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Shade Lovers


It is important to consider which plants are placed in each type of lighting conditions, especially when planning a garden for the shaded, empty back corner of the yard. Whether you are looking for a tree for some added height for perennials to add some color, there are plants that will bring life to that forgotten spot.

Perennials :: There is more to a shade garden then just hostas!

Ajuga (Bugleweed) :: Groundcover with burgundy/bronze foliage that become so dense weeds can not grow up through. Flowers in late spring.

Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle) ::Low maintenance groundcover with velvet foliage. Yellow flowers in late spring are excellent for dried flower arrangements.

Anemone (Windflower) :: Versatile plant with varieties that flower in the spring or summer. 'September Charm' flowers true to its name with a soft pink flower in the late summer/early fall. 'Snow Drop' is a shorter variety with a white flower in the spring.

Aquilegia (Columbine) :: Great for borders and naturalized settings. Combine with other plants that can cover up their foliage in the summer. There are several varieties available is almost every color.

Arunus (Goat's Beard) :: A perennial with Astilbe-like flowers and foliage. The larger variety can reach up to 3' while a dwarf variety stays nice and compact at 6". Both varieties have creamy-white flowers.

Astilbe :: A wonderful summer flowering perennial that does well as a border plant or in larger masses. It can handle moist, almost boggy soils. Large feathery flowers come in a range of colors from white to red, and purple to pink.

Bergenia (Saxifrage) :: An evergreen with large waxy green leaves that turn a burgundy color in the late fall/winter. Flowers in the spring with white, pink, and hints of red. Does well planted as a large mass.

Brunnera (Bugloss) :: Brunnera is a perennial that is grown for its interesting foliage. The textured leaf is not bothered by rabbits or deer. Foliage colors range from silver and blue to variegated white and green. The late spring flowers are similar in color and size to forget-me-not's.

Carex (Sedge Grass) :: This shade tolerant grass has thin spiky foliage and fall flower spikes. The 'Ice Dance' variety has a variegated leaf that gives some color interest all spring and summer.

Ceratostigma (Plumbago) :: A groundcover with beautiful, true blue flowers in the summer. The bright green leaves change to a red color in the fall.

Cimicifuga (Bugbane/Snakeroot) :: Tall wand-like flowers reach upwards to 5' in height during the late summer. The dark burgundy/purple foliage has an airy feel that adds another lay of color to the garden.

Convallaria (Lily of the Valley) :: A vigorous growing groundcover has fragrant white bell-shaped flowers that appear just about the foliage. Lily of the Valley does extremely well under trees and other dry areas.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) :: This unique flower is now available in a wide range of sizes and colors. The smallest of the lace-leaf varieties only reaches a height of 6", while some can grow up to 18". The lace-leaf varieties also have a bluish foliage and long blooming flower that adds color to the garden from April-October. The old-fashion, large leaf varieties can have light green or yellow foliage and pink or white flowers.

Epidmedium (Barrenwort) :: A vigorous spreading perennial with flat, pointed leaves that turn red in spring. The small light yellow or white flower appear in the spring.

Ferns :: All ferns grow extremely well in areas that only receive 2-3 hours of sunlight. For the best results, grow them in a moist area that does not dry out for extended periods of time. Ferns are ideal for creating a back drop or using a few for a interesting focal point.

Gallium (Sweet Woodruff) :: This groundcover has tiny white flowers in May and June. The uniquely shaped green foliage has many culinary uses and are often dried for use in sachets. Sweet Woodruff does best in fertile, moist soil.

Hakonechloa (Hakone Grass) :: The 2009 Perennial of the Year. This bamboo-like foliage has bright green, yellow, or white striped leaves. During the fall the leaves change to have a reddish-pink tint. It is perfect for add a bit of bright color and texture interest to the darkest part of your yard.

Helleborus (Lenton Rose) :: This drought tolerant perennial does great under large shade trees. The flowers appear in the later winter and often hold on for 5-6 weeks. Many new varieties are now available in almost every color. Many varieties are grown as a mix and provide several different colored blooms with each plant.

Heuchera (Coral Bell) :: Several coral bells do well in a part shade, however they will lose their color and become thin in too much shade. Just like hostas, the number of different coral bells available is becoming a very large list.

Hosta :: The selection of hostas has grown to an unimaginable amount. No matter what color, shape, or size you are looking for there is bound to be at least four or five you will like.

Lamium (Dead nettle) :: This groundcover fills in empty spots in your garden, while still providing bunches of color. The white or pink flowers appear in the spring time.

Ligularia :: A bold perennial with large green or purple leaves, that can reach heights of 3-4'. The yellow flower spikes reach up in the summer and add most of the height to the plant. They do require some moisture and do not like to dry out.

Lobelia (Cardinal Flower) :: Another perennial that does not fair well in the dense shade, but is quite happy in the part shade. The red flower spike appears in mid-summer, extending up to 3-4' tall. There is a blue flowering variety, but can be difficult to find.

