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Black foliage and spiky blue flowers (which appear in early summer) make a dramatic contrast. 'Black Scallop' thrives in full sun, which intensifies the black color. In full sun, the plant produces numerous runners, which should be thinned to prevent crown rot. In large plantings, you can run a rotary mower with a bagger attachment over the patch to control crowding and keep the foliage fresh. In mixed container plantings, the spilling habit of the plant makes it a standout choice. -Ron Smith, Regional Picks: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
This plant produces a great low-growing mat of flowers. The cheerful starlike blossoms come in pink, blue, and white, and the attractive finely cut leaves disappear soon after flowering.
This is a short-growing aster with lilac-blue flowers and creeping rootstocks. Many cultivars exist. It can be used on steep slopes for erosion control.
This striking, richly-textured, deciduous ground cover has heart-shaped leaves that turn mauve in autumn. Purple, blue, or white flowers appear in late summer to early fall.
This woodland plant is valued for its flowers and groundcovering leaves. Terminal clusters of delicate blue flowers appear in spring.
This woodland plant is valued for its flowers and its heart-shaped, ground-covering leaves. Its small blue flowers go nicely with ephemeral bulbs in mid- to late spring, as the enlarging leaves block out the ripening bulb foliage. 'Jack Frost' can take dry summers and wet winters. This cultivar is prized for its improved tolerance of heat and sun. -Marty Hair, Regional Picks: Upper Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
This woodland plant is valued for its flowers and heart-shaped, groundcovering leaves. 'Langtrees' can take dry summers and wet winters. This cultivar is prized for its improved tolerance of heat and sun.
This brunnera cultivar has a silvery, heart-shaped leaves that are mostly everygreen. Delicate blue flowers emerge in spring. Drought tolerant once established, ‘Looking Glass’ brunnera requires little watering and is fairly resistant to pests. This cultivar grows to a little more than a foot tall and almost as wide. Use it in a woodland or shade garden, in a container, or at waterside. -Sylvia Matlock, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
Serbian bellflowers have an easy, undemanding habit. Creating a stream of lavender blue, the 1-inch-diameter star-shaped blossoms bloom reliably from late spring to early fall. The foliage remains evergreen in mild winters and needs to be sheared only once in a while to keep its appearance tidy. 'Blue Waterfall' flows beautifully along bed edges and through rock gardens in full sun to partial shade.
Regarded by some as the bluest blue fescue, this plant forms compact, cascading mounds of foot-tall, intensely blue, narrow leaves that are attractive in all seasons. Blooms are generally secondary to the foliage, but this cultivar blooms more heavily than most, with spikelets in summer. This cultivar is long-lived and very hardy. Grow in groups in a border or rock garden, or as a groundcover.
These compact tufts of 8-inch-long powder-blue leaves are well suited for edging and naturalizing in the rock garden.
This popular perennial is grown for its blue or lavender-blue, saucer-shaped flowers that bloom for many weeks. It is useful in borders, rock gardens, and containers. It quickly reaches about 18 inches tall and 2 or 3 feet wide.
This plant bears rich medium blue to violet-blue flowers from 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide in early summer, and blooms sporadically throughout the summer.
Deeply cut plum-purple leaves emerge in spring and stay true to color throughout the season. Lavender-blue flowers bloom beginning in late spring. 'Midnight Reiter' grows to only about 6 or 8 inches tall and twice as wide. More shade causes the foliage to be greener.
‘Halycon’ is a wonderful blue hosta that holds its strong leaf color all season. Its textured, blue-green leaves are thick enough to be slug resistant. Bell-shaped, pale lilac flowers are followed by seed heads that attract birds late in the season. 'Halcyon' grows fairly slowly. It can be used as either a ground cover or a specimen plant. -Jane Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
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.
This cultivar is a clump-forming perennial with toothed gray-green leaves and larger flowers than the hybrid. It flowers profusely and long, especially if sheared. The blue-purple flowers are small but abundant, and the foliage is aromatic.
This is a very fragrant native woodland phlox with powder-blue flowers in spring. Reaching only 1 foot tall, it can spread to almost 2 feet and makes an attractive groundcover under shrubs or planted with other spring-blooming wildflowers. Leaves are semi-evergreen and hairy; stems root along their length. The blue flowers are salverform with petal lobes. This plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
This spreading, semi-evergreen perennial has hairy leaves and lavender-blue to pale violet and white flowers borne in open clusters in early spring. Flowers can have notched or unnotched petal lobes. Cultivars include ‘Clouds of Perfume’ with light lavender-blue flowers; ‘Eco Texas Purple’ (dark purple with a violet eye); ‘Fuller’s White’ (white); and ‘London Grove’ (lavender-blue flowers).
Moss phlox is a dense ground cover blanketed with notch-petaled flowers in April and May. Blooms can be muddy hot pink, bright rose, and magenta, while other cultivars include white, soft lavender-blue, clear pale pink to deep pink, clear scarlet, and lavender, some with a darker or lighter eye. Evergreen foliage is narrow, short, and stiff. Darker-flowered forms have dark-green leaves or red-tinged leaves that darken to burgundy in winter.
Q&A Ground covers for dry shade
by Barbara Ashmun
Moss Makes a Lush Carpet
This easy-to-tend ground cover forms the foundation of a sculpted woodland retreat
by Jeff Osser
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
Bringing Sun and Shade Together
Show off what these extremes have to offer, then unite them with some common ground
by Dan Johnson
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