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Fail-safe Perennials for Shade (Part 2)

Many clients I work with complain about the lack of color in shade areas of their gardens. While there are far fewer blooming specimen plants for shade, there’s a lot you can do to lighten up these areas. Here are a few suggestions…

For early spring color, try brunnera, a lush leafy plant with lighter shades of green in the leaf and a blue blooming flower. Bleeding hearts will also give off a red or white heart shaped bloom, depending upon the variety. I like to marry the bleeding heats with some lush green hostas, so that I have an early spring bloom from the bleeding hearts. Then in Mid-July when the foliage fades, I cut them down and let the mid summer blooms of the hosta show. This is great for a small border. Be sure you plant hostas in an area where the deer won’t disturb them. Deer won’t bother bleeding hearts. There are some 700+ varieties of hostas out there — so there’s plenty to choose from in size and foliage.

To add some color to the shade garden, I use different varieties of heucheras (coral bells). There are many to choose from — chartreuse colors, oranges, deep greens and variegated — try “Peach Flambe” and “Snow Angel” for some different colors. Heucheras grow compactly, give off a delicate bloom and need almost no care. I also like to use them in container gardens and then plant them in the ground at the end of the season.

Astilbe is also a great plant for shade and it’s available in many colors — reds, pinks, purples, and whites. It has a long bloom, lasting during July and needs no care. Plant it where you want punches of color. I like to mix astilbe with ferns. There are so many varieties of ferns to choice from and these give the shade area a lot of texture.

For small border plants at the edge of the garden I like to use liriope (lily turf). It’s grass-like and gives off a purple bloom. It’s available in deep greens or a variegated chartreuse variety. Most grasses need full sun; however, there are a few that will thrive in shade — try ribbon grass and hakone grass (Japanese forest grass). Ribbon grass tends to spread, so you’ll need to contain it somewhat so that it doesn’t hinder the growth of your other plants.

For shade ground covers, pachysandra and myrtle are both hearty and will grow under just about any tree. Other ground covers you might try include creeping jenny and sweet woodruff. Both look great mixed with woodland plants.

Send Jan Peterson an email with your gardening question:

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Past Articles

Five Easy Steps to Beautiful Orchids

The Cabin Fever Cure — Easy To Grow House Plants

Tips for Fabulous Container Gardens

Fail-safe Perennials for Sun (Part 1)

Fail-safe Perennials for Shade (Part 2)

Spring Gardening Tips

Fall Clean Up Tips


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