Plants for Shade


3A. Shrubs – evergreen – dense and weed suppressing

Vinca minor A low creeping evergreen that grows up to 6 in (15cm) high and thrives in shade. Blue star-shaped flowers in spring with a Jew on into summer. ‘Alba plena’ is a double white and ‘Miss Jekyll’ an improved blue. There is also a variety with burgundy coloured flowers and others with white or yellow variegated foliage.

Pachysandra terminalis ‘Variegata’ Bach upright shoot is crowned with a ruff of beautifully white variegated leaves making an even carpet in good soil. Reaches about 6 in (15 cm) and has pale green flowers in spring.

Skimmia These excellent dome-shaped shrubs have rounded leathery leaves and pale green flowers at the end of each shoot in spring. They are very fragrant. On female plants very showy red berries develop which may hang on until the next crop of flowers. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is compact and has red tinted buds. ‘Fragrans’ is another male which is a little taller at 3-4 ft (90cm-2m) with a 4-5ft (1.2- 1.5m) spread. ‘Foremanii’ is a good female and ‘Nymans’ is more compact and perhaps the best berrying kind.


Convallaria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ A nicely domed shrub, best in some shade. The powerfully scented rose pink flowers are whitish inside and open from January or February through to April. The glossy leaves have a thin yellow variegation. Can reach 4ft (1.2m) high and wide.

Prunus laurocerasus ‘Zabeliana’ (Laurel) This is quite unlike the usual laurels. The dark evergreen leaves are much narrower and the branches spread out horizontally, building up in tiers. Candles of greenish white flowers appear all along the branches in spring. It can grow 5ft (1.5m) high and 10ft (3 m) wide but can be kept smaller by pruning. To keep the shape, take out whole branches rather than cutting the whole plant back.

Garrya elliptica (Silk tassel bush) A robust shrub good on a shady wall or fence where it can reach 12ft (3.5m). In winter the 9 in (22.5cm) long pale green catkins hang down all over the shrub. If you can find ‘James Roof, it will have catkins over 12 in (30cm) long. Vulnerable to cold winters.

3B. Shrubs – evergreen – need underplanting.

Itca ilicifolia An unusual shrub with glossy holly-like leaves and masses of hanging catkins of pale green flowers up to Win (25cm) long. Rather like a summer flowering Garrya. Worth looking out for for a shady wall. Can reach 8ft (2.5 m) high but is usually shorter.

Camellia Very noble trouble free shrubs with dark green leathery, glossy leaves and spectacular flowers in spring. They must have acid soil with plenty of humus, free draining but never drying out in summer. Camellia X williamsii and its varieties are a little easier to grow than the Fjaponica types and tolerate a little more sun. ‘Francis Hanger’ is a beautiful single white, ‘J.C. Williams’ is a lovely single pale pink. Choose them by colour and form of flower. They can reach 6ft (1.8m) (a lot more in the south-west). Camellia japonica has even more varieties and is a more upright shrub, to 8ft (2.5m). Again, choose them in flower if possible. They are all worth extra soil preparation and are also good in tubs with lime-free soil.

3C. Shrubs – deciduous – dense, weed suppressing

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Bird’ A very good lace cap hydrangea. It starts to flower in July and goes on, with pale blue sterile flowers, until September. Reaches about 4ft (1.2m) by 5ft (1.5m) in good conditions.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Wave’ A much lusher plant to 5ft (1.5m) by 1 ft (over 2 m) and larger leaves and lace cap flower heads. Despite its name the sterile flowers are rich pink in all but the most acid soils, when they are a lovely pale blue.

3D. Shrubs — deciduous – need underplanting

Clethra alnifolia (Sweet pepper bush) Often overlooked, this shrub has sweet scented candles of small white flowers in late summer. It is rather upright but suckers a little to form a clump up to 6ft (1.8m) high. Pleasant pale green leaves.

Hydrangea villosa A stately upright growing hydrangea with big, rough leaves and thick stems with peeling hark. Large domed lace cap flower heads in late summer with blue sterile flowers in the centre. Doesn’t like the soil to dry out in summer. Reaches 8ft (2.5m) by 4ft (1.2 m). A very good late summer shrub if underplanted skilfully.

3E. Herbaceous perennials for ground cover

Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’ (Bugle) The bugle is a native plant of shady places with a mat of fresh green leaves 4 in (10cm) high and 8 in (20cm) high spires of blue flowers. ‘Atropurpurea’ has burnished purple coppery and green leaves and is a wonderful low growing plant under shrubs. For a brighter effect ‘Burgundy Glow’ 15 well named with splashes of burgundy, white and purple.

Lamium maculatum ‘Roseum’ (Striped deadnettle) A lively and rather rampageous ground cover, grows to 6 in (15 cm) high with a central stripe of white down each leaf. The clusters of light pink flowers in spring and a few through the summer are very fresh. The common variety has purple flowers and is more sombre. ‘Album’ has white flowers and paler green leaves, while in ‘Beacon Silver’ the central stripe has spread to cover all but the very edge of the leaf. The purple flowers are better against the more silvery leaf. ‘White Nancy’ is the same but has white flowers and rather weak growth.

