Podcast: Let's Argue About Plants

Episode 19: Underused Shade Plants

Forget about hostas and coral bells, these options are better-looking and guaranteed conversation-starters

If there were a question on the Family Feud gameshow, asking the respondents to name a shade plant, chances are the vast majority of the public would answer “hosta.” But, there is so much more to shade plants that the genus Hosta, like a creeping, evergreen-honeysuckle and an insanely cool Chinese fairy bell that looks like a black bamboo with chartreuse flowers. On this episode we shine a light on these, and some other, lesser-known heroes of the shade garden.

Expert Susan Calhoun, landscape designer from Bainbridge Island, Washington.


Another bold choice for darker spots is ‘October Moon’ Japanese shrub mint (Leucosceptrum stellipilum ‘October Moon’, Zones 5-8) which has large green, fuzzy, oval-shaped leaves with a golden edge. This beauty can top out at 3 feet tall, so just try to ignore it—we dare you!



This isn’t your grandma’s honeysuckle! Creeping honeysuckle (Lonicera crassifolia, Zones 7-9) is a small ground cover with evergreen leaves adorning its wiry stems. It also has tiny yellow-pink flowers which open in late spring, making it one of landscape designer Susan Calhoun’s favorite shady ground covers.



Why don’t more folks love shade-tolerant oak leaf hydrangea? It has big leaves, exfoliating bark, burgundy fall color, and massive, conical blooms in summer. Snowflake™ oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Brido’, Zones 5-9) is particularly stunning with even bigger blooms that are made up of small, snowflake-shaped florets.



If you’re looking for something big and bold for the shade look no further than ‘Fireworks’ rodgersia (Rodgersia pinnata ‘Fireworks’, Zones 5-8). Aside from its baseball mitt-sized leaves, it sports dark pink blooms on black stems in summer.


Let’s Argue About Plants publishes every other Friday and is available through Itunes, Stitcher, and, of course, on FineGardening.com

View Comments


  1. user-7074952 05/21/2018

    Comptonia peregrina is native to pretty much all of Ontario and grows beautifully in Toronto. Check it out:

Log in or create an account to post a comment.

Related Articles

The Latest