GARDENS BY THE BAY
SHADE PERENNIALS & THEIR COMPANIONS - 2
There are so many wonderful perennials, ornamental grasses and bulbs suitable for growing in shady situations or woodland gardens you will have no shortage of choices to make at your local nurseries. And if you haven't yet found the perfect match for your shade plants, there are lots to consider below.
* Watch for the animated hummingbird and butterfly with the plants that attract them. *
The deer icon indicates plants that deer are not usually attracted to.
The best time and method to propagate plants can be found on our image-intensive PROPAGATION page.
To help your plants grow their best, check out our FERTILIZATION page.
To create your own plant partnerships based on tried and true color theory, check out our GARDEN COLOR page.
To see if a particular plant is on this page press Ctrl+F, type in the name, then click the Find button.
Generally performing best in moist, well-drained soil, ferns will bring wonderful colour and texture to your shade garden with their lovely fronds.
Ferns generally: also see by individual names
with: Polygonatum odoratum, Pulmonaria, Hosta, Lilium, Epimedium, Dicentra, Helleborus, Begonia grandis,
For more information on specific ferns, follow the links below.
Phlox divaricata, Phlox stolonifera
near spring bulbs: Narcissus
with spring wildflowers: Mertensia virginica, Arisaema
keep away from aggressive ground-covering spreaders: Hedera helix, Ajuga reptans, Pachysandra terminalis, Vinca
One of the earliest bulbs to bloom in spring, Snowdrops have pendant white flowers with a green streak over lush grassy foliage. Plants these by the hundreds for a lovely effect.
Galanthus nivalis: Snowdrop, 4-6"x3"
Galanthus nivalis 'Simplex': Common Snowdrop
this wonderful spring-blooming bulb can be seen in the border around this page and in the image at the top of the page.
where: shade under bushes, trees, along woodland paths
with: small ferns, Trillium, Hepatica, Sanguinaria canadensis, Galium odoratum, Scilla tubergeniana
under: Philadelphus, Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy', Campanula portenschlagiana
to follow earliest bulbs: Crocus vernus, Eranthis hyemalis
co-blooming with: Crocus vernus 'Remembrance'
complementary bloom time: Chionodoxa luciliae, Eranthis hyemalis
A choice plant for foliage interest all summer long, Sweet Woodruff has starry white flowers as a bonus in spring.
Galium odoratum: Sweet Woodruff, 4-10"x12-18"
Find more information about Sweet Woodruff at the link below.
formerly: Asperula odorata
where: in shade of trees or shrubs; shady, moist locations
with: shrubs, esp. shade-loving types; Rhododendron
over: spring bulbs, wildflowers i.e. Mertensia virginica
with: Myosotis, Doronicum, Galanthus nivalis, Hosta
If it is late summer to autumn flowers you need, you can do no better than Gentian to provide a touch of blue to your partly shaded areas.
with: other lush foliage plants, ferns, woodland Aster, Hosta, Carex spp, Ornamental Grasses
Gentiana 'Benichidori': Pink Gentian
with: blue Gentiana, Artemisia 'Silver Brocade'
Gentiana acaulis: Mountain Gentian (an Alpine species)
where: rock garden, scree, trough garden
Gentiana asclepiadea: Willow Gentian, 18-24"
where: wild gardens, perennials borders with fall-bloomers
with: ferns, wildflowers, Aster, Solidago
Gentiana septemfida lagodechiana: Every-man's Gentian, Crested Gentian, intense blue
where: front of border
with: other low growers, esp. deep yellow, white and pink
Cranesbill, or Hardy Geranium, is a versatile genus of plants, most with showy flowers, in a wide range of colours. Cut them back after bloom to encourage fresh foliage that will provide interest for the rest of the gardening season.
Geranium phaeum: Mourning Widow (Border type), 18-24"x24"
Additional choices in this genus are accessed with the following links. Find the perfect partners for whichever ones you choose to add to your gardens.
