10 Plants to Make Your Shade Garden Shine

 

shade garden
iStock/Gratysanna

What do you love most about your garden? Whatever your answer, I bet it wasn’t “the shady part.” Most gardeners have at least a small part of their garden that just doesn’t get as much sun as the rest. But what if I went all Morpheus on you and told you that your shade garden isn’t what you think it is. That it can shine as brightly as all the other parts. That once you see it for what it really is, you can’t unsee it. Excellent and terrifying all at once, right? Here are ten plants to make your shade garden shine and help you see through the darkness.

1. Astilbe

Whenever I see the plume flowers of the astilbe I can’t help but think of an Impressionist painter’s paint brush. The dramatic flowers add soft texture and vibrant color to an otherwise boring shade garden. The sturdy, stiff stems of the flowers make astilbe a great flower for your floral arrangements.

2. Begonia

Begonia come in such a wide variety of sizes (from six inches to three feet tall) that they easily meet the confines of your shade garden. Because of this variety of size, begonia are well suited to container gardening as well as traditional garden beds. The possibilities are nearly endless with the diversity of flower shapes that begonia offer.

Perhaps you remember begonia from your grandmother’s garden. Well, the limited colors that she had to choose from have come a long way! Generations ago, gardeners could only choose from green or bronze foliage, but today we have far more diverse color options to choose from.

3. Dead nettle

This low growing plant will spread but not become invasive. It has silver foliage, which offers a great contrast to other garden foliage, and has purple, pink, red, and white blooms in early summer.

4. Foamflower

This plant’s matte leaves offer a visually interesting contrast to other garden plants. Most commonly you’ll find varieties that have bottle brush type flowers that are pale pink-white. Some newer varieties have burgundy-red leaf veins.

5. Hakonechloa (Japanese forest grass)

The graceful foliage of the hakonechloa reminds me of water flowing in a summer stream. The green leaves will get a hint of pink as summer turns to fall. I especially like the fact that this plant spreads gently so it won’t overtake your garden in a year or two. If given too much shade the golden portion of the leaves will turn lime green, but I don’t think this is a bad thing.

6. Heucheras (Coral bells)

I love the variety of leaf colors that heucheras offer. You’ll see silver, burgundy, purple-black, chartreuse, salmon, and rusty orange. In addition to these fabulous leaves, some varieties offer showy flowers on tall, slender stems. I especially like the variety called “chocolate ruffles” both for its scrumptious name and foliage.

7. Hosta

This hard working shade garden staple is reliable year after year. Recently, I had 40 year old ewes removed from all around my house. I replaced them with hosta, and the new look of my landscape is fresher and much more modern than the antiquated evergreen ewes.

8. Hydrangea

I love Hydrangeashydrangeas.com‘s tip for growing these showy plants in pots. They suggest planting hydrangea in pots and then placing the pots on top of soil. This way, after the plant is established in the pot, its roots will grow into the soil, which allows the plant to retain moisture.

9. Japanese painted fern

This plant will offer a wonderful contrast to the deep greens of your shade garden with its silver fronds that have hints of blue and deep red stems. If you live in an especially hot area, be sure that this plant is in the shadiest part of your shade garden.

10. Lungwort

Like the Japanese painted fern, Lungwort’s long, narrow, silvery leaves make it stand out from the pack. In the spring it blooms with showy pink, white, and blue flowers. Sometimes these three colors will all appear on the same flower.

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Chris Hull

Chris is a gardener living in southern Maine.