Plants for Dry Shade

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Creating a green haven in dry shade ranks among garden-making’s greatest challenges.  While shade itself is far from a liability, the combination of deep shade and dry, often rooty soil presents even the most skilled gardener with significant difficulties.  Altering the environment may be our initial response, and indeed, simple changes can dramatically improve growing conditions.  A program of soil improvement is essential for providing nourishment for roots in a competitive environment.  Judicious thinning of tree branches brings more light to persistently dark places.  It is equally important, of course, to select plants that have proven adaptable to such tough conditions.  By altering the growing environment and choosing appropriate plants, the resourceful gardener can achieve exciting results.

 

To discover what will succeed in your dry, shady garden, look at what grows happily in your local woods.  Beneath the shrubs’ branches runs a host of perennials, from robust coltsfoot, false Solomon’s seal, and sword ferns to dainty trilliums and tiny orchids.

 

Whatever their provenance, woodland plants have similar needs.  All tolerate or even require shade and compete well for nutrients in crowded settings.  Most have low or seasonal water requirements, generally preferring to be wet in the winter and spring and dry in the summer.  Many bloom early or late in the year, when the leaf canopy is thin or nonexistent, and experience most of their active growth in the fall, winter (when roots flourish), and early spring, going dormant as summer heats up.  Shade gardeners soon discover that, because most woodland wildflowers are early bloomers, it takes some effort to develop and extend the flowering season.  The solution is to expand the palette of plants to include a variety of evergreen or semi evergreen shrubs and perennials that will help plantings look furnished at all times.

 

Ajuga – Bugleweed

 

Aegopodium – Snow on the Mountain

 

Astilbe chinensis – False Spirea

 

Alchemilla mollis – Lady’s Mantle

 

Arum italicum – Arum

 

Aster divaricatus – Wood Aster

 

Asarum canadense – Ginger

 

Bergenia cordifolia – Bergenia

 

Brunnera macrophylla – Heartleaf Brunnera

 

Cerostigma plumbago – Leadwort

 

Chrysogonum – Goldenstar

 

Convallaria – Lily of the Valley

 

Dennstaedtia – Hayscented Fern

 

Dicentra eximia – Fernleaf Bleading Heart

 

Dicentra Spectablis – Bleeding Heart

 

Digitalis – Foxglove

 

Dryopteris serythrosora – Autumn Fern

 

Dryopteris marginalis – Evergreen Wood fern

 

Epimedium – Barronwort

 

Euonymous coloratus – Wintercreeper

 

Euphorbia spp. – Spurge

 

Geranium spp. – Cranesbill

 

Hedera helix - Ivy

 

Heuchera Americana – Coral Bells

 

Heucherella – Mini Bells

 

Hosta spp. – Plaintain Lily

 

Lamiastrium – Golden Archangel

 

Lamium – Spotted Dead Nettle

 

Liriope spp. – Lilyturf

 

Ophiopogon – Mondo Grass

 

Pachysandra proc. – Allegheny Spurge

 

Pachysandra terminalis – Spurge

 

Polygonatum spp. – Solomon’s Seal

 

Sedum ternatum – Wood Stonecrop

 

Tiarella – Foamflower

 

Vinca minor – Periwinkle

 

Viola – Wood violet

 

Waldesteinia – Barren Strawberry