Hardy Geranium Profile
blue Hardy Geraniums
edging Hardy Geraniums
Hardy Geraniums for foliage effect
pink Hardy Geraniums
white Hardy Geraniums
Simply Special Perennials - Hardy Geranium's many forms
where: moist, shady areas, even deep dry shade (most geraniums prefer more sun than this species does)
The long arching leaves of Hakone Grass, on a plant up to a foot tall, will all spill in one direction, creating the appearance of a waterfall. Excellent over a rock edge.
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola': Hakone Grass
Follow the link below for more information about this plant, a must-add to your gardens as soon as you can find it.
the perfect edging Ornamental Grass for shade
Hakone Grass with variegated foliage
Reputedly for dense shade to part sun, Ivy actually does best in indirect light.
For more information about this Ivy, follow the link below.
Ivy with variegated foliage
Hellebores can provide the earliest blooms in your shade garden. Their leathery foliage will continue the interest to fall.
Helleborus niger: Christmas Rose, 12-18"x16"
where: moist sites, partial to full shade, shade gardens, woodland plantings
with: spring bulbs, early-flowering wildflowers, ferns, shade-loving perennials
with: Primula, Viola, Galanthus nivalis
long-blooming effect with: Mertensia virginica & Tulipa or Narcissus (for winter to late spring colour)
near Lycoris squamigera & Begonia grandis (for summer and fall colour)
interplanted with: Dicentra spectabilis (this may not work in northern areas)
contrast with: Skimmia
where: under shade of trees, woodland gardens, within view from a window while still partly snow-covered
with: wildflowers, ferns, early spring bulbs
Helleborus orientalis: Lenten Rose, 16-24"x18"
now called: Helleborus x hybridus
where: under trees and shrubs, in well-drained, loamy soil
with early spring bulbs: Galanthus nivalis, Iris reticulata, Muscari, Narcissus, miniature Tulipa
purple or blue/black hybrids with: Primula veris or Primula elatior (light yellow forms)
x HEUCHERELLAA cross between two genera, Heuchera & Tiarella, Foamy Bells provides both attractive foliage and flowers.x Heucherella: Hybrid Foamy Bells, 12-24"x12"
what: a cross between Heuchera and Tiarella
where: woodland gardens, part shade
x Heucherella alba 'Bridget Bloom': Foamy Bells; shell pink, light pink
with: flowering shrubs, spring bulbs, woodland wildflowers, ferns
in shade of: Amelanchier spp, Halesia spp, Cladrastis lutea and other flowering treesLet the partnership ideas at the following link inspire you with your garden design.
pink Foamy Bells
Foamy Bells with variegated foliage
HOSTAThe choice available in this genus today is nearly overwhelming. Whatever your shade intensity, or size requirements, there will be many from which to choose as the perfect shade garden candidate.Hosta: all forms
A variety of Hostas, along with photographs that show their foliage and information about their flowers, can be found at the links below.
wonderful Hosta forms
our Hosta garden
Hosta with variegated foliage
KERRIAIt amazes me that more people don't grow the wonderful Japanese Kerria shrub, perfect for even dense shade. The pistachio-green stems make it a bright accent at all times, even in winter. My preference is for the single yellow-flowered form, rather than the double. I grow one with solid green foliage as well as one whose foliage is variegated, both with single yellow blooms. I find the double-flowers heavy and downright unattractive.
Kerria japonica: Japanese Kerria shrub, 5-8'x6-9'
Follow the link below for more information about this plant you must add to your shady corners. You'll love it!
Kerria shrub with variegated foliage
the variegated foliage form can be seen in the photograph above
note: for a profile of this plant click here
with: Lunaria annua
above: Galanthus nivalis & other early bulbs, Narcissus 'Martha Washington' (white with yellow cups)
LAMIASTRUMIt is interesting to watch Yellow Archangel in the days just before it blooms. The foliage, which normally hugs the ground, begins to shoot up high, then produces lovely hooded yellow flowers in whorls around the leaf axils. After blooming, the variegated foliage flattens out and becomes a wonderful groundcover again.
