Geranium phaeum - Mourning Widow Geranium


Shade has finally come into its own as a garden environment. And a wonderful place it is for any of the shade-lovers below or on the two previous pages of perennials, ornamental grasses and bulbs that prefer the coolness of a shady bower. Plant them with the recommended companions for extra emphasis.

* 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.


All Solomon's Seal forms have a graceful look about them. Alternate leaves grow all along the arching stems, and clusters of bell-shaped white or greenish flowers dangle beneath in late spring. Give them moist humus-rich soil in part to full shade.

Polygonatum:  Solomon's Seal

    with:  Astilbe x arendsii, Bergenia cordifolia including 'Bressingham Ruby', Phlox divaricata
      including 'Laphamii' (a rich crystal blue)
Polygonatum biflorum:  Small Solomon's Seal, 12-36"
    with:  Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' (cream-striped leaves)
Polygonatum commutatum:  Giant (Great) Solomon's Seal, 3-4'x2-3'
    synonym:  Polygonatum giganteum
      where :  moist woodlands, borders
    Polygonatum humile:  dwarf Solomon's Seal, 8", a rare & choice form
      with:  Asarum europaeum
    Polygonatum odoratum:  Fragrant Solomon's Seal, Japanese Solomon's Seal, 18-30"
      Polygonatum odoratum - Solomon's Seal
      where:  shade or woodland gardens, under shrubs
        prefers:  constantly moist sites but will grow in dry shade of trees
          with:  Polygonatum biflorum (a more vigorous form)
            with:  Astilbe, Hosta, Pulmonaria, Iris, Dicentra
              with:  Tulipa (white & green)
                with:  wildflowers, ferns, Iris x germanica
              Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum':  Fragrant Solomon's Seal, 24"x12"
                combined with:  Astilbe chinensis 'Pumila', Asarum europaeum, Athyrium goeringianum 'Pictum',
                  Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' & Convallaria majalis
              Polygonatum odoratum (var. thunbergii) 'Variegatum':  the most fragrant form
                where :  shady sites
                  generally with :  bold foliage plants (to compliment its architectural quality)
                    with :  Hosta, ferns, Heuchera, Alchemilla mollis
                      combined with :  Adiantum pedatum & Hosta spp.
                    A plant with "presence", Solomon's Seal can be used as described on the following page.

                  • white Solomon's Seal
                  • Solomon's Seal with variegated foliage

                  • PULMONARIA

                    Lovely Lungwort will enchant in spring with often spotted foliage and variously-coloured nodding flowers. Some forms have blooms that start out pink, then change to blue. Other forms have flowers whose colour remains consistently white, pink, blue or red. If your plants go dormant early, your soil is too dry. Move them into evenly moist conditions in partial to full shade.

                    Pulmonaria:  Lungwort, Bethlehem Sage

                      foliage contrast with :  Alchemilla mollis, Bergenia cordifolia, Hosta
                        with:  Primula including Primula x polyantha
                          with shade-loving forms of:  Ornamental Grasses, Phlox including P. divaricata
                            in woodlands with:  ferns, Erythronium, Polygonatum odoratum
                              with :  Anemone blanda, Aquilegia, Astilbe, Aster (shade-loving forms)
                                with:  Brunnera macrophylla, Dicentra eximia, Heuchera, Iris x germanica,
                                  combined with:  Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles', Heuchera 'Ruby Veil', Hosta & Astilbe
                                Pulmonaria:  Lungwort, Bethlehem Sage, blue
                                  over:  Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'
                                Pulmonaria 'Majeste':  
                                  Pulmonaria 'Majeste'
                                  picture this beauty anywhere in your shaded garden with the companions suggested above
                                Pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White'
                                  in front of:  Eremurus himalaicus (white) & Tulipa (cream)
                                Pulmonaria saccharata:  Bethlehem Sage, 10"x12"
                                  with:  Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple'
                                Pulmonaria saccharata 'Mrs. Moon'
                                  combined with:  Delphinium elatum 'Blue Connecticut Yankee' & Liatris spicata (rosy-purple)
                                A more subtle perennial than most, the Lungwort can be found in other forms at the link below.

