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Plants for Shade FAQ
by Kay Easton and Karen Mountford
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Dense Shade with Dry Soil

Shade FAQ:spacerMain Page | Climbers | Shrubs | Perennials


Climbers
Name Common name Comments
Hedera helix Ivy Self clinging but also makes good ground cover. Will succeed in very difficult conditions but may need watering for the first year. - one of the few things to survive under leylandii cypress. Many silver and gold variegations available.


Shrubs
Name Common name Comments
Cotoneaster   Evergreen shrubs with tiny scented white flowers and red berries. Many species and cultivars available from ground hugging to spreading small trees. Some species need to be kept firmly under control
Eleagnus pungens & x ebbingei   Many cultivars of evergreen shrub with silver leaves or green with yellow variegation. Has highly scented inconspicuous flowers in autumn. Doesn't like chalk soils.
Hypericum calycinum Rose of Sharon Large yellow flowers, spreading ground cover. Virtually indestructible, looks less tatty if strimmed at the beginning of the year. (One of Kay's pet hates).
Ilex Holly various species and varieties. Prickly shrub many variegations and leaf shapes available. Good evergreen, wind resistant hedging but some species not hardy in very cold areas. Berries produced on female varieties only, and only if there is a male nearby for pollination.
Mahonia aquifolium Oregon grape Scented yellow flowers in spring, purple berries with attractive bloom in autumn. Prickly, holly like leaves. To about 3 ft. Much more delicate than the 'architectural' species, and to Kay's eye, more attractive.
Mahonia various species and cultivars, such as 'Charity'. Evergreen shrubs which grow in witches gardens with sweet smelling yellow flowers in winter. Popular with gardening pundits as architectural plants, but one of Karen's pet hates. Kay is not that fond of it either!


Perennials
Name Common name Comments
Alchemillia mollis   Soft rounded leaves, frothy lime green flowers. Seeds abundantly and can be invasive. Forms mounds about 18in wide and 12 in high
Aquilegia - various species Granny's bonnets / Columbine Perennial forming clumps of pretty green or greyish leaves with taller stems of bell shaped flowers, mostly with distinctive spurs. Vary in size from 6" alpines to 2', and in colour from yellow, red white and blue including combinations. Tend to be short lived but seed readily and cross breed prolifically. Many will survive in very dry and shady spots especially if sown in situ.
Digitalis Foxglove biennials or short lived perennials with basal rosette of leaves and a tall spike of flowers in shades of white, cream, yellow, pink, purple, orange……Native species D purpurea is very free seeding
Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Rubra'   Reddish shoots on greyish green evergreen plant. Has very long lasting heads of green flowers in spring. Can be invasive.
Euphorbia characias   Greyish foliage large heads of lime flowers last for ages in late winter and spring. Gets large - about 4ft. Needs shelter from strong wind. Happy in sun too.
Euphorbia robbii   Lime green flowers, spreads by runners, invasive.
Geranium (genus)   Many hardy species and cultivars are suitable for shade, some are specifically mentioned below but others are worth trying. Many come easily from seed and many flower for long periods. Jill Bell is the resident expert :-)
Geranium macrorhizum   Various cultivars with slightly different coloured flowers on a theme of pink. Excellent spreading ground cover, easy and reliable flowerer.
Geranium nodosum   Shiny green leaves with sparse flowers in purple or lilac. Easy even in dry shade.
Helleborus corsicus   Pale green long lasting flowers in late winter and spring, attractive evergeen heap of toothed greyish leaves, reputed not very hardy, variegated forms available. Slow to establish in dry sites. Seedlings readily produced
Helleborus foetidus   British native. Lime green long lasting flowers on dark green finger like leaves.
Heuchera sanguinea   Evergreen clumps of leaves with various silver veinings, purple shadings or grey to pewter bloomed surface. Spikes of small flowers in shades of cream, green or pink in spring. Some cope better than others with dryness.
Liriope muscari   Spikes of lavender flowers in autumn from clumps of grassy leaves. Prefer acidic soils not water logged.
Pulmonaria Lungwort Low heaps of deciduous leaves plain green, or spotted or marked with silver. Spring flowers in shades of red, pink, purple blue or white. Will just about survive summer dryness dying back and resprouting in autumn but better with constant moisture.
Tiarella cordifolia   Vigorously spreading, hairy green leaves and dainty panicles or white flowers. Protect from excessive winter wet. Best in moist soil but reputed to tolerate wide range of conditions.
Vinca major periwinkle. Creeping, green or variegated foliage, purple or white flowers. Good ground cover. Tolerates dryish soils. Invasive, roots where shoot tips land.
Vinca minor periwinkle. Creeping, green or variegated foliage, purple or white flowers. Good ground cover. Tolerates dryish soils. Less invasive than Vinca Major
Viola   Various species and cultivars of perennials, annuals and biennials which need varying conditions. Many crosses and cultivars have bigger leaves and hold their flowers clear of the foliage, making more interesting garden plants.
Viola odorata Sweet Violet Native violet, slow spreading clumps of low growing heart shaped leaves, with small intensely sweet smelling flowers in shades of mauve, pink or white.
Viola riviniana   Purple leaves, mauve flowers, unscented violet. Spreads easily by seed even in dry shade.
Waldsteinia ternata   Low growing ground cover with small yellow flowers in spring. Spreads steadily but well mannered and not invasive.

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