People can be discouraged from the task of gardening in the shade, but I’m here to persuade you otherwise. Yes, you can have colour in the shade, and yes, flowers too.
How many times have I heard “Ugh, I guess I’ll throw some hostas in there.” Please. First of all, yes, you can put hostas in there, but don’t you dare discount them. The amount of variety we have with hostas these days is a beautiful gift. From the 4-inch miniatures like ‘Mouse Ears’, all the way to the 4-FOOT ‘Empress Wu’, there’s a hosta literally guaranteed to fit your space. And colour? Come on. There’s green, gold, lime, white and cream, slate blue, and all of the shades in between, in all the combinations you could want. Not to mention leaf shape, plant form, flower colour and fragrance, soil tolerance… it’s a done deal. Hostas are the Shade Queens. Embrace it.
Oh yes, Coral Bells. What gives you more of a rainbow of colour for partial shade than the varieties of coral bells? Shades of purple (some almost black), reds, oranges, bright yellow, bronze, lime, greens with deeply-coloured veins… there’s such a gorgeous selection available you’re bound to find one to suit your shady needs. In addition to the foliage colours, small flowers, often in coral, cream, or white, arrive in June. These guys are also pretty versatile too – many will grow happily in sunnier areas as well as shade.
Siberian Bugloss is really not the prettiest name for these beauties, but don’t let that fool you. Large, heart-shaped silver leaves with dark green veins and edges form a nice, 1.5’ high and wide clump, and in the spring, the plant is absolutely covered in dainty light blue Forget-me-not flowers. This woodland plant will happily grow in full shade, making it an absolute must have.
Another great shade plant with an unfortunate common name – lungwort – named for the leaves’ resemblance to infected lungs. Gross, yes, but we’re not here to discuss nomenclature, as weird as it might be. Lungwort has lovely, rounded, strap-like leaves speckled with white blotches, covered with tiny hairs. They bloom in early spring, either pink, blue, or sometimes with both colours.
Your best bet if you have a damp spot – Ligularia thrives in wetter areas better than most! Lush, round leaves can be green or deep purple depending on the variety, and one variety, ‘Desdemona’ has green leaves with purple undersides. In addition to that, Ligularia will provide you with either golden-yellow daisy-like flowers or tall yellow spike flowers.
Nothing can beat the sweet scent of Convallaria majalis in the spring. Their nodding, white, bell-shaped flowers are a 10 on the cuteness scale, and they’re perfect for little bouquets. They’re extremely adaptable and perfect for naturalizing.