Podcast: Let's Argue About Plants

Episode 63: Color in the Shade

When you think about shade, do you think about various different colors of green? Maybe a white-striped hosta if you’re lucky? You’re not alone. Many of us think that the term “colorful shade plant” is a fantasy—that there isn’t an appreciable number of plants that produce vibrant reds, yellows, or purples in little to no sun. But that’s not the case. In this episode, Danielle and Steve talk about several plants that put on a colorful display in the darkest corners of their beds and borders—from a spotted low-grower that gets a plethora of blue, pink, and purple blooms in early spring, to a dogwood that will leave visitors to your space stunned by its golden hue. And did you know there are several lilies that bloom prolifically in the shade? It’s true, according to this week’s expert testimony.

Expert testimony: Ed Lyon, director of the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University.




Dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata, Zones 3–9)

‘Twinkle Toes’ lungwort (Pulmonaria ‘Twinkle Toes’, Zones 3–9)

Wateree River trillium (Trillium oostingii, Zones 6–9)

Neon Burst™ dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Byboughen’, Zones 2–9)



‘Brilliance’ autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’, Zones 4–9)

‘Byakko’ Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Byakko’, Zones 4–9)

Golden Shadows® pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia ‘Wstackman’, Zones 3–8)

‘Stairway to Heaven’ Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Zones 3–8)


Plants mentioned

Dwarf crested iris (photo: Eric Hunt via Wikimedia Commons)

‘Twinkle Toes’ lungwort (photo credit: Walter’s Gardens, Inc.)

Wateree River trillium (photo credit: Plant Delights Nursery)



Neon Burst™ dogwood (photo credit: Bailey Nurseries) Neon Burst™ dogwood—fall color (photo credit: Bailey Nurseries)


‘Brilliance’ autumn fern (habit) ‘Brilliance’ autumn fern (close-up)



‘Byakko’ solomon’s seal

‘Stairway to Heaven’ Jacob’s ladder

Golden Shadows® Pagoda dogwood (photo credit: Proven Winners® Color Choice®)


Expert testimony plants

‘Double Stuff’ Solomon’s seal (photo credit Ed Lyon)

‘Jack of Diamonds’ brunnera (photo credit:  Ed Lyon)

‘Lightning Strike’ toad lily (photo credit: Ed Lyon

‘Lilafee’ epimedium (photo credit: Ed Lyon)

‘Mahogany Bells’ martagon lily (photo credit: Ed Lyon)

‘Port Wine’ martagon lily (photo credit: Ed Lyon)

‘Samurai’ toad lily (photo credit: Ed Lyon)

‘Terrace City’ martagon lily (photo credit: Ed Lyon)

‘Yubae’ epimedium (photo credit: Ed Lyon)

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