                              • pink Pulmonaria
                              • Pulmonaria with silver foliage
                              • Pulmonaria with variegated foliage

                              • RANUNCULUS

                                Let the word "fast-spreading" forewarn you about this perennial for partial shade. Keep it out of your formal gardens and put it with companions that aren't apt to be overcome by its aggressively creeping nature.

                                Ranunculus repens:  Buttercup, 18-24" tall

                                  with:  ferns, Hosta
                                Try the link below for more ideas.

                              • yellow Ranunculus

                              • RODGERSIA

                                Magnificent Rodgersia, also known as Roger's Flower, is a bold foliage perennial that demands consistently moist to wet soil. If you possess such conditions, such as a bog or water garden, consider this plant. Its airy plumes when in bloom are a sight not available to those of us with mostly sunny and dry gardens.

                                Rodgersia:  Rodgersia, Roger's Flower

                                  where:  bog and water gardens, along streams, in dappled shade of high trees
                                    with:  Iris x germanica
                                      with:  water-loving Iris, Filipendula, Trollius, Astilbe, Hosta, Primula, ferns
                                        with:  Ligularia stenocephala 'The Rocket'


                                      Another perennial for shade that has arching leaf-clothed stems is Solomon's Plume, or False Solomon's Seal. Sometimes known also as False Spikenard, Solomon's Zigzag and Treacleberry, this spring-blooming native wildflower prefers neutral to acidic soil in light to full shade, although bloom will be better with some sun. Correct pronunciation for this genus can be either smye-luh-SEE-nuh or smye-luh-SIGH-nuh.

                                      Smilacina:  Solomon's Plume, False Solomon's Seal, 2-4' tall

                                        where:  light to full shade, under trees and flowering shrubs
                                          with woodland plants:  ferns, Epimedium, wildflowers
                                            with:  Aquilegia, Hosta, Dicentra, Pulmonaria
                                          Visit the link below for more information.

                                        • white Solomon's Plume

                                        • TIARELLA

                                          Foamflower, or Allegheny Foamflower, provides wonderful fuzzy spring flowers on stalks rising out of somewhat heart-shaped foliage. If your soil is slightly acidic, so much the better since this is what they prefer. Try this plant soon. You won't be disappointed.

                                          Tiarella cordifolia:  Allegheny Foamflower, 6-10"x12" tall

                                            Tiarella cordifolia - Allegheny Foamflower
                                            where:  groundcover in shade, under shrubs and flowering trees, woodland gardens
                                              with shade-loving types of:  Phlox i.e. P. divaricata including 'Laphamii, P. stolonifera
                                                with:  ferns, woodland plants, wildflowers
                                                  with:  Uvularia grandiflora
                                                    with:  Pulmonaria, Aquilegia canadensis, Dicentra eximia, Hosta, Iris, Sanguinaria canadensis
                                                      with:  Anemone blanda, Asarum canadense, Dicentra, x Heucherella, Iris cristata 'Abbey's Violet' (the best blue form)
                                                        combined with:  Trillium (white), Polemonium reptans & Phlox divaricata
                                                          in light shade with:  Iris x germanica
                                                        Tiarella cordifolia 'Mint Chocolate'
                                                          with:  Phlox stolonifera
                                                        I love this perennial! It will delight you as well in its many forms. Check out the link below for more.

                                                      • white Tiarella

                                                      • TRICYRTIS

                                                        For light to partial shade, you just can't beat Common Toad Lily. Flowers are purple-spotted white and appear, unlike those of many shade perennials, in late summer and fall. Plant them where they can be seen up close.

                                                        Tricyrtis hirta:  Toad Lily, Common Toad Lily, Japanese Toad Lily, 2-3'x1-2'

                                                          where:  shady areas where they can be seen up close
                                                            with:  Astilbe, Dicentra, Hosta ferns, woodland plants


                                                          A native wildflower, Trillium makes any shaded area come alive with its white, sometimes red, spring flowers.

