Best plants for shady areas

by Susan Klatz Beal

When my mother had to redesign her garden several years ago, she was faced with the need to find things that would do well in mostly shady areas. Since she wanted variety, it was a challenge to find plants that would prove to be interesting, but that would do well in a place that had filtered and dappled light at best.

One of the things she had before the redesign began were ferns. She had Northern maidenhair ferns, Japanese painted ferns, ostrich ferns and some lady ferns. She also had a couple of bleeding hearts. The bleeding hearts are nice because they add a touch of color.

Lamium and liriope are both good for shade. The variegated varieties of lamium are the most interesting. Different varieties of lamium have different color flowers that range from white to deep pink. Lamium is well suited to partial shade, but can grow in full shade. The main requirement for successfully growing lamium is that the soil be rich in organic matter and that it drains well.

Liriope looks like a tall grass. Although liriope grows well in partial shade, it will be more likely to produce flowers when grown in full sun. The flowers grow up in spikes, not unlike the way grape hyacinth flowers grow from a spike. Lirope is cold hardy and spreads in clumps. Because it never gets very tall, it is often used as a ground cover.

Heuchera, more commonly known as coral bells is a lovely perennial that is very well suited to shady conditions. Its growth habit is such that it grows in smallish mounds. The mounds don’t get very tall, but the flower spikes that grow from the mounds can be anywhere from 16″ to 24″ tall. There are several varieties of heuchera, some of which have different colored foliage. The foliage colors remain most vibrant when these plants are kept away from the brightest and hottest afternoon sun.

One of the most interesting and colorful perennials for shade is astilbe. The contrast of green leaves and bright colored flower spikes is especially striking when astilbe is planted in masses. One of the nicest features of astilbe is that the flowers start to appear in late spring and continue well into July. Astilbe demands moist soil and will not survive when soil is allowed to dry out. It also prefers soil that is rich in organic matter.

Another interesting shade loving perennial that is not very well known is pulmonaria. Because of its interesting foliage which is typically speckled, and small bell like flowers, it makes an outstanding companion to hostas or ferns. Because pulmonaria

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