Answer: When planning a shade garden, it is necessary to consider the different types of shade and plan accordingly.
Light shade assumes the garden receives shade for less than four hours each day. This may be dappled shade where the sunlight filters in through a canopy of small-leaved trees and moves around throughout the day. It may also be cast by trees with high canopies or sparsely planted trees, giving a lot of indirect light in addition to some direct sun. Most sun-loving plants will do fine in this situation.
Partial or semi-shade assumes a half day of shade-- similar to an open glade in the forest or the woods' edge. This type of shade may also occur on an east- or west-facing slope or wall or in the shadow of a building. Building shadows offer a slightly different situation than shade from trees because even though sun may not reach the plants, the site can be quite bright from reflected light.
Full shade occurs under dense canopies of deciduous or evergreen trees or on the north wall of a building where there is no direct sun. Plant choice is most critical in this situation since only limited plants will perform well in such reduced light.
Soil moisture and pH will determine the final plant choices. Wet shade is much easier to plan for than dry shade, which is a special challenge. Dry shade occurs under trees with shallow, competitive roots such as Norway maple, beech, poplar, willow, sycamore or in building shadows or overhangs where rain doesn't reach. This situation calls for drought-tolerant plants or very careful attention to watering.
Here are a few of my favorite shade-loving plants; perhaps some of them will be just right for your landscape.
Acanthopanax sieboldianus (Fiveleaf Aralia); fast-growing; holds leaves very late; tolerates deep shade.
Aronia arbutifolia (Red Chokeberry); nice berries in fall; good fall color.
Buxus microphylla (Littleleaf Boxwood); evergreen; fine-textured.
Calycanthus floridus (Sweetshrub); scented leaves and wood; unusual brown-purple flowers that smell like pineapple.
Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet); flowers in shade in midsummer; sweetly scented.
Corylopsis glabrescens (Fragrant Winterhazel) early yellow fragrant flowers; no pests or diseases .
Euonymus alata (Burning Bush) brilliant fall color even in shade.
Euonymus fortunei (Wintercreeper evergreen); many variegated cultivars available; shrubby or vining.
Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Fothergilla) beautiful fall color; showy white fragrant flowers; 2-3 feet high.
Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grapeholly) glossy evergreen foliage; clusters of yellow flowers followed by blue berries; does well in dry shade.
Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood Viburnum) brilliant fall color in partial shade; attractive blue fruits birds love.
Bergenia species (Bergenia) bold, evergreen foliage; flower best in partial shade; drought tolerant; stalks of rose flowers in late winter.
Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss) large, heart-shaped leaves, forget-me-not type of flowers.
Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley) spreads readily (to the point of being a nuisance); sweetly scented white flowers tucked into rich green leaves.
Dicentra eximia (Fringed Bleeding Heart) flowers all summer; foliage does not die back as with D. spectabilis.
Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Heart) pink or white attractive flowers; dies to ground in midsummer.
Epimedium species (Barrenwort) tolerates dry shade; unusual flowers; dense ground cover; emerging foliage bronze; competes well with tree roots.
Helleborus niger (Christmas Rose) evergreen foliage with white to pink flowers in late winter.
Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose) low-maintenance ground cover; flowers range from white to pink to maroon.
Hosta species; endless cultivars of many colors and variegations; maintenance-free; spikes of white or purple flowers, some fragrant.
Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells) blue to pink flowers in early spring; plants fade away entirely by midsummer.
Phalaris arundinacea var. picta (Ribbon Grass) green and white variegation; spreads by rhizomes; does well in moist partial shade; can be aggressive.
Polygonatun odoratum 'Variegatum'(Solomon's Seal) woodland plants with arching stems that hold pendulous flowers; leaves have cream edges and tips.
Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower) makes compact mat with spreading underground stems; flowers resemble Astilbe.
Trillium species (Wake-Robin) showy woodland plant; does well in partial shade and moist soil; will naturalize easily.
Hope you find some great plants for your garden!
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