Shade Gardening

Embrace the shade to create diverse and beautiful gardens.

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Creating a Shade Garden
For the most pleasing effect, arrange plants beginning with the tallest at the back of the garden, or in the center if it is to be viewed from all sides, and filling in with the shortest. You might start by planting a shade-loving understory tree, then arranging groups of broadleaved evergreen shrubs. After these woody plants are in place, add large groups of flowering perennials and underplant them with groundcovers to keep the soil cool and moist. Spring-flowering bulbs often flourish beneath trees, soaking up all the sun they need in spring before the tree leaves emerge. Plant them in large drifts together with the perennials.

Choose white and pastel-colored flowers as well as white-, cream-, or yellow-variegated and gold-and chartreuse-leaved foliage plants, such as hostas and golden hakone grass, for your shady site. These light colors pop out of the shadows rather than receding into the gloom like red or purple flowers tend to do. For more on designing a garden, see the Garden Design entry; for more on landscaping your shady areas, see the Landscaping entry.

With a careful selection and placement of plants, you can transform your dim spot into a cool, flowery retreat. It just might become the best-looking part of your yard.

Plants for Shady Gardens
The wide selection of plants listed here will brighten up any shady corner. Most prefer partial or filtered shade, but some can do well even in full shade. Check plant hardiness of perennials, groundcovers, and shrubs, and choose plants that are hardy in your area. If you have room, consider flowering understory trees like dogwoods and redbuds that do well in woodland conditions.

Annuals
Begonia Semperflorens-Cultorum hybrids (wax begonias)
Browallia speciosa (browallia)
Solenostemon scutellarioides (coleus)
Impatiens wallerana (impatiens)
Myosotis sylvatica (garden forget-me-not)
Torenia fournieri (wishbone flower)
Viola × wittrockiana (pansy)

Perennials
Astilbe spp. and cultivars (astilbes)
Dicentra eximia (fringed bleeding heart)
Dicentra spectabilis (common bleeding heart)
Digitalis grandiflora (yellow foxglove)
Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove; reseeding biennial)
Filipendula ulmaria (queen-of-the-meadow)
Helleborus spp. (hellebores)
Hemerocallis spp. and cultivars (daylilies)
Heuchera spp. and cultivars (heucheras, alumroots)
Hosta spp. and cultivars (hostas)
Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)
Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)
Polygonatum spp. (Solomon's seals)
Primula spp. (primroses)
Pulmonaria spp. (lungworts)
Tiarella cordifolia (Allegheny foamflower)

Groundcovers
Ajuga reptans (ajuga)
Asarum spp. (wild gingers)
Bergenia cordifolia (heartleaf bergenia)
Carex spp. (sedges)
Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)
Fragaria vesca (Alpine strawberry)
Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff)
Epimedium spp. (epimediums)
Hakonechloa macra (hakone grass)
Lamium maculatum (spotted lamium)
Liriope spp. (lilyturfs)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese pachysandra)

Shrubs
Calycanthus floridus (Carolina allspice)
Daphne cneorum (rose daphne)
Ilex crenata (Japanese holly)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Kerria japonica ‘Variegata' (variegated Japanese kerria)
Leucothoe spp. (leucothoes)
Mahonia spp. (mahonias and Oregon grapes)
Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo)
Prunus laurocerasus (cherry-laurel)
Rhododendron spp. and cultivars (rhododendrons and azaleas)
Ribes alpinum (alpine currant)
Sarcococca hookerana (Himalayan sarcococca)
Skimmia japonica (Japanese skimmia)

Plan and create your dream landscape by following this guide!
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