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The southern maidenhair fern has fluffy, airy, and elegant foliage, which works equally well in containers or in open ground. It's a perfect plant for providing light, airy texture to shady beds. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
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 has burgundy leaves splashed with silver and grows up to 16 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Pink flowers emerge in spring and rise to 26 inches tall. This plant performs well in both garden beds and in containers, where it makes a wonderful filler plant.
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 compact heuchera has dark greenish silver leaves with crimson undersides. The plant grows up to 8 inches tall and 16 inches wide and sports soft red flowers in spring.
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.
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.
This hybrid heuchera has lobed, dark-green leaves and big panicles of large white flowers in late spring and early summer. It grows up to 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide. The flowers are suitable for cutting and the foliage is somewhat evergreen.
‘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
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
'Patriot' is one of the few hostas that can really take the heat. It's a tough plant with relatively large leaves, and their white edges shine in the shade the shade. In midsummer, lavender flowers appear on tall spikes. -Lou Anella, Regional Picks: Southern Plains, Fine Gardening issue #127
'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
Lamium is a genus with many cultivars that are outstanding foliage plants for the shade, most notably ‘White Nancy’. This evergreen ground cover’s beautiful, 1- to 2-inch-wide leaves are silvery white with green edges and have a quilted appearance. Clusters of white flowers appear from spring through summer.
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
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
Find spots in your garden for plants you thought you couldn’t grow
by Dan Johnson
Bringing Sun and Shade Together
Show off what these extremes have to offer, then unite them with some common ground
by Dan Johnson
Stylish Shady Containers
Low light doesn't have to cramp your creativity or limit your plant choices
by Karen Chapman
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