Lamiastrum galeobdolon: False Lamium, Yellow Archangel, 8-14"x12"
Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Herman's Pride': metallic silver, 8" tall
Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Variegatum'
There is more information to be found at the link below.
yellow Archangel with variegated foliage
synonym: Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Florentinum'
where: groundcover in difficult shady areas, including under trees
with: spring bulbs, early wildflowers, ferns on moist sites
Dead Nettle, also called Spotted Dead Nettle, is another groundcover for shaded areas. Much prettier than the common names would suggest. The correct pronunciation for this genus is LAY-mee-um.
Lamium maculatum: Dead Nettle, False Salvia, 6-12"x12-24"
where: groundcover, edger, over walls, in containers (too vigorous for the rock garden)
with: Hosta, ferns, spring-flowering bulbs
in moist acidic conditions with: Gaultheria procumbens
under: flowering shrubs, evergreens, high-canopied shade trees
Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver': pink form of 'White Nancy'
with: Chrysanthemum 'Mei-Kyo'
Lamium maculatum 'Shell Pink': soft pink flowers to 6"
Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy': clear white
under: flowering shrubs, evergreens, high-canopied shade trees
with: spring-flowering bulbs, Hosta, Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy', ferns
combined with: Aruncus dioicus 'Kneiffii', Gentiana 'Benichidori' & Gillenia
interplanted with: Galanthus nivalis followed by white Martagon lilies
interplanted with: Scilla sibirica
not with: Eranthis hyemalis, Anemone
with: Lamium maculatum 'Pink Pewter' or 'Shell Pink'
for contrast with: Heuchera americana 'Dale's Strain'
A wealth of choices to brighten up shady spots in your garden can be found at the links that follow.
Lamium with silver foliage
Lamium with variegated foliage
LIGULARIAIf you can provide a constantly moist spot in light shade, this large-leaved beauty may be your perfect choice. Tall yellow spires of bloom reach high overhead.Ligularia dentata: Big-Leaved Ligularia, 3-4'x2-3'
synonym: Ligularia clivorum
where: pondside, in rich, moist to wet soil, on cool sites
with: ferns, Hosta (esp. large-leaved forms), Iris, Japanese Iris, Ornamental Grasses
Ligularia stenocephala 'The Rocket': yellow with purple-black stems, 4-6'x2-3'
synonym: Ligularia przewalskii
where: background plant, waterside, for rich, moist soils
note: does not thrive in shade, but wilts in sun even when moist
preference: place for filtered shade from hot sun from the west
with: Iris ensata (Japanese Iris, including plants listed as Iris kaempferi), large-leaved Hosta (especially large-leaved types)
amid: tall plants that cast shade for part of the day, i.e. Echinops ritro, Phlox paniculata (try a red type),
pale purple perennials to tie the colours together
LIRIOPEMany shade-loving plants produce their flowers early in the season. Not so the Lilyturf. Excellent as a ground cover of grass-like leaves, this plant blooms late in the summer. Pronounce the name of this genus lih-RYE-oh-pee.
Liriope: Lilyturf, 12-18"x12-24"
over: Narcissus, Crocus (fall-blooming)
with: Verbena, Helictotrichon sempervirens, Yucca, Aquilegia, Limonium
Liriope muscari 'Majestic': Blue Lilyturf, Zone 6, 8-16"x12"
where: even dense shade, tolerates drought
Liriope muscari 'Monroe White': reseeds
Liriope muscari 'Variegata': creamy-yellow edged foliage
where: takes shade; more sun = broader, brighter margins
If you prefer the colour white for its pop-out-of-the-shadows effect or if your taste runs to variegated foliage, check out the ideas at the following links.
