The Q&A Archives: Perennials, Annuals, Shrubs For Shade

Question: My backyard is shaded by a Mulberry tree and a couple of Maples. I have planted some holly, leucotheo, and andromeda shrubs. I would like a list of some other shrubs, perennials, and annuals that would thrive in this area, which recieves mostly filtered light. I would like to grow a vine up the old Mulberry tree, any suggestions? I also was wondering if there are any shade tolerant ornamental grasses? I am located in zone 5.

Answer: While filtered light is often a nice place to garden, I would be a bit concerned about root competition from the maples maples making your planting area quite dry. For that reason I would suggest you experiment with a number of plants and see which ones do well for you, then add more of the same. There are a number of grasses and grass-like plants for partial shade such as Helictrotrichon, Holcus and Liriope to name a few. There are also any number of perennials you could use, from hosta to perennial geraniums to pulmonaria to ferns. A lovely light weight vine often grown up through trees is clematis, and there are many varieties and colors of it to select from. For shrubs, you might consider viburnums, hypericum, paxistima, shrub dogwoods and hydrangea arborescens. Burpee offers some of the above along with many annuals for shade and part shade such as impatiens, sweet alyssum, coleus, caladiums, elephant ears, lobelia, polka dot plant and fibrous begonias. You might find some of the shade and perennial specialty plant catalogs useful, the Shady Oaks Nursery (1-800-504-8006) catalog in particular is packed with ideas and information about gardening in the shade.

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