Perennials made for the shade...
Sometimes, temperatures in August make it too hot to think, yet work in the garden. That’s when you move to the shade. You can create a little sanctuary for yourself (and a few lucky friends) with the addition of shade-loving plants, a water source such as a gurgling fountain and a colorful patio umbrella if you don’t have mature trees nearby. I have selected a variety of shade and/ or water loving plants for you to try. These special plants need a range of shade and moisture so check your plant tags for placement.
HOSTA: Hostas are low growing, clumping perennials that are prized for their hardiness and ability to thrive in part sun to full shade. The ornamental foliage is chosen for its patterning and wide range of colors from gold to blue green. They also produce white or purple flowers on long stalks that attract bees and other pollinators.
Hosta varieties include slow-, medium- and fast-growing plants. The smaller varieties tend to grow more quickly and reach their mature size in 3-5 years while larger types may take 5-7 years.
Tips for Growing Hostas*: They grow best in a partly sunny to full shade location in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. When planting, allow space for their mature size so you can enjoy their full rosette form. Water Hostas as needed to keep soil moist but not wet. They work well in groups, as background plants or a single specimens in a shady border and woodland gardens.
*All parts of the Hosta plant are toxic to dogs and cats. They are not toxic to humans.
Classic Hosta varieties:
H. ‘Blue Mouse Ears’: A miniature Hosta that grows only 6-12 inches tall with round, heart-shaped blue-green leaves.
H.sieboldiana ‘Frances Williams’ (pictured above): Large quilted leaves 12 inches wide are dark green with light-green veining. Matures to 2 ft. tall and up to 5 ft. wide.
H. ‘Sum and Substance’ (pictured): One of the largest and most popular Hosta. It matures up to 30 in. tall and 5 ft. wide. The large leaves are heart-shaped and a bright chartreuse color.
Leopard Plant (Ligularia): Grown mostly in the garden as interesting, foliage plants, the large and bold, serrated leaves of the Leopard plants makes a nice contrast to the delicate foliage of ferns and is equally as interesting as the yellow to golden flowers on tall stems that first arrive in early August. New leaves emerge in deep purple to black. The tops of the leaves may turn green later while the bottoms retain a hint of the earlier purple color. This clump-forming plant loves water and needs consistent watering or would be happy to be planted at a pond’s edge or in a water garden. The common name, Leopard Plant, originated with the spotted foliage found on some of the native species although this patterning doesn’t exist on most of the cultivated varieties. Leopard Plant flowers attract butterflies but are deer resistant.
Tips for Growing Ligularia*: They do best in partial to full shade and in organically rich and moist soil. Direct sun causes the leaves to wilt. All said, if given consistent water, the Leopard Plant need minimal care. No serious pest issues but like many large-leafed, shade plants in moist environments, slugs might be an issue. The best fertilizer for these plants is to be planted in a humous-rich soil and covered with a thick layer of organic mulch that you apply in the spring.
Popular Leopard Plant varieties:
Ligularia dentata ‘Britt-Marie: Loved for its large, dark chocolate-colored leaves. Golden yellow flowers bloom in mid to late summer. Matures to 3-4 ft. tall. Has a better sun tolerance than most Leopard Plants.
Ligularia. dentata ‘Desdemona’: Yellow-orange flowers bloom on purple-red stems. The leathery leaves are rounded and bronze-tinted with purple undersides. Grows 2 -3 ft. tall.
Ligularia stenocephala ‘The Rocket’ (pictured): A great vertical blooming Leopard Plant. Deep green serrated foliage and long dark stems hold bright yellow flowers. Grows to a mighty 6 ft. tall and just as wide.
FERNS: Ferns simply exude cool and will lend an air of relaxation to any shade garden setting—especially in summer when the temperatures rise. Although most ferns have frilly, delicate foliage, they are tough perennials that can withstand hot and cold temperature extremes. They range in height from 1 -3 ft. in height and, for the most part, are slow growers. However, watch out for those that grow on underground stolons… as they can be very invasive after time.
Tips for Growing Ferns: Most ferns grow best in moist, shady areas and prefer an organically rich, well-drained soil. but can thrive in full sun, if they are kept consistently watered. The frilly, delicate leaves of ferns make great companions for the flat, bold foliage of Hostas.
Classic Fern varieties:
Japanese Painted Fern (Anthyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’) pictured: Uniquely colored fronds are a blend of silvery-gray, burgundy and green with dark purple stems. It’s a small fern that matures from 10 to15 inches tall, preferring light to full shade.
Autumn Fern: This unusual fern changes color throughout the seasons: the new leaves start out a coppery pink, then in summer, turn green and finally in autumn, they turn a rust color. Matures to 24-36 inches tall and equally as wide.
Lady Fern (Anthyrium filix-femina): A good, low maintenance fern for a part shade to full shade area that needs a small but easy to grow fern. Good for woodland gardens, shaded border fronts or shades areas along ponds. Matures from 1 to 3 ft. tall and 1 – 2.5 ft. wide. Tolerates rabbits and even heavy shade and adapts to drier soils that many other ferns.
ASTILBE: Astilbes are shade loving perennials with colorful, soft, feathery plumes that rise above feathery, fern-like foliage. The flowers actually bloom in the shade from early summer until fall, ranging in color from white to deep burgundy and beautiful corals, pinks and lavenders in between. You can find Astilbes for almost every spot in the shade garden as they range in size from 1 to 4 feet in height.
Tips for Growing Astilbes: Tough and hardy Astilbes grow best in part shade but can thrive in full sun, if they are kept in a moist soil… consistently watered. However, flowering will be reduced in full shade. They need to be watered deeply every week, especially during periods of dry summer weather. They don’t like soggy soil, so no need to over water. Plant in multiples or groupings for best color effect. You don’t have to deadhead the dried flower seed heads that remain at the end of the summer, as they will remain attractive for a few more months in fall. Pairs well with ferns. Deer and rabbit resistant.
Classic Astilbe varieties:
Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Sprite (pictured): A dwarf astilbe that grows only 10 inches tall and 1-2’ wide with bronze-green leaves and plumes of shell-pink flowers.
Astilbe ‘Deutschland’ (Japonica Hybrid): Pure white plumes brighten a shady area. The soft and feathery flowers contrast elegantly against the glossy green foliage. Easy care. Matures to 18 -20” tall and 18 -24” wide. Blooms mid to late summer.
Astilbe chinensis ‘Visions’ (Chinese Astilbe): A later blooming Astilbe that can extend the blooming season into late summer. Bronze green foliage is deeply cut and course textured. Flowers arrive in midsummer in pink shades. Thrives in moist soils but is moderately drought tolerant. Matures to 14 – 16 inches tall and spreads to 12 – 15 inches wide.