Shade-Loving Perennials

Add sparkle to a shady spot with these easy-care plants.

July 16, 2014

Spring is a fine time to enjoy perennial planting combinations in the shade garden. Spring plants sparkle in the dappled light filtered by fresh green tree foliage, and everything is at its peak before losing its radiance in the desiccating heat of summer. These easy-to-grow spring perennials create both harmony and contrast in their form and coloring. All three enjoy moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil in partial shade. A natural-looking mulch will help conserve soil moisture, while in dry conditions extra irrigation is worthwhile.

Arisaema sikokianum (hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5) is one of the easiest to grow of the Asian cobra lilies. Its dramatic black-and-white flowers, with their striped hoods, are always intriguing. The foliage is split into around five broad leaflets that are sometimes speckled in silver. Given ideal growing conditions, it develops clusters of red berries in summer and may even self-sow.
The cobra lily’s silver speckling is echoed dramatically in the broadly heart-shaped leaves of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (Zone 3), with the pattern of green veins only emphasizing that bright reflective look. There’s also a bonus from clouds of dainty blue forget-me-not flowers in early spring.
For added delicacy, and at the same time a contrast in texture and shape, the twice-divided fronds of the eared lady fern, Athyrium otophorum (Zone 5), unfurl in a slightly creamy tone with reddish-pink highlights before maturing to pale green. For a more silvered look, choose one of new lady fern hybrids, such as ‘Ghost’ (Zone 5).

Photos: ©