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Tell us your Favorite Shade Plants

By dave
January 20, 2016

We're putting together a list of the ATP members' favorite shade plants! Come on in and read how to nominate your favorites! We will later publish a final article on the top picks.

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Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Photography Bee Lover Region: Utah Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
Jan 21, 2016 9:05 AM CST
Barrenwort (Epimedium)
Great variety to try--clumping or creeping, taller or short...
I only have one

I am particularly impressed with how well it does in dry shade and someday I'll get some more Thumbs up

@aspenhill has created an 'epimedium walk' in her woodlands, perhaps she can tell us more about these wondrous plants and share pictures?
Name: Debbie
Manitoba, Canada (Zone 3a)
Hostas Cat Lover Annuals Bulbs Container Gardener Critters Allowed
Enjoys or suffers hot summers Houseplants Foliage Fan Butterflies Bee Lover Native Plants and Wildflowers
Jan 21, 2016 12:44 PM CST
I have been very impressed with the Epimedium Rubrum in my garden. Grows in poor dry shade and manages to return every year! It has bronzey red foliage in the spring and fall cooler temps that is very attractive. I would like to add some other varieties, but most are only borderline hardy for me. I am considering Lilafee and Sulphurium.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Jan 21, 2016 3:35 PM CST
Thanks for starting this, Dirt. I was thinking of Epimediums when I saw the question. My fave is 'Niveum' - small, dense plant holding white flowers above the foliage. Very sweet.
Name: Terri
Lucketts, VA (Zone 7a)
Region: Mid-Atlantic Region: Virginia Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Hellebores Irises
Ferns Foliage Fan Ponds
Jan 21, 2016 4:11 PM CST
Hi Dirt. Yes, I LOVE epimediums for the shade garden. I've had a few plants, maybe five or so, for years that have done really well. Hard to find locally though. Last winter while thinking about garden plans, I found Garden Visions, a mail order source that specializes in them. I splurged and ordered quite a few and they became the foundation for a new garden bed for the path that cuts through the woods from the driveway to the pond, calling it my Epimedium Walk. The plants were nice and healthy, but small as mail order plants usually are. I'll have to see if they make it through the winter and if they do, hopefully I'll get a few blooms this spring. They'll need a few years to reach maturity, but I'm hoping to keep growing the collection each year. I love the dainty fairy like look of the blooms, but I also like the foliage. Another big plus - deer seem to leave them alone Smiling
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Jan 22, 2016 1:33 PM CST
These grow very slowly for me, but a lovely plant.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Photography Bee Lover Region: Utah Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
Jan 22, 2016 7:39 PM CST
I have no idea where the common name barrenwort comes from--sounds so ugly. But I guess it's not as bad as horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, and randy beef grass which I am just guessing come from the most touted herbal use Blinking
Yes, it is a difficult plant to find locally--many very appealing cultivars available otherwise though.
Terri, your path will be amazing Smiling

'Niveum' is cute Thumbs up looks like a star performer
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses
Clematis Irises Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Sages
Jan 22, 2016 7:44 PM CST

Plants Admin

This is one of my favorites. I'm growing only about 10 epimediums right now, of 4 different species, but I hope to replace many other shade plants with epimediums this year. They're ideal for my garden: The gophers don't want them, the snails don't damage them, and they grow happily in dry shade.
Name: Terri
Lucketts, VA (Zone 7a)
Region: Mid-Atlantic Region: Virginia Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Hellebores Irises
Ferns Foliage Fan Ponds
Jan 23, 2016 4:26 AM CST
I can highly recommend Garden Visions for anyone looking for a wide variety of epimediums. Last year I ordered close to 30 different cultivars and that just scratched the surface of what they have to offer. These are photos of the first epimediums that I found locally which have done so well for me and led to me wanting more. The first one is either 'Lilafee' or 'Rose something or other' - got it long before I started marking which plants went where - and the second one is 'Niveum'.

Thumb of 2016-01-23/aspenhill/3234ea Thumb of 2016-01-23/aspenhill/cc27d2

[Last edited by aspenhill - Jan 23, 2016 4:28 AM (+)]
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Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
Sedums Container Gardener Bulbs Vegetable Grower Hummingbirder Region: Mid-Atlantic
Jan 23, 2016 5:48 AM CST
@dirtdorphins, the term barrenwort came from its medieval uses to improve with fertility. In Chinese medicine, it's actually called Horny Goat Weed, because it supposedly helps with your libido! Hilarious!

I'm a huge fan of epimediums myself. I'll be looking for evergreen varieties to add to my shady front yard this year.
Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
Jan 23, 2016 6:52 AM CST
This really is a very underused plant. Very healthy and no pest problems whatsoever here.

The blooms aren't big, they certainly aren't long lasting, but they are fantastic when viewed close. Lovely foliage as well.

I only have a single plant of what I believe is Epimedium × rubrum. I had it for many years and it does grow very slowly, but that also means it's very low maintenance and that is a really good thing. It has surprised me with its drought tolerance - I really didn't expect it to be as though as it is. That said, when I finally get around to replanting and dividing mine I'll try to spoil it a bit to see if I can get it to grow at a bit faster rate.

Name: Rose
Oquawka, IL (Zone 5a)
Garden Photography Echinacea Dahlias Clematis Region: Illinois Hibiscus
Heucheras Charter ATP Member Birds Hummingbirder Hostas Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Jan 23, 2016 9:15 AM CST
I received a small plant several years ago in a secret hosta swap. I didn't even know what it was called until last year! I will definitely add more to my gardens.
Name: Cinda
Indiana Zone 5b
Dances with Dirt
Birds Frugal Gardener Native Plants and Wildflowers Critters Allowed Garden Procrastinator Herbs
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Jan 23, 2016 1:53 PM CST
I have a few of these plants in my garden and they have been there for years with little or no special care. Always a pleasure to see in the spring. They however are hard to photograph because the flowers hang down and are low to the ground.

AS for the name :when a plant ends in wort it often indicates it's usefulness as a medicinal herb.
Barrenwort is so named because it use to be thought to cause barrenness in women.
Keep believing ,hoping,and loving
all else is just existing.

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