                                                          Trillium grandiflorum:  Trillium, White Wake-robin, 18-24"

                                                            where:  along woodland paths, shade gardens, under shrubs, especially spring-blooming ones
                                                              with:  wildflowers, ferns i.e. Adiantum pedatum
                                                                with shade perennials:  Phlox maculata (wild Sweet William), Phlox divaricata, Geranium maculatum,
                                                                  small Hosta i.e. 'Louisa'
                                                                combined with:  Aquilegia canadensis, Asarum canadense, Brunnera macrophylla, Epimedium, Mertensia virginica
                                                                  with other bulbs:  Endymion hispanicus (a white form), Galanthus nivalis
                                                                    with:  Polemonium caeruleum
                                                                      combined with:  Polemonium reptans, Phlox divaricata & Tiarella cordifolia
                                                                        combined with:  Phlox divaricata, Asarum & Pulmonaria
                                                                      Trillium cuneatum:  Whippoorwill Flower, maroon flowers & mottled foliage
                                                                        where:  shady bowers
                                                                          with:  Anemone blanda 'White Splendor' (pure white with yellow centres)
                                                                        This woodlander is also included on the following page.

                                                                      • white Trilliums
                                                                      • Trilliums with variegated foliage

                                                                      • UVULARIA

                                                                        Merrybells or Bellwort grows well in moist humus-rich soil. A woodland wildflower, it has nodding lemon-yellow flowers. The foliage continues to grow after the flowering period is over.

                                                                        Uvularia grandiflora:  Bellwort, Merrybells, Great Merrybells, 18-24"x12"

                                                                        Lots of ideas and information can be found at the link below.

                                                                      • yellow Merrybells

                                                                      • VINCA

                                                                        Common Periwinkle, whether its foliage is a shiny solid green or a lovely white-variegated form, is an excellent ground-cover plant for shade. Many forms have blue-purple flowers, but there are choices in white, red-violet, light blue or purple as well.

                                                                        Vinca minor:  Common Periwinkle, blue-purple flowers, 4-6" tall

                                                                          Vinca minor - Periwinkle, MyrtleVinca minor 'Variegata' - Variegated Vinca
                                                                          seen above left:  surrounding emerging Hosta foliage
                                                                            seen above right:  a variegated clump-forming type
                                                                          More information about this genus and its forms can be found at:  

                                                                          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

                                                                          COLOR THEORY

                                                                          THE GARDENS

                                                                          CORNER GARDEN CONSTRUCTION  |  CORNER GARDEN PLANTING  |  LONG GARDEN

                                                                          EAST GARDEN  |  HOSTA GARDEN  |  NORTH GARDEN  |  WINTER GARDENS

                                                                          PLANT PARTNERSHIPS

                                                                          BLUE PERENNIALS    Aconitum - Geranium  |  Iris - Vinca

                                                                          BULBS    Allium - Hyacinthus  |  Narcissus only  |  Tulipa only  |  Minor Bulbs

                                                                          BUTTERFLY MAGNETS    Anaphalis - Hemerocallis  |  Liatris - Veronicastrum
                                                                          DAYLILIES      Spider & Unusual Form

                                                                          EDGERS    Arabis - Iris  |  Nepeta - Veronica

                                                                          FOLIAGE PERENNIALS     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

                                                                          PLANT PROFILES

                                                                          Dianthus 'Tiny Rubies'  |  Geranium  |  Geum coccineum  |  Kerria japonica  |  Knautia macedonica

                                                                          Paeonia tenuifolia  |  Papaver somniferum  |  Rudbeckia  |  Salvia 'East Friesland'

                                                                          Trollius  |  Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'


                                                                          DIVISION - SPRING ONLY  |   DIVISION - FALL ONLY  |   DIVISION - SPRING OR FALL  |   DO NOT DIVIDE


                                                                          BULBS  |   ORNAMENTAL GRASSES  |   PERENNIALS  |   SHRUBS  |   VINES


                                                                          GARDENS  |   LOCAL GARDENS  |   BOTANICAL TERMINOLOGY

                                                                          GARDENING BOOKS  |   NON-GARDENING