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12 Best Shade Loving Plants for Your Garden

Use light colored plants such as Brunnera & Hosta to brighten up dark areas in the shade garden

For a low maintenance shade garden, select plants that are more widely adaptable to various degrees of light and soil conditions and are easy to grow and maintain.  Here’s a list of our top 12 favorites:

Astilbe

Add a zesty flower color you won’t find in other shade plants.  Visions is not only more drought tolerant than other varieties (It still needs plenty of water) it is the most fragrant of all Astilbes.

Brunnera

You’ll get beauty in flowers and 3 seasons of interest with shimming silver foliage of Jack Frost Brunnera – our hands down favorite and recent 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year Winner.  Brunnera competes fairly well with tree roots and is highly deer proof.

An array of Heuchera help line a pathway where light transitions from sun to shade. Some sun during the day help to bring out the luster in their foliage

Heuchera

Heucheras are one of the most diverse and colorful shade perennials.  Plant as a groundcover, intersperse between other plants.  (One of my favorite combination is Heuchera Southern Comfort with a blue hosta – oh, la, la!)

Hostas

The Arnold Schwarzenegger of all shade plants. Easy to grow in tough situations where other shade plants fail.

Hostas & Ferns create a cool and calming effect in my shade garden

Hostas grow well under a wide range of trees & shrubs and tolerate a variety of soils. They will grow bigger with amended soil & good drainage. There is nothing like a combination of sizes, colors and shapes for a WOW effect.

Hellebore

An iron clad deer-proof plant that tolerates dry shade once established. Stunning late winter blooms. A super groundcover offering  a year round carpet of evergreen foliage.  You’ll won’t want to miss the all new Winter Thriller Hellebores.

Ferns

Their elegant and fine texture of ferns pair well with Heucheras, Brunnera & Hostas. They need consistent moisture to do well and is a must have for any shade garden.

Hydrangea

This much-loved flowering shrub is a favorite for many gardeners. Hydrangeas add a much needed height to the shade garden while providing year round beauty.

Ornamental Grasses

Carex & Hakonechloa our the favorites providing season long interesting. Both deer proof and tolerant of moisture.

Pulmonaria

The fuzzy silver spotted leaves of Pulmonaria are not appealing to deer while

Pulmonaria Raspberry Splash fuzzy silver spotted leaves deer don't like but stay handsome spring-fall

brightening up dark spots. Not for the dry garden.

Tiarella (Foamflower)

This little known gem is gaining in popularity.  Foamflower has exaggerated leaves that remain colorful spring-winter. Its slow running habit makes an ideal groundcover.

Shade gardening can be just as beautiful as a sunny perennial garden and often with much care and you’ll get to appreciate the best thing about shade – a perfect place to unwind after a long hectic day.

Need more inspiration?  Check out our Shade Perennial Garden Collections

Heuchera & Tiarella – Carefree Shade Groundcovers

Do you have a favorite perennial pairing that makes you smile? One of my favorite shade gardening “pairs” is Tiarella and Heuchera (I’m particularly fond of Frosted Violet which has fantastic vigor and is both heat & drought tolerant). Heuchera & Tiarella - carefree shade groundcoveresI have found both to be hard working shade ground covers that are easy care providing multi -seasonal interest.

Both are excellent for container gardening.  They do well if left outside during the winter  in my unprotected in my Zone 5 garden.

The spring flowers of Tiarella  continue to bloom sporadically in cooler climates and makes a charming carpet of foamy (and FRAGRANT) flowers which I LOVE edging a shaded garden path with.  Heucheras come in a wide range of foliage colors and are great anywhere you can provide protection from the hot afternoon sun.

Tiarella is a terrific choice for winter color. Their intricate evergreen leaves turn  intense burgundy shades in the winter which gives you something to enjoy when you get an occasional snow melt while reflecting on the growing season ahead.

Check out our Shade Perennial Garden Collections for more inspiring ideas for your shade garden.

Heuchera & Tiarella  – both oh-so-easy garden plants with color & interest and spring- winter interest.   What pairing makes you smile?

Shade Spring Fling Trio

Brunnera Jack Frost, Heuchera Georgia Peach, Heuchera Frosted Violet

Spring Trio of Color

As 2010 winds to a close, we look forward to spring and hope it is right around the corner! My, how time flies when we’re having fun!

You can easily brighten a shady corner of your garden with this trio of colorful shade perennials. You’ve got the brilliant strawberry-peach foliage of Heuchera Georgia Peach combining with the silvery-veined foliage of Brunnera Jack Frost. We used Heuchera Frosted Violet to pull everything together. Early spring brings the added bonus of bright sky-blue flowers sitting atop Brunnera Jack Frost.

The beauty of this colorful Shade Garden Collection is that it remains stunning for over 8 months in the shade garden or patio planter.

Heuchera Georgia Peach from Great Garden Plants

Heuchera Georgia Peach in Summer

This image shows Heuchera Georgia Peach in all its summer-time glory. Of all the new Heucheras hitting the market & confusing gardeners, I strongly feel that Georgia Peach has risen to the top & is a phenominally strong grower in the garden.

Her leaves are a stunning strawberry coloration ALL season long, giving over 6 MONTHS of continual color.

Brunnera Jack Frost from Great Garden Plants

Brunnera Jack Frost with Summer foliage

Here’s a picture of Brunnera Jack Frost with its bright summer foliage of silver and green-veined leaves. The foliage remains brilliant all spring, summer, & fall!

Even the deer won’t touch this rugged shade plant!

Ribbons of Color in the Shade!

Heucheras for the Shade

Heucheras for the Shade

Here’s one of my favorite groups of Shade Perennials! Heucheras (or Coral Bells) have come a long way over the past 15 years due to the dedicated breeding programs of folks like Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries.

Heuchera Southern Comfort

Heuchera Southern Comfort

These colorful shade lovers thrive with little care and provide a wonderful range of color to brighten up even the darkest shade spot in your garden. Heucheras come in an array of colors, sizes, & flowers. From the bright yellow leaves of Heuchera Lime Rickey to the intense peach of Heuchera Georgia Peach. The leaves of Heuchera Southern Comfort can reach an AMAZING 10” across, while the vivid red blooms of Heuchera Rave On create a flurry of color in the late spring garden.

Heucheras are easy to grow and thrive in most garden conditions. They love morning sun until 1pm, but will also grow in heavier shade. I usually fertilize my established Heucheras in mid April with Osmocote slow-release fertilizer (you can buy at any good garden center). I’ve found that 1 tablespoon of Osmocote scattered around each plant will feed them all spring & summer. Watering your Heucheras once a week will also help keep them happy.

Ring of Fire Patio Container

Here’s a fun container garden idea I shot while visiting a garden in Portland, Oregon.

Ring of Fire Patio Container

Ring of Fire Patio Container

This colorful combination combines sun-tolerant Heuchera Peach Flambe with the drought-proof & sun-loving Sedum Mr. Goodbud.

A dynamic duo that is both low-maintenance and colorful – what more can you ask for?

I would simply water about once per week and if you’re in a good mood you could throw in a tablespoon of Miracle-Grow plant food in a gallon of water to really get the show going! But, if you just have to take that 2-week summer vacation, this pair of plants are especially forgiving and should be fine during your trip.

Some of my favorite perennials for creating colorful mixed containers include drought-proof Sedums, brilliant Heucheras, & architectural Ornamental Grasses.

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