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In late spring, lavender-pink flowers rise above this plant’s lacy, fernlike foliage, which forms an airy network beneath. The blooms appear a bit later than typical for other astilbes, and they extend later into summer. ‘Maggie Daley’ is moderately drought tolerant once established. Pair it with Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 5–8) for a beautiful combination. And deer and rabbit resistance is the pièce de résistance! -Kielian DeWitt, Fine Gardening #147 (Octover 2012), page 76
Lily of the valley's bell-shaped, sweetly scented flowers bloom in early spring. It likes partial to full shade and is perfect for a woodland garden. It may not be the best choice for your beds and borders because it tends to spread, but it is a perfect ground cover if you have a large shady spot under some trees.
Originating in mountainous woodland and stony habitats from Europe to western Asia, yellow foxglove is tolerant of dry shade but flourishes with moisture. Arising in midsummer from neat clumps of fine-toothed foliage, a mass of soft yellow open bells, speckled brown inside, blooms along one side of a 3-foot-tall stem. Usually described as a perennial, it is more accurate to call it a biennial or short-lived perennial. If the flowering stalk is cut down after blooms have faded, it may rebloom in the fall. When a few flower stalks are left, the plant self-seeds.
From late fall through winter, the leathery leaves of hellebores stay glossy, cheery, and green. Hybrids of H. orientalis and other species have a clump-forming habit and leathery leaves. They begin blooming in February or March in a range of shades, adding much needed color very early in the season. The blooms last for a very long time, especially if the weather stays cool. Hellebores are tolerant of summer heat and humidity. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
Hellebores begin blooming in mid-winter in a range of colors, adding much needed color very early in the season. They bloom when the temperature is below freezing, even amidst the snow. Protect from cold winter winds, especially when not insulated by snow, to avoid damaged foliage. Avoid ingestion of all plant parts and contact with the sap.
This heuchera, sold as Dolce® Blackcurrant in the U.S., has purple and silver leaves veined with black and grows up to 16 inches tall and 20 inches wide. While it flowers in early summer, it is grown primarily for its dramatic foliage and performs well in both garden beds and containers.
Heuchera 'Caramel' has H. villosa parentage, so it's more tolerant of heat and humidity that other heacheras. It has glowing, apricot-hued foliage that grows up to 12 inches tall and 20 inches wide. Pink flowers appear in spring. This plant performs well in both garden beds and containers, or as a groundcover when planted en masse. It may be evergreen on warmer climates.
This heuchera cultivar has peachy-bronze leaves and spires of red flowers in late spring and early summer. It grows up to 16 inches tall and 20 inches wide. 'Crème Brûlée' performs well in both garden beds and in containers, where it mingles well with a multitude of plants. This cultivar is very tolerant of heat and sun.
This heuchera has dusky purple leaves with charcoal veins, overlaid with silver between the veins. The plant grows up to 16 inches tall and wide. Pale pink flowers appear in spring. Great in garden beds and in container plantings.
Heucheras make excellent foliage plants for sun to part shade gardens. Most flowers are not as impressive as the foliage, but they do add a second level of interest. 'Silver Scrolls' heuchera's leaves are burgundy overlaid with silver and withstand even hot summers, unlike many other silver plants. It grows up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide.
This heuchera cultivar has very dark (almost black) plum or purplish leaves and greenish white, bell-shaped flowers in late spring and early summer.
This purple to almost black heuchera adds drama to the shade. The plant grows to 16 inches tall and wide with coralcolored blooms in spring. Grow it in garden beds or containers.
With hefty, chartreuse-flared leaves, ‘Lakeside Shore Master’ hosta commands attention. Performing best in shade, it will tolerate some sun in our cool New England climate. Please don’t let the name fool you, however, into giving it a soggy spot; wet feet turn hostas into mush. This cultivar also sports thick leaves, which are fairly slug resistant. -Justin Nichols, Fine Gardening 147, page 70
This re-blooming mophead features inflorescences ranging 4-6 inches wide. Their color will be pink or blue depending on aluminum availability in soil. Compact habit with glossy dark green leaves.
'Hermann's Pride' is small, but bold. Unlike the rampantly creeping variegated yellow lamium (Lamium galeobdolon 'Variegatum'), the lamium cultivar ‘Hermann’s Pride’ is a slow-growing, clump-forming treasure that grows like a small bush, beautiful in foliage (jagged, silvery, and green) and flower (brilliant yellow). Masses of flowers appear in late spring to early summer. While some may have trouble controlling this cultivar, it behaves meekly in harsh climates. -Sue Whetten, Regional Picks: Rocky Mountains, Fine Gardening issue #127
‘Pink Chablis’ has pink flowers above silvery gray leaves edged with dark green. These trailing plants make fine ground covers or cascaders.
In early spring, fleshy stems unfurl and are topped by rounded burgundy leaves. By June, this plant looks splendid, with upturned leaves and their rich purple undersides. 'Britt Marie Crawford' may wilt in the hot noonday sun, but soft shade soon revives it. At the start of summer, right golden daisy-like flowers bloom, contrasting boldly with the foliage. -Matt Griswold, Regional Picks: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #127
This spreading tree with a graceful habit bears glossy, dark green leaflets. Thick shoots grow quickly when young—and more slowly as the tree reaches maturity. In fall, foliage turns a handsome shade of yellow and the tree bears clusters of blue-black berries. Deeply corrugated, pale gray-brown bark is a striking feature; unfortunately, it doesn’t develop until the tree matures.
‘Bertram Anderson’ is an older cultivar of lungwort with excellent foliage. In early spring, pink buds open to bright blue flowers, then silver-spotted leaves unfurl for a season-long show. Lungworts can have mildew problems, but ‘Bertram Anderson’ is highly resistant. When you cut off the old foliage in late winter, wear gloves; the tiny hairs all over the leaves (which keep the deer away) can irritate your skin. -Irvin Etienne, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 72
This cheerful, reliable plant brings a nice touch of color to the garden in spring. The leaves are pointed and hairy and splattered with silvery blotches. As the plant grows, the leaves overlap, creating a swirly pattern. In spring, clusters of silky pink flowers appear. They fade to a soft blue that harmonizes well with the leaf color. -Sue Whetten, Regional Picks: Rocky Mountains, Fine Gardening issue #127
A guide to growing, care, and propagation of rex begonias, plus some great cultivars
by Rita Randolph
Experts Pick Their Favorite Plants
We asked 42 gardening experts from around the country to select their favorite plants. Now you can see the complete results of the survey.
Conifers for Shade
Yes, you can grow evergreen trees and shrubs in shade. Who knew?
by Christine Froehlich
10 Combinations for Shade
The secret is in using color to pump up the interest in low-light spots
by Inta Krombolz
Sweetly Scented Annuals
Pique your senses all season long with colorful, long-blooming beauties
by Danielle Ferguson
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