The secret is in using color to pump up the interest in low-light spots

When it comes to gardening, shade is a lot like a rainstorm at a picnic: It isn't in your ideal plan, but you have to make the best of the situation.

Here are some shade combinations that will make low-light areas pop. Click on any image to open an enlarged version with the plants identified.

Combo #1

1. ‘Nikko’ deutzia (Deutzia crenata var. nakaiana ‘Nikko’, Zones 4-8)
2. ‘Othello’ ligularia (Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’, Zones 4-8)
3. ‘Sagae’ hosta (Hosta ‘Sagae’, Zones 3-9)
4. ‘Mt. Fuji’ Japanese iris (Iris ensata ‘Mt. Fuji’, Zones 3-9)
5. ‘Spectabile’ knotweed (Polygonum ‘Spectabile’, Zones 5-9)
6. Purple perilla (Perilla frutescens ‘Atropurpurea’, annual)

Combo #2

1. ‘Ice Dance’ variegated sedge ( Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ , Zones 5-9)
2. Hosta ( Hosta cv. , Zones 3-9)
3. ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ boxleaf honeysuckle ( Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’, Zones 6-9)
4. ‘Yoshino’ Japanese cedar ( Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino', Zones 6-9)
5. Dwarf Alberta spruce ( Picea glauca ‘Conica’, Zones 2-6)
6. ‘Anceps’ fountain bamboo ( Fargesia nitida 'Anceps', Zones 5-9)
 

Combo #3

1. ‘Yellow Wave’ phormium ( Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’, Zones 8-10)
2. Spider flower ( Cleome hassleriana cv., annual)
3. Purple perilla ( Perilla frutescens ‘Atropurpurea’, annual)

Combo #4

1. ‘Siver Sceptre’ sedge ( Carex morrowii ‘Silver Sceptre’, Zones 5-9)
2. Japanese tassel fern ( Polystichum polyblepharum , Zones 6-8)
3. Fastigiate plum yew ( Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’, Zones 6-9)

Combo #5

1. Korean boxwood ( Buxus microphylla var. koreana , Zones 4-9)
2. Hosta ( Hosta cv. , Zones 3-9)
3. Christmas fern ( Polystichum acrostichoides, Zones 3-8)
4. ‘Mister Big’ hosta ( Hosta ‘Mister Big’, Zones 3-9)
 

Combo #6

1. ‘Seiryu’ Japanese maple ( Acer palmatum ‘Seiryu’, Zones 5-8)
2. Glade fern ( Diplazium pycnocarpon , Zones 3-8)
3. Hosta ( Hosta cv. , Zones 3-9)

Combo #7

1. ‘Aureola’ Japanese forest grass ( Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Zones 5-9)
2. Fairy bells ( Disporum flavens , Zones 4-9)
3. ‘Great Expectations’ hosta ( Hosta ‘Great Expectations’, Zones 3-9)

Combo #8

1. Dinosaur kale ( Brassica oleracea 'Nero di Toscana', annual)
2. Threadleaf bluestar ( Amsonia hubrichtii , Zones 5-8)
3. ‘Choo Choo Train’ hosta ( Hosta ‘Choo Choo Train’, Zones 3-9)
4. ‘Baby Sister’ iris ( Iris ‘Baby Sister’, Zones 3-9)
5. My Monet™ weigela ( Weigela florida 'Verweig', Zones 5-8)
 

Combo #9

1. Purple perilla ( Perilla frutescens ‘Atropurpurea’, annual)
2. Mrs. Robb’s bonnet ( Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae , Zones 6-9)
3. ‘Elegans Aurea’ Japanese cedar ( Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans Aurea’, Zones 6-9)
4. ‘Fortunei Albomarginata’ hosta ( Hosta ‘Fortunei Albomarginata’ , Zones 3-9)
5. ‘Snow Queen’ oakleaf hydrangea ( Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’ , Zones 5-9)

Combo #10

1. ‘Painter’s Palette’ knotweed ( Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’, Zones 5-9)
2. ‘Ice Dance’ variegated sedge ( Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ , Zones 5-9)
3. Giant wood fern ( Dryopteris goldieana , Zones 6-8)
4. Purple perilla ( Perilla frutescens ‘Atropurpurea’, annual)

To read the complete article, join now!

With FGplus, you'll get exclusive:

  • Articles – Exclusive articles for more advanced gardeners.
  • Videos – Join our editors on their behind-the-scenes journeys.
  • Digital Library – Gain access to our digital library of special issues.
  • Need help? Our Ask-the-Expert contributors will answer your questions.