Plants We Love: Best Shade Plants
Plants We Love, Part 1
Every planting plan we design is uniquely suited to our client’s desires, their home’s style of architecture, and to the conditions of the garden within the surrounding landscape. We live in an area that is ideal for some of the world’s most beautiful plants. Even considering the vast array of trees, shrubs, and perennials that will thrive in our region, some varieties find their way into our landscape designs again and again. In our “Plants We Love” series, we’ll share a few of our favorites! Read on to learn what we consider the best shade plants.
BEST SHADE PLANTS
Finding great plants for the shadier parts of your garden can be challenging. Most shade plants have dark foliage and don’t flower, but luckily they come in a variety of textures! Here are some shade plants we love to use:
Myers Asparagus (Foxtail) Fern – Protasparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’
This bright and lively asparagus fern is well-suited to almost any garden.
- It is both sun and shade tolerant.
- It looks lush and likes a moderate amount of water, but is tolerant of drought conditions.
- It has an interesting form from a distance, but is finely textured and soft up close.
- It looks great in mass plantings, but is bold enough to work in small clusters.
- They are also great in pots and look wonderful year-round.
We particularly like the Myers cultivar for its compact foliage along spear-like stems. We like to plant them in masses of 5 or more, or cluster them with differently textured plants such as strappy-leaved Acorus graminus ‘Ogon’ and Dianella ‘Little Rev” or round-leaved Ligularia tussilaginea and Heuchera maxima.
Cast Iron Plant – Aspidistra elatior
Yes, this plant is also called “bar room plant,” and, yes, it is often the glossy, green houseplant found potted in office waiting rooms. But as its other name suggests, it is a very tough plant which does well in typically inhospitable conditions. Here are a few reasons we love cast iron plant.
- It is happy in deep, dry shade.
- Its dark green leaves are evergreen, upright, and make a great backdrop for showier plants.
- It looks great when massed in shaded corners and along paths where there isn’t much space for planting.
- It looks wonderful year-round.
We like to use Cast Iron Plant as a mass under long-legged woody plants like bamboo. Its wide, dark-green leaves are also a great backdrop for fine-textured plants such as the previously mentioned Asparagus Fern and plants with contrasting foliage like our native wild ginger (Asarum caudatum).
Japanese Anemone – Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’
Few plants can illuminate a shade garden in the evening like the Japanese Anemone. Discovered in a French garden in the mid-19th century, the Honorine Jobert variety has remained a timeless classic.
- This plant is a real show-stopper when it blooms! Its dark, semi-evergreen foliage is a backdrop against which the papery white blossoms almost glow from mid-summer through fall.
- The flowers rise on narrow stems up to 5’ high and are great for cutting gardens.
- Once established, they fill areas quickly.
- Since they are only semi-evergreen, we like to plant masses of these behind lower evergreen plants. When they bloom, the flowers reach up high above other plants. In a cottage garden, we like to add contrasting colors and textures at their feet like those of Geranium “Rosanne’ and Hakonechloa macra “Aureola.”
Tree Philodendron – Philodendron selloum (aka Philodendron bipinnatifidum)
When we want a tropical look, we almost always find a place for tree philodendrons. Their bold form and great size make them a big presence in the garden.
- It does well in both sun and shade.
- Its bright, deeply lobed leaves are 3-4’ long held on stalks that reach 4’ high. Altogether, this shrub-sized plant can grow up to 10-15’ tall.
- It looks great when massed, but it also makes a great accent when planted in a container.
- Masses of 5 or more philodendrons look great against walls where their lobed leaves really stand out. We also like to plant philodendron randomly within masses of smaller, differently textured ferns and plants such as acorus, grasses, and asparagus fern.
Give these shade plants a try, and let us know what your go-to shade plants are in the comment section!