Shade Gardening forum: plants for deep shade that won't overrun delicate natives?

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volcanicclay
Jul 18, 2017 2:39 PM CST
Hey, I'm figuring out a shade garden in a spot in our yard that ranges from full shade to deep shade. I'm in the pacific northwest so there are some ferns and small native forest plants that do well in these conditions. I'm just curious if there are any other plants that might mix well with some large ferns and a carpet of redwood sorrel (oxalis oregana)... the plan for that particular oxalis is an indicator of how deep the shade gets, it can photosynthesize down to 1/300 full sun from what I've heard. We are going for lush foliage, not flowers. Soil will be pretty light, mixture of compost, dead sticks and branches and pine straw, leftover coconut fiber, and volcanic clay... basically trying to somewhat replicate a PacNW forest soil.
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Jul 18, 2017 3:03 PM CST
As as fellow PNWer, I have the following recommendations/thoughts:

Umbrella Plant (Darmera peltata) This is a very large bold PNW native that grows well in full/deep shade. It gets huge so needs room to spread out. As its common name implies (Dinosaur toes), the roots will 'walk' to increase the plant. I like to use it in the back of a shade garden. It sends up long stalks with pink flowers before the leaves break dormancy. Kind of an exotic looking plant. I love it. Might be too big for your use, but thought I'd throw it out there.

Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) This is a short airy plant that tends to reseed itself where conditions are right. It grows nicely with ferns, and has a mass of yellow-green delicate flowers that last quite a long time. Eventually they flop, at which time I just cut the flower stalks back and let the foliage be the focus. It has an interesting habit of 'cupping' raindrops at the base of the leaves which is kind of magical looking.

Mountain Fleece (Bistorta amplexicaulis) Any of the mountain fleece varieties will stand up well in shade (without reaching for the sun).

Wild Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) This is another PNW native, makes a very nice lush ground cover, which would go nicely with your ferns. I have this growing wild all over in my back woods and it tends to migrate up to my flower beds and establish itself where conditions are good for it. It does go dormant in the mid-summer heat.

Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa) A small native bleeding heart. Similar to maianthemum, this goes strong in the spring and then dies back in the summer heat. I just pull it when it looks ratty, and it always returns.

If you don't fight with deer, hostas all like shade and go well with ferns. I'm also taken with any of the ligularias but these tend to get eaten by slugs on our side of the slope (they do much better in eastern Washington)

Good luck, post pictures - it's always nice to see what folks are working on!
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Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
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NJBob
Jul 18, 2017 7:15 PM CST
Tiarella do well for me in almost full shade.
https://garden.org/plants/brow...
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Deer Organic Gardener Ferns Herbs Dragonflies
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Bonehead
Jul 18, 2017 8:29 PM CST
Oh, I'd forgotten about tiarella - my fav was Iron Butterfly but it was short lived for me. I should get it again. Lamian will do well in shade, but be cautious of the variety, some are thugs that want to eat the world.

Here's another fun little plant that does well in shade - dwarf comfrey Dwarf Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum) I have this planted around and about a hydrangea as a ground cover. Might be too aggressive though.

Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) Sweet violet. I don't get any fragrance from mine, but they seem happy to grow under daylillies and around/about hostas, would not be overwhelming for delicate natives.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.

volcanicclay
Jul 24, 2017 2:51 PM CST
Wow, some really great tips - thanks! If we do get some of the plants in this summer I'll post pics and then hopefully more as it grows :)
Name: Bea Kimball
Little Rock, Arkansas; (Zone 7b)
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Buzzbea424
Aug 2, 2017 7:19 PM CST
Deb, you seem to know about Lady's Mantle. This is the first year that I've had it in my shade garden. I had three happy plants throughout the spring and early summer. Then came unusually heavy summer rains followed by our usual summer heat and humidity.

Hellebores, brunnera Jack Frost, euphorbia Ascot Rainbow, a few hostas that survived the foraging deer population and dragon wing begonias all flourish with mulch and occasional watering. However the lady's mantle plants have disappeared completely. I know that my purple oxalis go dormant in the summer heat and come back in the cooler weather. Will the lady's mantle come back? Or have I lost them?
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Deer Organic Gardener Ferns Herbs Dragonflies
Spiders! Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Birds Fruit Growers Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Bonehead
Aug 3, 2017 4:53 PM CST
I find that my ladies tend to get a bit parched looking in late summer, I don't think they like hot heat. When they start looking stressed, I just cut them back pretty hard (6" or so). That seems to rejuvenate them, they put on new growth, and I've never lost any over winter.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.

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