The Q&A Archives: What to plant?

Question: I want to plant perennials so that I do not have to re-plant every year. Most my gardens are in shade to partial sun. What do you suggest? Also, are there any perennials that bloom during the summer months?

Answer: If your garden lies in full to partial shade, there are many perennials that can provide interest, texture, and color.

Hosta (Hosta spp.), sometimes called the Plantain Lily, is a shade garden mainstay. Long-lived and reliable, Hostas are easy to grow and are available in hundreds of varieties. All Hostas are native to the Far East and thrive in rich, moist but well-drained soil in light shade. Hostas are grown primarily for their foliage, which can be from a few inches to several feet tall, depending on the variety. Many varieties also produce stalks of white to pale blue flowers that are slightly sweet-smelling.

Astilbe (Astilbe spp.) is a summer flowering plant with dark green, dull leaves, topped with plumes of white, red, or pink flowers. Astilbes like rich, cool, moist (even boggy) soil in partial shade, and, depending on the variety you choose, will grow from 2 to 5 feet tall. Astilbes look their best when grown in large clumps.

Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica) is a spring-flowering shade-lover that bears nodding clusters of sky blue tubular flowers above blue-gray, egg-shaped leaves. Some varieties also produce white or pink flowers. This perennial will grow about 2 feet tall and spread 18 inches. Give this perennial moist, rich soil in a partially shaded site, and it won?t disappoint you.

Epimedium (Epimedium spp.) is an excellent choice if you?re seeking a ground cover for a lightly shaded spot. Epimediums grow from 12 to 18 inches tall and will spread 12 inches. Their heart-shaped leaves are sometimes trimmed with red, providing an excellent effect in mass plantings. The small red or yellow flowers, which appear in the spring, are borne on loose panicles, and are often spurred or saucer shaped.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), sometimes called Horse-mint is a member of the mint family. Its aromatic leaves and dense flower heads in shades of white, red, mauve, or purple make it an attractive candidate for your shade garden. As with most other members of the mint family, Bee Balm likes moisture-retentive soil, and, once established, can be an aggressive (some would say invasive) spreader. Choose Bee Balm for a lightly shaded area of your garden, and you?ll not only attract bees, but butterflies and hummingbirds as well.

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is a North American native that will grace your shade garden with its delicate flowers of creamy yellow, white, pink, and red, as well as its lacy, blue-green foliage. Bleeding Heart often flowers as it unfolds its leaves in the spring, continuing until late autumn. Bleeding Heart grows to a height of 18 inches and will spread 2 feet. A woodland plant, it?s happiest in well-drained soil enriched with plenty of organic material.

You can also plant some colorful annuals in your shade garden. You will have to replant each year but they will bloom all summer long. Enjoy!

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