Small Perennial Plants for the Shade Garden
This is my site Written by Wayne on February 1, 2011 – 12:01 am

Deciding the actual plants to use in a small garden is more than a personal preference. You need to consider the cultural environment, amount of sunlight, soil conditions, moisture, maintenance, and surrounding plants. Since this is a small space garden, maintenance will be less intensive. Also some consideration should be given to how to achieve a good visual effect.

That said, we feel the main problem when selecting plants for a small sized garden is how to pick out just a few from a long list of plants. Since your space is limited, every plant counts. Here are a few plants we recommend be incorporated into your small garden.

  • 21Asarum europaeum Snakeroot, Wood Ginger is originally a native of Canada, this little creeper gives off a strong scent of ginger from its large fleshy tubers. Though it can be situated in borders, it comes into its own as a ground-core plant in moist and shady parts of the garden. The flowers are a deep red but even more important are the silky leaves that cover the soil throughout the year, even in winter.
  • 166Acorus gramineus ‘Minimus Aureus’ Dwarf Golden Sweet Flag is 2-3 inches tall but brilliant gold in color. This little plant makes a stunning groundcover in moist, partly shaded locations, handling full sun just fine with enough moisture. With foliage resembling tiny golden iris.
  • 46Epimedium youngianum ‘Baby Doll Pink’ Barrenwort grows in clumps only 9 inches tall. In the woodland garden, the flowers appear in early spring on this deciduous clumper. Each cluster of “baby doll pink” flowers hangs like tiny bells above the woodland floor, with each new developing cluster of flowers.
  • 280Heuchera hybrid ‘Marmalade’ Coral Bells stands out with its rich, shiny, undulating foliage ranging in color from umber to deep sienna. Showy in all seasons, this vigorous plant has heavy substance standing up to inclement weather. Numerous, narrow spires of red-brown flowers.
  • 69Pulmonaria rubra ‘David Ward’ Lungwort is a terrific lungwort with mint-green leaves and ruffled, bold white edges. Beautiful salmon flowers nestle in the variegated leaves. Neat habit. What a plant! A stunner in the half-shadegarden. A must for the Pulmonaria collector.

  • 50Tiarella hybrid ‘Spring Symphony’ Foam Flower is one of the best clumping tiarella that we have seen. The jagged, fuzzy green leaves are each highlighted by a black central blotch. In May, the compact clumps are topped with light pink bottlebrush-like flowers, darker toward the tips.

The list could go on and on as there are just so many excellent plants out there with more being developed yearly. We intentionally did not mention hostas or primroses as these are subjects unto themselves. In Fact, we were not going to include any epimediums, since so much is happening with them in recent years, but no garden should be without a few of these fine plants. We hope to cover these developments in a future Yard Talk.

Tips of the Month

The following are some general guidelines to follow in selecting plants.

  • Choose plants that have a desirable flower color and foliage.
  • Know the potential size of the plant in order to fit proportionally within the garden.
  • Select plants that bloom throughout the growing season.
  • Determine the amount of sunlight in the garden area and select plants that will thrive with that amount of light.
  • Select plants that will grow well in the soil condition of the garden area.
  • Look for healthy plants that appear vigorous.
  • Choose plants that all have the same water requirements.
  • Avoid plants that attract insects or disease problems in your area.
  • Keep in mind that some flower colors may not compliment other flower colors.
  • Flowers of red, pink, blue, and purple are “cool” colors and will soften a garden. Flowers of orange and yellow are “hot” colors and will brighten a garden.

Flower of the Month


Arisaema candidissimum

Cobra Lily emerges in very late spring with 1 foot tall stalks of pink pitchers which are dramatically striped with translucent, white vertical veins. Alongside the flower, emerge two giant three-lobed leaves, which can reach 2 feet in width. A. candidissimum offsets freely in a well-drained site in the garden.

Web Site of the Month

Pine Forest Gardens

Found in Atlanta, Georgia, is truly a great source for quality hostas. While their selection is somewhat limited, they have most of the top quality specimen hostas. Their web site has excellent quick loading graphics which makes viewing and selection easy.

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Modified: May 31, 2010 at 6:15 pm GMT-0800

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