Shade Loving Perennials

(left to right starting at top: Ajuga, Sweet Woodruff, Hosta, Christmas Fern, Astilbe & Solomon's Seal)

(left to right starting at top: Ajuga, Sweet Woodruff, Hosta, Christmas Fern, Astilbe & Solomon's Seal)

Shade lovers are some of my favorite perennials for the garden.  I wish I had more shady areas in my yard for these beautiful plants.  The photos above show some of my favorite ones.  Ajuga or Bugle weed can be a bit weedy at times, but it works great in areas where nothing else would work.  Plus it can stand up to a bit of foot traffic and helps eliminate soil erosion.  The blooms are fantastic in spring and when planted in masses it looks like a sea of irridescent blueish purple spikes.  My other favorite groundcover is Sweet Woodruff, the star shaped foliage and sweet little white blooms is a must for the shade.  It will tolerate dry shade but during long droughts I will give a bit of supplemental watering to keep it going strong.   Hosta foliage comes in a variety of colors, textures, sizes and shapes. I don’t find the flowers of most them that interesting, so I plant it mainly for the lush foliage.  Ferns add texture and interest combined with the other perennials.  Christmas Fern is evergreen but the new fiddleheads emerge each April opening up into a brighter green than the older fronds from the previous year.  At this point I tend to cut back some of the aging fronds.  Astilbe has beautiful foliage as well as gorgeous blooms that brighten up the shady nooks.  There are a variety of colors but I prefer the white myself.  It also requires a bit of supplemental watering during extended dry periods.  The more shade it gets in my garden the more drought tolerant I’ve found it to be.  Last but not least is the wonderful variegated Solomon’s Seal.  It multiplies happily in my garden every year and the tiny white bells on the underside of the branches are quite sweet if not long lived.  Supposibly it produces blue berries after the flowers have faded, but I’ve never seen any on mine in the 5 or 6 years I’ve grown it.  However the foliage continues to look good throughout the summer into early autumn.  This is a short selection of what is growing in my garden but they are a few of my favorites.  What are some of your favorite shade loving perennials?


22 responses to this post.

  1. The ferns are so lovely. Yes I agree, when combined with other plants, the garden would have more texture and look more interesting.

    Thanks Stephanie. 🙂 I really love the texture of ferns too, and now they come in so many colors that there is something for everyone.


  2. These are great and so healthy looking, thanks for the info on them too!

    You are quite welcome Darla. 🙂


  3. You wish for more shade, I wish for more sun. What I really wish for is more space, and I would not care if it was sun or shade.

    lol, the grass is always greener in another garden isn’t it Les? 🙂 More space to grow more plants is the best wish of all!


  4. Very lovely! I have all of these, but I must say my ajuga always dies out:( Not sure why. I like all of these too. Turtlehead, heucheras, and corydalis are other favorites too.

    Thanks Tina. I think the Ajuga like alot of perennials needs to be divided every other year or so to keep it going strong. Yep I added Turtlehead to my garden last year & it was pretty cool too. Heuceras are some of my faves as well, especially the purple colored ones. 🙂


  5. Beautiful pictures Racquel! I love hostas, wood fern and coleus in the shade. This weekend my neighbor gave me some of her soloman’s seal. Glad to see that one on your list. I hope it does well in the shade area in back.

    Thanks Linda! Coleus is another great plant for the shade. I think you will love Solomon’s Seal, it multiplies easily (but not aggressively) every year. 🙂


  6. I don’t have that much shade, so I am envious of gardeners who have some of the above mentioned plants…did have some astilbes — either they are hiding or the voles ate them too. I don’t even want to add up $$ to figure out how much has been eaten!!

    I have just a few spots for these lovelies myself. That is a shame about the voles eating your Astilbes. Those pesky things will destroy a garden in no time.


  7. Actually, I have quite a lot of shade, so the first garden I planted here was a shade garden. Hostas have become my favorite shade plant, especially since I can usually divide them every few years and have even more. I love the ferns, too; they are slower to grow here, though. I’m envious of your astilbe! Every year I plant at least one more, and every year it dies. I think it has to compete too much for water with a large spruce nearby. The ajuga is intriguing–I have something very similar growing freely in another area; I’ve been trying to figure out if it is ajuga or a weed–I’ll have to check this out.

    You are lucky to have quite alot of shade. Hostas are great since the multiply so quickly like you said. I’ve done the same with my ferns, but they take a bit longer. The Astilbes really are quite thirsty plants from my experience. This one has been in my garden for the longest and is the easiest out of all the others I’ve planted. I’m glad that I might have helped you with the id of your unknown plant. 😉


  8. I’m like you and I wish I had a few more shady areas to cultivate. Great plants for shade!

    With all those trees you’ve been planting Dave you will have some shady areas in the future. 🙂 Thanks!


  9. I don’t have the variegated solomon’s seal, just the old fashioned green one. It produces interesting berries. I agree about sweet woodruff. My favorite too.

    I’ve never seen the old fashioned green Solomon’s Seal, maybe it’s the one that produces the berries. Thanks Marnie!