Liriope with variegated foliage
LYSIMACHIAThis Loosestrife is no relation to the Purple Loosestrife we've all eradicated from our gardens. You can grow these plants safely and enjoy the white or yellow blooms without worry. Reference books give the pronunciation as lye-sih-MAW-kee-uh or lye-sih-MAY-kee-uh. I prefer the former.Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea': Creeping Jenny, bright golden leaves, 2-4"x18"For more information about Loosestrife and perennials to plant with it check out the links below.
white Loosestrife forms
yellow Loosestrife forms
Loosestrife with variegated foliage
MERTENSIAIn April and May, the drooping bell-shaped blue and pink flowers of Virginia Bluebells put in their graceful appearance. Alas, the plant will then go dormant, even the foliage disappearing completely by July.
Mertensia virginica: Virginia BluebellsMore information about growing Virginia Bluebells can be found below.
This biennial, usually treated as a self-seeding annual, can provide a blue, pink or white haze in the spring garden. They are delightful on their own or amid patches of tulips or daffodils.Myosotis: Forget-Me-Not
generally with: spring-blooming bulbs, perennials
in drifts around or over: late-flowering bulbs, Primula, Paeonia
interplanted with: Darwin Tulipa (vibrant pink or red)
with: Tulipa 'Mariette', Tulipa praestans 'Fusilier', Narcissus, Aurinia saxatilis, Viola tricolor 'King Henry',
(pink) echo under/with: Tulipa ( a similar or brighter pink)
(blue) echo under/with: Hyacinthus (darker blue)
Myosotis alpestris 'Victoria': dark blue
with: Tulipa 'Mariette', Narcissus, Aurinia saxatilis, Viola tricolor
Myosotis sylvatica: Woodland Forget-me-Not, 6-9"x6"
where: under spring bulbs, esp. Tulipa spp.
Myosotis sylvatica 'Victoria Dark Blue'
OMPHALODESThis plant does not appear in many of my favourite gardening books. Navelwort will grow in any moisture-retentive soil and makes a wonderful blooming ground cover under trees or shrubs. Dead-head to prolong the blue flower display.
where: groundcover in shade
over: Crocus, Erythronium, dwarf Narcissus
The woodland species of Phlox will thrive in light to full shade with evenly moist humus-rich soil. Choose any of the ones below for lovely early colour in your shade garden. The one least appetizing to deer is Phlox divaricata.
Phlox: shade-loving forms
with: ferns, spring bulbs, shade-loving wildflowers
with: Pulmonaria, Dicentra, Hosta
Phlox x chattahoochee: Chattahoochee Phlox, lavender, 6-8" tall
where: lightly shaded woodland but will also take full sun
with: Convallaria majalis
Phlox divaricata: Wild Blue Phlox, Woodland Phlox, 10-15"x12"
synonym: Phlox canadensis
where: partial shade, wild or woodland gardens, under trees/flowering shrubs, as edger in shady border
with: spring bulbs, Pulmonaria, Convallaria majalis, Campanula, Doronicum orientale, Dicentra,
with: ferns, wildflowers i.e. Aquilegia canadensis, Mertensia virginica, Asarum canadense, Helleborus,
combined with: white Trillium, Polemonium reptans & Tiarella
combined with: Sanguinaria canadensis, Tiarella wherryi, purple-leaved form of Heuchera, ferns, Hosta,
Phlox divaricata 'Laphamii': rich crystal blue, 12"x8"
Viola, Disporum (Fairy-Bells) sessile 'Variegatum' (spring-blooming 18" woodland bulb)
in front of or between Azalea spp. with: Trillium, Asarum, Pulmonaria
before: Papaver orientale
Phlox divaricata 'Louisiana': purple-blue, dark eye, early
with: spring bulbs
with wildflowers: Aquilegia canadensis, Mertensia virginica, Asarum canadense, Tiarella cordifolia
with: Pulmonaria, Convallaria majalis, Campanula, Hosta, ferns, Doronicum orientale, Dicentra, Polygonatum
with: Convallaria majalis
Phlox stolonifera: Creeping Phlox, 6-8"x12"
where: groundcover under shrubs, out of full sun, edger, woodland gardens
with: Stylophorum diphyllum, Primula (soft yellows), Dicentra eximia (soft pinks)
Phlox stolonifera 'Blue Ridge': lilac-blue
awards: Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year for 1990
with: Convallaria majalis
Phlox stolonifera 'Sherwood Purple': strong purple-blue
with: Convallaria majalisThere are hundreds of Phlox that are best grown out of the shade, as you will see if you follow the links below. More information on how and where to grow them can be found on each of these pages.
