Perennials for Shade
Perennials for shade present a unique set of challenges. Lorraine Roberts, owner of Plant Paradise Country Gardens, shares her knowledge in both of her books, A Recipe for Continuous Bloom and Spectacular Plant Combinations for the Perennial Garden.
Soil is the key to growing healthy plants in sun or shade. Is your garden dry or moist? Most shade gardens are engulfed in trees that compete with perennials for moisture. Healthy, moisture retentive, well drained soil is one of the single most important elements of successful gardening. Creating healthy soil in sandy or heavy clay soil is as easy as adding compost. This improves the soil structure and fertility. By adding compost yearly you will begin to see your plants thrive.
Lorraine cannot emphasize enough how important it is to choose perennials with outstanding foliage in both a shady or sunny garden. Foliage provides texture and colour in the garden and bridges the gap when the flowers are not blooming. Perennials chosen first for their foliage will build the foundation of a shade garden that has all-season beauty. Choosing plants with interesting foliage will create the biggest impact. Foliage with colour and textural interest interest will light up a shade garden. Most shade perennials will benefit from some degree of sunlight.
At Plant Paradise Country Gardens We have created shade gardens of continuous bloom which begin flowering early spring and continues until fall. Many shade perennials are ephemeral, such as Trilliums and Dodecatheon (Shooting Star). They bloom in the spring and then after flowering their leaves die back and the plant seems to disappear only to return every spring. For early spring blooms, Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells) is one of the best native spring ephemeral plants. We plant them between Hostas and other shade perennials for early spring interest. The emerging foliage of the Hostas and other shade perennials will hide the decaying leaves of the ephemeral plants. The book, Spectacular Plant Combinations for the Perennial Garden has a whole section dedicated to beautiful shade combinations. Photographed on location at Plant Paradise Country Gardens.
Heuchera provide year-round foliage interest with the added benefit of flowers. Helleborus are an exquisite early spring bloomer. With many years of growing and trialing perennials in the botanical gardens at Plant Paradise Country Gardens we can recommend the real winners so that you can successfully garden in shade. The perennials featured below have wonderful characteristics that make them some of our best recommendation for shade perennials.