Convallaria majalis (Lily of the valley) This delightful May flowering (majalis in Latin) perennial may do well for you or it may not. If it doesn’t romp away, try it around the garden in various places. It is easier to establish when grown in a pot or in a clump taken from another garden (even in summer) than from the ‘pips’ you can buy in bundles wrapped in moss. The dark green leaf is rather paddle-shaped and in a vigorous clump they are packed together and reach about 6in (15cm) high. The well-known clusters of ivory bells are on stalks a little taller and have the intoxicating sweet scent. Grow a patch big enough to cut for your house and you’ll never want to be without them. Don’t plant them under delicate shrubs like Japanese maples as their roots form a mat.

Tiarella cordifolia (Foam flower) Where lily of the valley can become a solid mat of roots when doing well, the foam flower is a complete but gentle ground cover that can go anywhere in shade. The furry mid-green maple-shaped leaves are topped by 9- 12 in (22.5-30cm) little feathery spires. A mass of them is a delicate foam.

Pulmonaria saccharata (Lung wort) Most herbaceous plants for shade are woodlanders and flower in spring before the trees come into leaf. Lung worts are no exception. This is a fairly coarse one with big hairy leaves specked with white spots and forming a 9 in (22.5 an) high ground cover. The bell-shaped flowers are red and blue or purple, changing colour as they age. In the variety ‘Argentia’ the spots have spread to cover the whole leaf making it a striking foliage plant.

Pulmonaria rubra has red flowers and unspotted leaves, rather pale green, while Pulmonaria angustifolia is a little more compact and has rich blue flowers from very early spring. It is often called ‘Azurea’ or ‘Munstead Variety’.

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose) This is much easier to grow than the Christmas rose, which is not a low maintenance plant. Tor ground cover, plant them at about 1 ft (30 cm) spacing and they form ever-broadening clumps of big fingered leaves. The bowl shaped flowers come on 1 ft (30 cm) stalks from February to April, depending on the climate. They are especially welcome at that time of the year. Mixed seedlings are the cheapest but at some special nurseries, you can select them in flower and take them away. The colours range from white, pink and deep red (all of which can have maroon spots) or deepest grape purple.

3F. Herbaceous perennials that need underplanting

Helleborus foetidus (Stinking hellebore) Native on chalk downs and don’t be put off by the threat of ‘stinking’, which I have never noticed. Rather upright growth with even more deeply fingered leaves with narrower segments than the Lenten rose, making it a good evergreen foliage plant. Each of these 12 in (30 cm) shoots is topped by a spire of yellow green flowers from February to April. If you let these seed you will get extra plants all over the garden. At some stage cut away the shoots to the ground and new ones appear as the old ones die away after flowering. Needs underplanting as it is not quite weed-proof and the plants can die after three years or so and need replacing from your stock of seedlings.

Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) Another short-lived perennial although the selected strains from seedsmen mostly die after they have flowered in the second year. Cut down the spires immediately they have flowered and the clump will usually live on – or let them seed themselves. The felted leaf rosettes are quite low but the flowering shoots can reach 6 ft (1.8m) in good conditions.

Smilacina racemosa An unusual clump-forming perennial that is becoming more widely available. The leaves, rather like Solomon’s Seal, shoot up fast in spring and by May are tipped with a fluffy spray of tiny ivory white scented flowers. Very charming and reaches about 2 ft 6 in (15 cm).

3G. Climbers

Hedera helix (Ivy) There is a wide range of varieties with green or variegated leaves and different vigour. ‘Cristata’ has a rounded leaf with crisped and scalloped edges. Quite vigorous. Much smaller is ‘Glacier’, a cool silvery effect of mottled white silver and green. ‘Gold Heart’ is the popular dark green leafed variety with a golden heart to the centre of the leaf. Also less vigorous but even this can reach 10ft (3 m) on a shady wall unless pruned, which is easily done.

Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’ This is the aristocrat of variegated ivies. Big, handsome burnished leaves with lovely yellow and pale green variegations round the edge of the dark green leaf. Can reach 20-30 ft (6-9 m) on a shady wall but easily pruned to keep it smaller.

Hydrangea petiolaris (Climbing hydrangea) A self-clinging climber for a shady wall where it can reach 15ft/4.5m (much taller in nature). Nice evenly disposed leaves and flat heads of white flowers, with a few rather small white sterile florets, in summer. If the wall is dry and cement rather than lime mortar, give it a permanent fixing every couple of years or so, or it can all peel off rather alarmingly. Treat and feed it well or it can be slow to get away in the early years. An evergreen version called Hydrangea seemanii is a new introduction from Mexico. The smaller leathery leaves are very handsome and it is also self-clinging.

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20. June 2013 by admin
Categories: Shrubs and Plants | Tags: | Comments Off on Plants for Shade


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