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

Shade FAQ:spacerMain Page | Annuals | Shrubs | Perennials | Ferns | Bulbs

Name Common name Comments
Lunaria Honesty Annual Honesty comes with green or white variegated leaves with white or pink/purple flowers which produce those translucent oval remains of seed pods so beloved of dried flower arrangers. Lunaria rediviva is a perennial with highly scented much less conspicuous flowers.

Name Common name Comments
Berberidopsis corallina   Evergreen shrub good against a wall. Has bright red clumps of small berry like flowers. In early summer.
Camellia   Evergreen, spring flowers in shades from white through pink to red, many varieties available. Susceptible to dropping flower buds. Needs acid soil.
Fuchsia (hybrids) Many and varied Hardy and half hardy deciduous shrubs with dangling flowers in shades of pink, purple, white and red. Some with foliage variegated white or pink. Likely to die back to the base if left outside over winter. Even hardy varieties may die in a hard winter.
Fuchsia magellanica   Hardy shrubs with dainty flowers in shades of purple pink, red and white. Some with variegated foliage. Likely to die back to the base if left outside over winter. Even hardy varieties may die in a hard winter.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'mop head ' hydrangea Pink or blue or white flowered varieties with blue colour only showing on acid soil.

Name Common name Comments
Aconitum Wolfsbane/ monkshood Various species and cultivars with flowers in purple, blue and cream in mid to late summer. All parts poisonous and may cause skin irritation in some people.
Ajuga reptans Bugle Purple and multicoloured variegated forms available. 6" spikes of blue flowers May/June. Creeping ground cover can vigorously overgrow other plants when happy.
Anemone nemorosa Wood anemone, windflower Native wood anemone. Low growing and spreading where happy. Delicate white flowers in spring over deeply lobed leaves or more expensively in shades of light to mid blue.
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.
Asarum europaeum   Evergreen, creeping perennial with kidney shaped glossy leaves with inconspicuous flowers.
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
Dodacatheon Shooting stars Rosette of leaves with pink, mauve or white cyclamen like flowers on tallish stalks. Dentatum and pulchellum prefer dense shade others partial shade.
Epimedium Bishops mitre more or less evergreen some with tinted leaves, fairly small flowers in shades of pink white and yellow. Will spread into large clumps when happy.
Galium odoratum sweet woodruff Sweet smelling when dried, creeping ground cover with bright green leaves and tiny white flowers.
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.
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.
Hosta (genus)   Deciduous clumps of succulent leaves in shades of grey green and gold with various variegations. Some colours need specific shade conditions to bring out their best. Racemes of bell shaped flowers in pastel shades of mauve white or cream flowers. Slugs love them.
Impatiens   Fleshy, tender perennial. Easily propagated from cuttings and kept indoors over winter, or use as annual. Bright flat upward facing flowers in shades of red, pink and white. Varying types and sizes available from low growing to 18" tall. Moisture essential.
Lamium galeobdolon   Invasive pretty yellow or pink flowered deadnettle with nice silvery marked leaves. Spreads by runners at the speed of light. Good ground cover where you don't have anything you want to keep :-)
Liriope muscari   Spikes of lavender flowers in autumn from clumps of grassy leaves. Prefer acidic soils not water logged.
Lunaria Honesty Annual Honesty comes with green or white variegated leaves with white or pink/purple flowers which produce those translucent oval remains of seed pods so beloved of dried flower arrangers. Lunaria rediviva is a perennial with highly scented much less conspicuous flowers.
Pachysandra terminalis   Small white flowers, evergreen spreading to 8" tall. Variegated form available. Good ground cover.
Polygonatum Solomon's Seal Arching stems with dangling white bells. Spring shoots like shepherds crooks. May be stripped in summer by caterpillar-like larva of Solomon's Seal Sawfly.
Primulas various species and cultivars From native primroses to candelabra primulas, all shades and heights. Some are listed her specifically but conditions vary across the genus. Some need acid soil.
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.
Smilacina racemosa False Spikenard or False Solomon's Seal Short spikes of white flowers on green leaves.
Symphytum Comfrey Spreading clumps of hairy leaves some smaller than others. Bell like flowers of white, pink, purple, blue. Some variegated varieties. Some are invasive.
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.
Tolmeia menziesii Pick-a-back plant Fast spreading ground cover. Lobed green leaves (one gold cultivar available). Late spring racemes of white flowers.
Tricyrtis formosana Toad Lily Herbaceous clump forming perennial with orchid like spotted pink flowers.
Trillium Wake Robin. Gorgeous herbaceous perennials, slow spreading, short stem with three sometimes spotted or streaked leaves at the top. One flower with three petals sits in the centre of the three leaves. The most spectacular have upward facing flowers, deep red, pink, yellow or white. Needs rich soil, mulch with compost. Preferably acid to neutral soil.
Waldsteinia ternata   Low growing ground cover with small yellow flowers in spring. Spreads steadily but well mannered and not invasive.

Name Common name Comments
Asplenium scolependum Hart's tongue fern Undivided strap like leaves
Athyrium filix-femina Lady fern Also cristate form. Fronds up to 1m
Dryopteris Male fern, Scaly male fern and Buckler ferns The male fern is the typical large fern of the countryside.
Polystichum lonchitis Holly fern Tough glossy leaves bearing only a slight resemblance to holly.
Polystichum aculeatum Hard shield fern Another glossy, leathery fern
Osmunda regalis Royal fern Stately fern up to 160cm high. Spores are produced on separate fronds in the centre of the clump.

Name Common name Comments
Galanthus Snowdrop. Familiar white flowers in spring. Loves a moist clay soil and will spread enthusiastically in such conditions Subtle variations between cultivars collected by obsessives. Best planted 'in the green' - dry bulbs are difficult to establish.
Oxalis   Not all species are suitable for shade. Pretty bright green clover like leaves and small pink or white flowers. Some are invasive.


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