The Q&A Archives: shade loving plants for Zone 6

Question: I have a narrow path between my home and the neighbouring one, and I would like to plant some shrubs, ornamental grasses or vines on the side of my home next to the exterior wall. What do you recoment for zone 6, for full shade and on a slop location? The soil condition is clay.

Answer: I would suggest you begin by adding ample organic matter (such as compost, leaf mold, well rotted stable manure and bedding)and some coarse sand or fine grit to the soil, loosening it down about eight inches and creating a slightly raised bed prior to planting. This will help your plants develop healthy root systems and be more suitable for most shade loving plants -- as a rule they need a humusy soil that is evenly moist yet well drained. For deep shade I would recommend perennials such as Aruncus, Dicentra, Cimicifuga, Asarum, hosta and fern (many different types of both are available) as well as Pulmonaria for early bloom and Tricyrtis for late season bloom. Few shrubs or vines will grow or flower well in deep shade, and the ornamental grasses typically require full sun to grow well. Aucuba might do well for you there, you might also try Hydrangea arborescens "Annabelle." To get some additional height, you might consider using hanging wall planters or a container on a plinth and filling it with flowering annuals such as impatiens. I hope this gives you some ideas for your shady planting area. Your local professional nursery staff may have some additional ideas based on a more detailed understanding of the planting site and your design goals.

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