Best Perennials for Shade
As the trees we have planted in our yards mature, the amount of shade in our gardens also grows! Rather than letting sun-loving plants struggle in inadequate light, look at planting an assortment of hardy shade-loving perennials instead. So, let’s take a look at the best perennials for shade.
The absolute classic shade perennial is the hosta. Usually grown for its foliage, it also sends up spikes of blooms in shades of white, lavender, or pink in summer. Hosta plants come in thousands of different varieties. Ranging in size from three inches tall with a spread of six inches and leaves the size of a soup spoon to giants with leaves as large as two feet across, growing four feet tall and ten feet across. This means that whatever the size of your garden, there is a hosta that will fit right in!
Hosta foliage may be solid green or streaked or flecked with different shades of green or cream for additional visual interest. You can plant one hosta as a specimen plant or in a clump to fill in what would otherwise be an empty corner in a shady yard. Since hostas are one of the last plants to emerge in the spring, consider planting a grouping of early-blooming bulbs such as daffodils or tulips next to a hosta. The bulbs will benefit from the sun before the tree’s leaf out, and then the rapidly growing hosta will hide the dying bulb foliage in late spring.
Once you have chosen the right hosta, prepare the planting hole with lots of compost as they are fairly heavy feeders. As they grow, make sure they get about an inch of water a week and mulch with more compost from time to time.
The biggest insect pest affecting hostas are slugs. The most effective way to control them is using copper mesh or wire as a barrier around the plant at the soil level. Slugs will not cross copper as it gives them a form of electric shock.
Do you have a damp, shady spot in your garden? Astilbes are the perfect perennial for you! These stiff, spiky flowers are available in a range of colors from white to red to purple. Once established, they will spread through underground rhizomes, filling in a patch of damp earth with blooms that range from one to six feet high, depending on the variety.
Astilbes prefer a rich, slightly acidic damp soil in the shade, so choose your spot carefully and prepare the planting hole with plenty of good compost and peat moss. Astilbes need a steady supply of moisture, so be prepared to water if the soil dries out.
3. Heuchera (Coral Bells)
The dainty blooms of coral bells start blooming in late spring and continue to mid-summer or longer, depending on the variety. The clumps of heart-shaped leaves remain attractive through to late fall. You can find bright lime green or dark red foliage or leaves with variegated colors for even more interest.
Plant coral bells in fertile, moist soil, and add lots of compost to the planting hole. You will find that they have few insect pests or diseases, and the most you need to do is trim away old foliage in early spring and divide the plants every few years.
4. Bleeding Hearts
Bleeding hearts are a charming, old-fashioned garden flower perfect for a shaded garden. Blooming in mid to late spring, the gracefully arching stems are festooned with tiny heart-shaped blossoms hanging along their length. There are white, pink, and red varieties available.
Bleeding hearts go dormant and disappear by mid-summer, so it is best to place them near a late-emerging plant such as a hosta, which will hide the bare spot. Plant bleeding hearts in compost-rich soil and keep it moist for optimum growth.
Primroses are among the first perennials to bloom every spring. The long-lasting flowers are a perfect companion to spring bulbs. Available in shades ranging from the classic yellow through reds, pinks, and purples, they are recommended for damp, shady spots but will also thrive in drier soils and some sun.
They’re perfect for growing next to a doorstep or walkway where their beautiful flowers can be appreciated when they bloom in early spring.
You can start primroses from seed, but it’s easier to buy plants, especially for beginning gardeners. Enrich the soil with plenty of compost and peat when planting them, and keep them well-watered while they get established. They suffer from very few pests and diseases, and in a year or two, will grow into clumps that can be divided to plant elsewhere.
What Will you Plant in Your Garden?
Whether you are planning a garden in a new house or adjusting your current garden as trees mature and cast deeper shade, there are many perennials to choose from to provide a season-long show of flowers and foliage!