A friend recently asked me what kinds of plants are good for a shady yard. Several came to mind right away as most of my yard up near the house is shady. In my shade gardens I have Hostas, Hydrangeas, Strawberry Begonia, Azaleas, Columbine, Phlox, Spider Lilies, Heuchera (Coral Bells), Bleeding Hearts, Japanese Maples and Rhododendron. (I love the Spider Lilies, as they surprise me by showing up overnight late in the summer). These are all perennials, do very well here in Zone 8A and give me color from spring until fall. I also have Rosemary and Chocolate Mint growing in the shade. You do have to be careful about the Columbine and the mint. Both can be invasive (the mint is the worst), but I have both of these growing in an area that we have trouble keeping the weeds out of, so I am really hoping they do take over and choke out the weeds. I have also found there is one type of Hydrangea that does not do well in shade and that is the Paniculata type. The plant does well, but you won’t get any flowers in the shade.
When I was asked this question, I decided to do some research and found that there are a lot of perennials that will thrive in shade and, when combined, can give you beautiful color all summer. Besides those listed above, you can plant Astilbe, Daffodils (and other blooming bulbs), Virginia Blue Bells, Brunnera, Hellebore, Pulmonaria, Lenten Rose, Lupine, Primrose, Jacobs Ladder, Snowdrops, and an unknown called Tiarella or Foamflower. Caladiums are considered shade loving perennials, but in my area, I have to dig them up before the first frost and replant them the next spring. There are several shade loving shrubs beside Azaleas too. These include Yews, Sweet Bay, Boxwood, Cherry Laurel and Holly. There are also some herbs (besides Rosemary) that do well in shade, like Parsley, Cilantro, Chives, Basil and Thyme. If you want to try to grow vegetables in shady areas, stick with those that are grown for their leaves instead of their roots or fruits, such as Chard, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens, Spinach and some leafy lettuces.
One other thing I didn’t know is that there are over 2500 varieties of Hostas. You could have an entire Hosta garden with all kinds of beautiful color! I may have to start a new bed…hmmm.
I never had realized before just how many shade loving perennials there are. Be sure to check with your local nursery to see which of these plants will do well in your area. They may also have suggestions for other plants that do well in shade.
What is your favorite shade loving perennial?