numerous Phlox forms
Phlox as edgers
Phlox with variegated foliage
After the flowers of Jacob's Ladder have finished their bloom, the foliage remains tidy and attractive for the rest of the summer.Polemonium
Polemonium caeruleum: Jacob's Ladder, Greek Valerian, 18-24"x12"
Polemonium caeruleum 'Brise d'Anjou':
Polemonium caeruleum 'Album': white Jacob's Ladder, 18-24"x12"
Polemonium foliosissimum: lilac, 30"x24"
Polemonium reptans: creeping Jacob's Ladder, 8-16" tallIf the choices above aren't enough, you will find more forms and partnership ideas to help create the garden you want by following the links below.
blue Jacob's Ladder
purple Jacob's Ladder
white Jacob's Ladder
Jacob's Ladder with variegated foliage
FOR MORE PERENNIALS THAT PREFER SHADY SPOTS IN YOUR GARDEN, FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW.
All of our own Gardens By The Bay pages can be accessed by clicking on the links below.
GARDEN POETRY |
GARDEN POETRY MUSE
GEORGIAN BAY VIEW
BOTANICAL LATIN - BASICS
CORNER GARDEN CONSTRUCTION  |
CORNER GARDEN PLANTING |
EAST GARDEN |
HOSTA GARDEN |
NORTH GARDEN |
BLUE PERENNIALS Aconitum -
Iris - Vinca
BULBS Allium - Hyacinthus |
Narcissus only |
Tulipa only |
BUTTERFLY MAGNETS Anaphalis - Hemerocallis |
Liatris - Veronicastrum
DAYLILIES Spider & Unusual Form
EDGERS Arabis - Iris |
Nepeta - Veronica
Alchemilla - Tanacetum
HOSTA Hosta - all
HUMMINGBIRD-FRIENDLY PERENNIALS Alcea - Salvia
ORANGE PERENNIALS Achillea - Tulipa
ORNAMENTAL GRASSES Acorus - Imperata |
Miscanthus - Spodiopogon
PINK PERENNIALS Achillea - Lilium |
Lychnis - Veronica
PURPLE PERENNIALS Aconitum - Liatris |
Polemonium - Veronica
RED PERENNIALS Achillea - Veronica
SHADE PERENNIALS Aegopodium - Erythronium |
Ferns - Polemonium |
Polygonatum - Vinca
SILVER FOLIAGE PERENNIALS
Achillea - Cerastium
Cornus - Limonium
Lunaria - Veronica
SIMPLY SPECIAL PERENNIALS Acanthus - Saxifraga
WHITE PERENNIALS Achillea - Iris |
Kalimeris - Yucca
YELLOW PERENNIALS Achillea - Hypericum |
Inula - Verbascum
VARIEGATED-FOLIAGE PERENNIALS Acorus - Erythronium |
Hakonechloa - Lysimachia |
Miscanthus - Yucca
Dianthus 'Tiny Rubies' |
Geum coccineum |
Kerria japonica |
Paeonia tenuifolia |
Papaver somniferum |
Salvia 'East Friesland'
Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'
DIVISION - SPRING ONLY |
DIVISION - FALL ONLY |
DIVISION - SPRING OR FALL |
DO NOT DIVIDE
ORNAMENTAL GRASSES |
LOCAL GARDENS |
GARDENING BOOKS |