Pachysandra :: A dense, dark green, evergreen perennial. Pachysandra is perfect for low maintenance areas that you want to plant and virtually forget about.

Polemonium (Jacob's Ladder) :: This perennial is excellent for its colorful foliage. Most varieties have a white and green variegated leaf, while some have a dark green and purplish color. Jacob's ladder is a long bloomer, with a blue to purple flower holding on for most of the summer.

Polygonatrum (Solomon's Seal) :: A wonderful plant for heavily shaded, dry areas. The leaves have creamy white edges that arch up from the base of the plant.

Pulmonaria (Lungwort/Bethlehem Sage) :: Another excellent plant for dense shade. The fuzzy textured leaves are ignored by rabbits and deer. Pink or purple flowers arrive in the spring, but the color of the leaves usually take the stage. With either a solid or spotted silver leaf they almost shine in the dark corners.

Rodgersia (Rodger's Flower) :: A mostly unheard of perennial, Rodgersia does well in moist, boggy spots. The large 12-14" leaves are stunning when they change to a reddish-bronze in the fall. During the spring and summer the white or soft pink, feathery flower adds another layer of texture.

Viola (Violet) :: These perennials, similar to the annual pansy, are a long bloomer that has flowers from spring into early fall. During the high heat of July they tend to slow down, but quickly pick back up again when the weather cools off. The shortness of the plant make it perfect for borders or accents in containers.

Aronia (Chokeberry) :: A beautiful upright shrub that can function as a deciduous screen or accent plant. It does extremely well in moist, boggy location. In the spring white flower clusters cover the shrub, which will later produce red or black fruit in the fall/winter. During the fall the foliage also changes to a reddish-orange color.

Buxus (Boxwood) :: A small broadleaf evergreen that is most commonly used for hedges. They are very tolerant of a partial shade and will provide the foundation of your house or any other spot a bit of winter color. The best part of the boxwoods are the variety of sizes available, there is bound to be a variety that will grow to the ideal size for your location.

Callicarpa (Beautyberry/French Mulberry) :: Beautyberries do die back in the winter, however they flower and fruit on new wood so an annual trimming back to 8-12" is perfect. In the later summer through the fall small purple berries seem to cling to the stems and branches. These berries persist into the winter adding a splash of color to the otherwise empty landscape.

Calycanthus (Sweetshrub/Allspice) :: This spreading shrub is still somewhat uncommon and underused in today's landscape. The unique reddish-maroon flowers appear from May through the summer and have a sweet fragrance. Some describe the fragrance as a mix of melons, strawberries, pineapples, and bananas. Urn-shaped fruit are sporadic, but usually appear in the summer.

Clethra (Summersweet) :: The most note able feature about this plant is the fragrant of the summer flower spikes. A spicy, ginger smell is especially great on the 'Ruby Spice' variety. All summersweets to extremely well in clay soils and shaded areas, but they will thrive in full sun. It is a must have plant for every gardener.

Cornus (Dogwood) :: Most varieties will survive in shaded conditions, but they thrive the best in full sun. Please take in to consideration the varieties needs before planting it in too much shade.

Deutzia :: These low mounding shrubs have beautiful cascading flowers in the spring. Both varieties we grown only reach 2' in height, making it a perfect border plant. They thrive in morning sun and afternoon shade, and will adapt to drier soil conditions.

Dirervilla (Bush-Honeysuckle) :: This low growing shrub is a great filler plant for sunny or shaded areas, especially for spaces with poor soil. The foliage emerge a bronze-purple color in the early spring, changing to a green or variegated color, and back to a red-purple again in the fall.

Fothergilla :: Fothergilla's multi-season interest puts it on a list of popular plants for mass or specimen plantings. White bottlebrush flowers emerge in April and May, before the dark green leaves. The dense foliage almost has a blue-green color during the summer. The best time of year is the fall when the leaves change to a red, orange, and sometimes purple color.

Hammamelis (Witchhazel) :: These large shrubs are enjoyed for their late winter flowers, which usually appear in February or March. The leaves are similar to fothergilla, just larger in size, and also change to a spectacular show of colors in the fall.

Hydrangea :: All hydrangeas thrive in a partial shade. Most of the mopheads and lace cap varieties prefer a morning sun and afternoon sun. The paniculata varieties will handle full sun, but may require extra watering. However, for dense shade the oak leaf varieties are the perfect choice. They are an excellent all season plant, with large dark green foliage that turns bronze-red in the fall. The large white flowers can be left on through the winter to add another layer of texture to the exfoliating bark.

Ilex (Holly) :: There are two types of hollies, deciduous and evergreen. Both do well in shade and produce red berries (remember you need a male and a female to get the berries!). We recommend that the evergreen varieties are not planted in high wind conditions and are protected with Wilt Proof during the winter. Wilt Proof is sprayed on evergreens during the late fall to protect them from moisture loss during the winter.

