Landscaping & Gardening

Creating Color in the Shade with Native Plants

Blue Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

For many, creating a colorful landscape in the shade can be a challenge.  Typical options are often limited to hostas, hostas, and more hostas! While hostas certainly can serve a purpose filling in the north side of a garage or hugging a tree, they don’t offer much to enrich the color or texture of a landscape. Native plants offer a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors that thrive in the shade.  You can create a rich, layered, textured garden that offers color throughout the growing season while creating a healthy ecosystem for birds and insects by choosing from these native shade-lovers.

Spring ephemerals such as Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Virginia Bluebells  (Mertensia virginica) and Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) offer the first beautiful signs of life in the spring.  They come up early and put on a great show of flowers, attracting and offering nourishment to pollinators desperately in need after the long winter.  These plants fade away just in time for all of the summer flowering plants to begin emerging.

Ground covers such as Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) can be used to fill in deep-shade areas that would otherwise be left bare and brown.  The deep green, velvety leaves sit just above the ground and stay green all summer long.  Meadow anemone (Anemone canadensis) and Blue Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata) have a similar effect of greening up the shade while also offering a beautiful display of flowers in late spring.  Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllumcan add a bright splash of yellow between all of these, and their gorgeous blooms can last as long as a month!

Options for taller, midsummer to fall blooms are available in abundance as well.  Tall Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) and Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinumhave tall stalks and pretty purple flowers lasting a month or more when the conditions are right.  Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), a favorite of humans and hummingbirds alike, has dramatic red displays that last for weeks and weeks when proper moisture is provided.  Elm-Leaved Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifoliaand Short’s Aster (Symphyotrichum shortii), as well as a few other goldenrods and asters, offer late season color in the shade when the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, just as everything else has begun to fade.

For an added layer, many woody shrubs can be used in shade.  Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin) and Blue Beech (Carpinus caroliniana) thrive in the shade.  These species add interest in the landscape in all four seasons, from leaf out, to flower and fruit, to fall color and winter displays.  In addition, the bird watching in any area becomes much more interesting when shrubs are added!

So you see, the shade is not limiting at all!  With native plants, the options are endless, and those listed above are just the beginning. This spring, it’s time to look beyond the hostas and build the rich, beautiful shade garden that you have always wanted!  If you need help picking the plants that are just right for your project, don’t hesitate to give us a call or make an appointment for a consultation.  We are here to help!

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