Shade Tolerant Plants
April 23, 2007 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Shade-tolerant plants! I have a small raised bed outside my door which is in deep shade, under a large white pine tree. I'm in coastal New Hampshire, Zone 5, somewhat moderated by the ocean effect. The soil is on the acidic side but is easily augmented. It's quite moist. I don't need veggies because I grow them in a community garden, but herbs would be nice, or just ornamental things. Any ideas as to what might grow?
posted by Miko to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
hydrangeas are lovely shade plants and will thrive in the acidic soil. Impatiens will also do well.
posted by Alison at 6:49 AM on April 23, 2007

Most herbs like quite a lot of sun; mints are one exception that comes to mind. There are many ornamental perennials that will thrive in shade. This link to plants for shade on Dutch Gardens (sorry it's a commercial link, but they have a nice selection) might give you some ideas. Astilbes, hostas and ferns can make an attractive bed.
posted by vers at 6:53 AM on April 23, 2007

No raised bed would be complete without some ivy! Lady Frances (lighter, more delicate than English variety) grows in zone 5. Easy to clone, as well.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:09 AM on April 23, 2007

Toad Flower or Trillium combines well with ferns in a shady spot.
posted by oh posey at 7:10 AM on April 23, 2007

also, I've planted out every indoor cyclamen I've received as Xmas gifts etc., once they stop flowering and they do beautifully in the kind of area you describe.
I second Astilabes (sp) sorry, the darkest area of my side garden is brightened unexpectedly by pink spears, who knew?
posted by Wilder at 7:15 AM on April 23, 2007

I have a section in my front yard which never gets any sun at all, and I grow bleeding heart, hosta, ferns, and lily of the valley, backed up by hydrangea and azalea. They all do really well. The lily of the valley comes out first, and acts as a ground cover until the bleeding hearts shoot up, and then the ferns and hosta totally takes over as the other things die back. I supplement the hosta and ferns with impatiens or begonias if I feel like it. Everything blooms and looks great. I hear that bluebells do really well in total shade but haven't tried them yet.
posted by iconomy at 7:18 AM on April 23, 2007

Watch if you plant mint, it will eventually take over the entire box.
posted by glip at 7:28 AM on April 23, 2007

I've got hostas, philodendrons, azaleas, and holly, plus impatiens every season. All are very happy in the shade.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:30 AM on April 23, 2007

If you want advice specific to your area, check out the New Hampshire Extension office. They have master gardeners on hand to answer just such questions.
posted by MsMolly at 7:42 AM on April 23, 2007

We too have lily of the valley in a shady area, and it works really wonderfully as a ground cover as iconomy says. (Hey, maybe we will try some bleeding hearts in that area too, iconomy -- thanks!) Here in VA the LoV is just starting to sprout up and I can't wait to be greeted with the beautiful scent on my walk in from the car after work. I also used to have impatiens in a different house and it did great in shade and bloomed throughout a great deal of the spring/summer. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:45 AM on April 23, 2007

Response by poster: Ah yes! The extension service, duh! Thanks for the reminder.

And you all have me really excited. I'm amazed I can grow so many really beautiful plants in the shade.
posted by Miko at 7:47 AM on April 23, 2007

Dead Nettle. Of course, Ferns. Lobelia doesn't mind shade. Bleeding Hearts. Spiderwort (ugly name, pretty blue flowers- and it's virtually impossible to kill)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:59 AM on April 23, 2007

You might try Helleborus orientalis (Hellebore) combined with Arum italicum (Arum) and any of the gazillion Epimedium (Fairy Wing) species out there. The mix of leaf sizes/textures/colors & bloom/berry times keeps the garden interesting. These three also make a nice backdrop for any flowering annuals you decide to throw-in.

Some Epimediums can be really lovely in their changes – soft yellow-green leaves in the spring, blue-green leaves in the summer, and burgundy-wine in the fall. And, oh yah, they flower too!

Hellebore will self-sow around the mother plant (ie noninvasive). Babies will have exciting new flower colors (anything from green-white to deep purple, with speckles & w/out). Check out Pine Knot Farms if you need a good source.

I don’t know if you worry about plant predators, but Arum, Epimedium, and Hellebore are deer resistant.

If you want herbs, I’ve had success growing Corsican mint in shade. It’s particularly nice in between stepping stones where the occasional misstep will release minty niceness. Height is about ½ inch and it is a slow grower in compacted garden-path soil.
posted by podocarpus at 8:21 AM on April 23, 2007

Another vote for Hostas here.
posted by Alpenglow at 8:22 AM on April 23, 2007

Seconding impatiens. Adding nicotina.
posted by Danf at 8:43 AM on April 23, 2007

3rd-ing impatients!

If you decide to plant some mint (great for summertime mojitos!) make sure you put a plastic border in the soil around it or it will spread everywhere... you've been warned!
posted by matty at 9:51 AM on April 23, 2007

Great thread!

Don't forget Myrtle, Coral Bells, and sometimes Sedum.
posted by internal at 10:51 AM on April 23, 2007

Sweet Woodruff. I have some under my white pine and it does quite well. It's like a soft green carpet that gets little white flowers on it in May. I've planted lillies, tulips and daffodils underneath it and it looks beautiful in the spring. It smells really good and the Germans even used it to flavor wine. More info here.
posted by Ostara at 10:54 AM on April 23, 2007

Chervil did ok last year in my part-shade patch (2 hrs of sun a day max). It didn't grow ecstatically but it didn't die an untimely death either, until the snow came. Actually it survived the cool fall weather much longer than my impatiens. I always thought chervil was tasteless, having only sampled it dried, but fresh is very nice. I think it's a parsley relative, but more delicate. (If you order from the linked site you'll have to contact them after, to ask that they not share your name with tons of garden and conservation organizations.)

American Ginseng does very well under my yew tree, is a native New England plant and is technically a herb, but not really in the culinary sense. It takes something like 7 years for the root to mature enough to harvest. It's not really showy - small nondescript flowers and red berries - but I just like the idea of having ginseng in my garden.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2007

Hostas for sure.
Be careful about Lily of the Valley - the tempting looking berries are quite poisonous. Little ones should be aware of that.
Pachysandra will fill every nook and cranny of shady areas and swallow up an infinite number of baseballs. Trust me.
White Forsythia does well in light shade.

By the way, you should know about FedCo which is a supplier of plants that grow well in Maine. I suspect they'll do well in New Hampshire, too.
posted by plinth at 12:53 PM on April 23, 2007

If you dont mind fruiting plants, You might try to grow some blueberry bushes. They love acid soil and usually grow under conifer trees. Pretty white flowers, and tasty blue fruit in the summer. You just have to watch out for the wildlife. I'm not sure what your wildlife situation is like, but if you are living out of town (or maybe even in it), you may find yourself host to some bears in the summer, as they love blueberries.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:56 PM on April 23, 2007

Lily of the valley - I have masses, if you get to Portland. I've learned to love hostas, and they are low maintenance.
posted by theora55 at 7:32 AM on April 24, 2007

Euonymous. I like 'blondie' for it's color. Good in shade or sun or anything in between. I have a mini.
posted by kc0dxh at 3:08 PM on April 25, 2007

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