Reader Question: Shade Perennials

Today’s Reader Question comes from Monica in Bethesda, MD:

I recently read your article about shrubs for shady gardens and it made me wonder if you have suggestions for shade perennials. I have hosta and pachysandra but I’d like to expand my area for shade perennials.

Monica, there are so many wonderful choices when it comes to shade perennials. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Ferns – there are ferns that can fit just about condition that you can throw at them. There are short ones like rainbow moss fern that spread like a groundcover, tall majestic evergreen creatures like autumn fern and delicate ones with apple green foliage like lady fern.
  2. Coral Bells – the latin name for these is Heuchera and you can find them in all sorts of foliage colors. The foliage can range from green to chartreuse to purple to marbled. Coral bells are generally grown for their beautiful evergreen foliage but some of them, like ‘Autumn Bride’, provide a nice display of flowers too.

    shade perennials

    Coral bells are often grown for their beautiful evergreen foliage

  3. Astilbe – also known as False Spiraea, these perennials can vary in size from dwarf (like Hennie Graafland) to quite tall (like ‘Bridal Veil’). They come in a variety of colors that can be worked into virtually any shady garden.
  4. Bleeding Hearts – also known as Dicentra spectabilis, these ephemeral beauties begin blooming in April and all but disappear by midsummer. Their gorgeous blooms can either be pink or white and will provide a beautiful show of color.
  5. Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ is a favorite in my own personal garden. I love perennials that are no fuss and take care of themselves once established. Solomon’s Seal will form a small colony over the years and is easily propagated to use in other shady areas or to share with your friends.
  6. Dwarf Crested Iris – Iris cristata is a delightful little spring bloomer that is attractive even when it’s not in bloom. The straight species’ blooms are blue but it is also available in white. This is another shade perennial that will colonize over the years and it is not invasive.

I hope that this list gives you some ideas of shady perennials that will be great performers in your garden. Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ is another great choice and you can use it to fill in the bare spots that are left in the winter by hostas.

I’d love to hear from other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers about their favorite shady perennials. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

Winter Interest Plants

 

In today’s post I’ve decided to give you a quick list of plants that offer you winter interest. Over the next couple of months I’ll try to discuss them further in the Plant Profile posts.

Deciduous Trees

Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple) - this tree is grown in the winter for its beautiful exfoliating bark

Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) - the form and silhouette of Japanese maples make them perfect in the winter

Evergreen Trees

Cunninghamia lanceolata (China Fir) – beautiful large trees with striking blue foliage

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula' (Weeping Alaskan Cedar) - large tree with graceful weeping arms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picea abies 'Pendula' (Weeping Norway Spruce) - if you're looking for a specimen for the garden, this is it!

 

Deciduous Shrubs

Ilex verticillata (Winterberry) - produces an outstanding crop of berries and available in both dwarf and non-dwarf sizes

 

Hamamelis x intermedia (Witch Hazel) - this plant surprises people in February with its blooms

Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry) - beautiful purple berries are borne in the fall and often last into early winter if the birds don't get them first

Evergreen Perennials

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose) - see my post for more information

Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern) - large clumps of evergreen foliage that can reach 3'-4' tall

Arum italicum 'Pictum' (Lords and Ladies) - see my post for more information

Deciduous Perennials – well it kind of goes without saying that deciduous perennials look like mulch since all of their perennial parts are underground for the winter.

I hope that you’ve received some inspiration to add some of these beauties to your garden. Too often we overlook the simpler, quieter parts of plants like the bark or marbled foliage for showy flowers. But it’s during the winter that we can appreciate the exfoliating bark of a paperbark maple or the bright red berries of the Winterberry. I’d love to hear about the plants that you enjoy in your winter garden. Leave me a comment in the section below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy winter gardening!

December 16, 2011Permalink 1 Comment

Plant Profile: Lords and Ladies or Arum italicum ‘Pictum’

 

The frost has killed off the foliage on my hostas and they resemble little more than pathetic blobs of brown mushiness. But a winter friend has reared its head and that friend is Arum italicum ‘Pictum’, otherwise known as Lord and Ladies.

Arum is a fascinating plant in that it is summer dormant and waits until cool weather to emerge. It is a perfect companion plant for shade loving perennials such as hostas, deciduous ferns and astilbes. When the cold weather has become too much for these spring and summer beauties, Arum decides to emerge to take over the show. Its beautiful arrow shaped leaves are mottled with white veins that seem to catch sunlight and reflect it back in the winter garden. It will emerge through fallen leaves so it can be naturalized in wooded areas, perhaps along a garden path or sitting area that is enjoyed on those warm winter days.

Arum is accented with light green to white spathes in spring that resemble those of a peace lily. As summer draws closer, the spathes transform into bright red seed heads that stand out in the shade garden. After this final performance, Arum goes into its summer dormancy and waits again for the cool weather. For this reason. it’s a good idea to mark or otherwise note where your Arum are so that they aren’t uprooted during the summer.

A bonus of growing this plant is that it is also deer and vole resistant. Reported to be poisonous, it’s no wonder why the four legged critters, both above and below ground, steer clear of it. Arum will form quaint colonies over time that are easily separated to either move to other areas of your garden or to share with friends. While they prefer moist but well drained, humusy soil, they will certainly tolerate much less, including the usual drought that the Mid-Atlantic summers offer. This is a must have plant for winter gardens…surely you can find a place in your garden for a plant otherwise known as Lords and Ladies! If you have experience with Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ in your garden, let me know by leaving a comment or e-mailing me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. I’ve received some reader questions about deer resistant plants so I’ll be tackling that subject tomorrow. Happy gardening!

November 30, 2011Permalink 5 Comments