Itea (Sweetspire) :: A popular plant due to its versatility and adaptability. It can basically grow anywhere in the garden. The best fall color and flower is in the sun, but it still have long white flower cluster in June and red fall color with a partial shade.

Kerria :: A very stubborn plant that will grown where nothing else seems to. Even in the densest of shade it will produce bright yellow flowers. After it is down flowering it can be cut back down to 6" to keep from getting too leggy.

Rhododendron (Azalea) :: Both rhodos and azaleas can tolerant some shade, but will obviously flower the best in full sun. Some varieties are evergreen or semi-evergreen. The 'PJM' Rhododendron do the best in slightly alkaline soils (clay), but acidic (sandy) soils are the best for all types.

Rhus (Sumac) :: Staghorn sumacs are easily recognized from their common occurrence in ditches and along wooded areas. The large, hairy, red fruit that holds on through the winter is one of the outstanding features. Gro-low sumac is a variety that is popular in the urban and commercial landscape. It is a groundcover that works well in areas that can be neglected and unmaintained. The leaves on the Gro-low have a citrus-like fragrance.

Sambucus (Elderberry) :: When the shrub is found in the natural landscape it has green leaves and white flowers. Several cultivated varieties have purple leaves and flowers with a pink tint.

Taxus (Yew) :: Most people can recognize yews from their wide spread popularity. They can handle a large amount of pruning abuse as well as any soil or lighting condition they are planted in. The dark green, needle-like leaves hold on all winter.

Vaccinium (Blueberry) :: These shrubs with edible fruits make great screens. The branches spread out to form a dense, mounded shape. Blueberries prefer acidic soil with consistent moisture.

Viburnum :: The best part about viburnums is their adaptability and wide range of selections. There is bound to be one or two that would be perfect for the yard. Some varieties, such as the Mohawk, have a wonderful spicy fragrance, while other like the Blue Muffin are popular for their bright blue berries in the fall. Check out our plant profiles for more information about all the viburnums we grow.

Trees :: A great list of trees for shaded spots!

Most understory trees are ideal for shaded areas since they are found growing under large shade trees in the natural landscape.

Acer campstre (Hedge Maple) :: Perfect for urban locations, the hedge maple gets its name from the European practice of using them for hedges. This maple is highly tolerant of drought and heat.

Acer ginnala (Amur/Flame Maple) :: A small, hardy that has a orange to scarlet red fall color. It is not tolerant of clay soils.

Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) :: All varieties of japanese maples do well in a partial shade. However, too much shade can cause the purple leaf varieties to lose some of their color.

Aesculus (Buckeye/Horsechesnut) :: Both buckeyes and horsechesnuts do well in a part shade. While the fall color is nothing to write home about, the spring flowers steal the show. Large white or prink/red flowers stand upright on the branch.

Amelanchier (Serviceberry) :: Another plant with a large selection of varieties. Most grow to 15-25' tall and wide. White flower clusters cover the tree in the early spring, with berries in the summer and red/orange fall color.

Carpinus (Hornbeam) ::A slow growing tree with a columnar or pyramidal shape. The dark green foliage turns to a yellow color in the fall. It is relatively pest and disease free, as well as tolerant of heat.

Cercis (Redbud) :: This understory tree is widely popular for its purple flowers in the early spring. During the summer the large heart shape leaves create a dense canopy before changing to a bright reddish-purple color in the fall.

Chionanthus (Fringe Tree) :: An open tree that is beautiful in the spring when the white flowers cover the tree. The leaves change to a yellow color in the fall.

Cornus (Dogwood) :: Most dogwoods can handle a partial shade, but will thrive best in full sun. Also, most varieties are not tolerant of clay soils.

Fagus (Beech) :: A slow growing tree, beeches are typically grown as specimens. The tri-color beech is popular for its pink and purple color, however it does not like clay soil. For those with clay some of the other beeches would be a better choice.

Ostrya (Hophornbeam/Ironwood) :: A nicely shaped pyramidal tree perfect for street and park plantings. While it is a slow growing tree, it is very tolerant of all soil types.

Parrotia (Parrot Tree) :: A wonderful tree for its multi-season interest. The cream, green, and gray bark shines during the winter. Before the dark green leaves emerge in the spring the maroon flowers stand out against the bark. In the fall the tree appears to be a show of color with purple, orange, and yellow colors.

Tsuga ( Hemlock) :: A great soft needle evergreen that does well in sun or shade. The best location for a hemlock is where it can be protected from strong winds and has a well-drained soil.


While we strive for complete and correct information, not all plants grow true to their form and can not be guaranteed to grow as described.


plant profiles

Curious about the plants we grow? Check out the plant profiles for information on all the trees, shrubs, and perennials we grow.

Shade Loving Perennials

black current columbine

Photo Courtesy of Walters Garden

Jack Frost Brunnera

Photo Courtesy of Walters Garden

Zestful Bleeding Heart

Photo Courtesy of Walters Garden





























Shade Loving Shrubs

Shade Loving Trees