees every day. If you have warm temperatures in your area, then you can plant tropical plants in your shade garden. Maintaining an evenly moist garden with good drainage that also has filtered sunlight works best for the majority of shade plants.
One of the most fragrant plants and amazing ground cover for shade gardens is Lily-of-the-Valley. They have cute little bell-shaped white flowers that bloom in late spring and do really well with low light. They like a soil rich in humus and filtered sunlight. Lily-of-the-Valley is a great plant to attempt to grow out of season if you like to experiment. This plant has a delicious scent and will perfume the entire area it is planted in.
Hostas are probably the most popular shade loving plant, and it’s easy to see why they are the number one plant that gardeners grow in their shade gardens. We actually inherited more than 8 hosta plants when we moved here (see picture above) and they are some of my favorite plants. Hostas are not known for having beautiful flowers, but they have the most amazingly brilliant leaves. These show stopping leaves come in every shade from dark glossy green to leaves that are variegated in shades of cream and purple. Their lily-like flowers come in colors from lavender to white and even a pale green, and tend to bloom in late spring or late summer. Hostas prefer a moist soil and shade. A few varieties can tolerate a touch of drought.
If you love flowers, grow Astilbe, as it has colorful spikes in shades of pink, white, purple, and red. Astilbe has beautiful foliage and is an excellent plant as finding this variety of color is hard to come by in a shade garden. Group them together in mass for a beautiful border, or let them create a very colorful ground cover that can easily blanket an area. These plants like evenly moist, wet soil and cannot handle drought. One of the best parts about this plant is that they are also pest-free. If you want to cut the blooms and place them in your favorite vase, harvest them when they are half open.
Helleborus are another amazing perennial that blooms in early winter in mild climates and late winter where the soil freezes over. They are often the first flowers to pop up in the garden in the spring. Helleborus like a moist, but well-drained soil in the comfort of shade trees. They prefer a soil that is rich in organic matter such as compost, and even aged leaf mold that comes when the floor is covered by tree debris as the trees shed their leaves. These plants are deer resistant and will spread quite nicely as they mature.
Do you have a shade garden or flower beds at your house? I would love to hear what you like to plant!
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