The Q&A Archives: Back Of Border Shade Plants

Question: I inherited a well-established shade garden on the north side of a 6' picket fence bordering our property. Unfortunately, every perennial finished blooming by early July, leaving a boring display of peony foliage, ferns and hosta. I've been making changes the past few years and have managed to add color/bloom season with aquilegia, dicentra and astilbe (plus annuals), but I cannot find a tall perennial that succeeds in the approximately 2 feet between the dominant huge peony plants and the fence. I want to add more color to the garden after the peonies are done. Can you please suggest what plants might do the trick?

Answer: You might try some of the bolder foliaged hostas which bloom later in the season (these would be wider than two feet), along with some of the lesser known upright shade lovers such as variegated Solomon's Seal, Tricyrtis and Cimicifuga. You might try training a vine on the fence, possibly the climbing hydrangea. Another possibility to add height and interest would be a pedestal with an ornament or container on it or perhaps a series of containers on the fence itself. For the containers, iImpatiens and small or variegated forms of English ivy are of course classic accompaniments to shady perennial beds. You could also look at black taro, elephant ears, giant caladiums, coleus and houseplants that are happy to summer outdoors such as snake plant and the larger philodendrons with tropical looking foliage. I hope this gives you some ideas.

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