  10. Hi Racquel…I have plenty of shade, but not the moist shade that supports some plants…like hosta, most ferns and astilbe! So I love admiring those gardens that do! So here I am admiring your garden and it’s beautiful shade loving plants! gail

    Dry shade can be harder for some of these, but I find that once they get established they will handle it quite well. Thanks Gail, I’m glad you admire my beautiful shade loving plants. 🙂


  11. I love shade gardens! Still trying to grow some shade in the fragrance garden. Ostrich ferns is one of my favorites. It is so tall that it makes a great backdrop to heuchera, hosta and such (that was at a previous home).

    Have a great day!

    I’m sure once your garden gets more established you will have some more shady areas to grow some of your favorites too. I love Ostrich Ferns too, but don’t have the room for these large beauties. 🙂


  12. Posted by greenwalks on April 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Nice shade plants you have there. When I had a shady garden, I wished for more sun. Now I have mostly sun and miss my shade plants! 🙂 Grass-is-always-greener syndrome. I just added some shade plants, deer fern, wintergreen, lungwort, hellebores and others. Epimediums are also pretty good for dry shade, and not sure about zonal requirements but evergreen huckleberry is fun to grow in the shade, I’m hoping for fruit this summer if the birds don’t get it first!

    You can say that again Karen, lol. I guess we all wish for the opposite of what we have in our gardens. 🙂 You’ve added some wonderful shade lovers to your garden recently. Good luck with your Huckleberry, hope the birds save you some berries.


  13. Astilbe are great in a shady garden. The lacy leaves and fluffy plumes look nice next to the solid textured leaves. I planted some solomon’s seal last fall, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they look this spring. I’m very partial to ferns too. Some of my other favourites are Helleborus, Heuchera, Asarum (wild ginger), Pulmonaria (lungwort),lily of the valley, Brunnera, Epimedium (barrenwort), Trillium and bugbane. I’m not sure if these are adapted to your climate, but they all look great in the shade.

    You have some wonderful shade lovers in your garden NS. Your Astilbes were gorgeous last spring. Good luck with your Solomon’s Seal, it has been a wonderful addition to my garden and multiplies happily from year to year without being aggressive. I’ve been wanting to add some of these you suggested especially the Pulmonaria, Asarum & Trillium. I added Helleborus, Brunnera & White Bleeding Hearts this spring. Thanks for the great suggestions. I’m making a list. 🙂


  14. I’ll be glad when we have more shade, there are so many lovely plants we can get. I give “Les” a big Amen on that comment. 🙂 We would love more space. LOL

    It’s hard when you lose shady areas due to loss of large trees. We lost alot of our shade in the backyard gardens due to the lost of a large mature maple in a hurricane about 5 years ago. Yep I think we can all agree with Les. 🙂


  15. My Limelight is looking so good. Can’t wait to see it bloom. I have some toadlily that also is looking great! Then I brought home a ghost fern that has come back and looks healthy. I do have one Trillium(which is a native plant) that is doing good. A friend from work dug it up in the woods and gave it to me.

    I’m so happy for you Susie, I hope you post pictures when your Limelight blooms! Toadlilly is another one of my favorites, why I forgot to mention it I don’t know. Ghost Fern & Trillium are wonderful shade lovers. You are lucky to have such a generous friend. 🙂


  16. I love Virgina Bluebells; I wish they didn’t go dormant, though.

    Those are gorgeous & you would think since I live in Virginia I would have some of those beautiful natives. 🙂


  17. Racquel, you have some wonderful shade perennials. I have several hostasand some ferns, but need to try some of the Solomon’s Seal to fill in some of the bare spots. I just planted some bluebells which do well in the shade and am hoping they multiply quickly.

    Thanks Beckie. I think you will love the way Solomon’s Seal looks combined with Hostas & Ferns. Bluebells are another wonderful shade lover. 🙂


  18. Nice pictures (and plants) Racquel. They are great for showy foliage. I have a couple of them and am starting to find more shade plants with nice blooms like Pulmonaria. A couple others I love for great foliage and a different color are Heuchera (Plum Pudding I have). Oh and Brunnera Jack Frost I love the big silvery green leaves. Nice post and very informative.

    Thanks RG! Pulmonaria is on my list of must plant items this year. Brunnera has been ordered & I am so excited to have it’s beautiful foliage in the garden this year. Plum Pudding is my absolute favorite Heuchera of them all. It really looks great in the shade!


  19. I’m a fan of pretty much the same ones. I love all the ferns. And the hostas. Ajuga is blooming right now. I have some good shade spots, so I will keep all these in mind when I decide what areas I’m planting in.

    We have good taste don’t we Brenda, lol! Glad I could inspire you for your future shady spots. 🙂


  20. Posted by Adrienne on April 14, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Your photos are great! Ferns are my favorite, but I like a different plants for interest. You’ve given me some ideas for our shade bed when we get to it. I also love hosta, but so do my snails!

    Thanks Adrienne! I’m glad I’ve inspired you for your shade bed. 🙂 Ferns are amongst my faves too, and the Hostas can be a bit of snailbait if our springs are too wet when they first start emerging. The ones with textured leaves aren’t as bothered as the smooth leaf varieties though.


  21. Posted by kaelovinlife on May 4, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    great post on shade perennials. unfortunately, i don’t have a lot of shade around my house :-(. i just recently posted a blog on sun perennials. happy monday!



  22. Hehe am I literally the only reply to your great read!?


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