Perennials For Shade

One of the most common problems with shade in the garden IS THE LACK OF IT!?

In a new home, in a new subdivision, where can you grow lush leafy ferns? Astilbes and Hosta? There are so many plants that actually LIKE SHADE! If you can create a garden on the shaded north side of your home, then you can enjoy a broad range of plants that thrive in the shade.


At our latitude in summer, even the north side of the house gets sun. Rising in the far north-east in the morning, it catches the north side and again from the north-west as it sets. Plants on the east and west-side get at least six hours of sun in the summer, sufficient for all plants except the true sun worshippers.

Open Shade
On the north side of the house, but open to the sky. Plants listed for light shade will do well.

Light Shade or Filtered Sunlight
Dappled shade light or shadow areas move with the sun, like under a Locust or Birch. Lawn grass does well, as do most plants. Not shady enough for true shade lovers.

Medium Shade
The north side of the house is further obstructed by overhead branches. A shade-tolerant lawn grass will still grow, and now we can plant Astilbe and Hosta.

Deep Shade
(In the plant list, those for deep shade are indicated “*”)

Permanent, year-round shade from buildings and large evergreens and shade trees. Usually found in the older residential area. Grass will not grow well, but ferns will.

Dry Shade and Moist Shade
Deep shade is often moist since it does not receive the sun’s heat, but it can be dry under large trees that take all available moisture. There are very many plants for moist shade; dry shade is more difficult, but the problem can be overcome by watering and mulching. Good perennials for dry shade are Barrenwort (Epimedium Lamium).

Deep shade is usually found in older gardens where trees are mature. In deep shade, the soil will usually be cool and moist – perfect conditions for Ferns and Hosta.

The large-leafed Hostas are luxurious in the shade, some with glossy, dark green foliage; others are variegated green and white or green and gold. They all have attractive lily-like flowers, mostly in shades of blue. One very nice variety is Royal Standard, with dark green leaves and fragrant white flowers.

Ferns are easy-to-grow, maintenance-free plants that most need or prefer cool, moist shade. As ferns become popular, an increasing number of varieties are appearing at garden centres. Ostrich Fern, Lady Fern and Sensitive Fern have long been favourites. Now available is Japanese Painted Fern, with blue-gray fronds with burgundy highlights, and a colourful Autumn Fern with young coppery foliage. The Christmas Fern and Holly Ferns are evergreen.

Astilbes are the most beautiful plants for shade with their gorgeous plumes of red, pink or white flowers in June and very attractive spring foliage that remains green and handsome all summer – as long as the soil is moist.

Hosta, Ferns and colourful Astilbes will make a very attractive show in combination and are long-lived perennials for a garden in the shade.

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