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Don’t be lulled into thinking that because you have tall trees shading your yard you cannot have flowers. Foliage plays a large role in a shade garden, too. There are plenty of choices when it comes to perennials that will come back year after year. Here are just a few ideas from Jamie Blackburn, the Curator of Woodland Gardens with the Atlanta (GA) Botanical Garden Horticulture Department.

Jamie was a featured speaker at a recent Central Savannah River Area Hydrangea Society Conference. In last month’s GardenSmart Newsletter, Jamie shared a list of small trees, conifers, and vines suitable for shady gardens. This month, he has a few recommendations for perennials that will make it in the shade garden. – Anne K Moore


PART 2: Perennials (known as Herbaceous Perennials)

Jamie Blackburn, Curator of Woodland Gardens, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Photographs Anne K Moore

Perennial Flowers for Shade
Cyclamen hederifolium  Hardy Cyclamen.  Tolerates the coldest temperatures of all cyclamen. Hardy in ground to USDA Zone 7. Pink flowers in late winter, early spring. Goes dormant in summer.
Pulmonaria longifolia  Lungwort.  Heat tolerant. USDA Zones 3-8. Purple-blue flowers. Also has attractive foliage after flowering.
Begonia grandis  Hardy Chinese Begonia.  Can be grown in wet areas. Small pink flowers in spring. Also grown for the attractive foliage, green on top and red underneath. USDA Zones 6-9.
Lilium martagon  Martagon Lily, Turk’s Cap Lily. Shade tolerant. Flowers purple-red in summer. ‘Mrs. R.O. Backhouse’ is yellow. USDA Zones 3-7.
Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Swallowtail’  Yellow Columbine. Yellow flowers in early spring with 3” long spurs. USDA Zones 4-8.
Gloxinia nemetanthodes ‘Evita’  Hardy Gloxinia. Appears late in the spring and blooms late in the fall with vivid Orange-Red flowers with yellow throats. USDA Zones 7-9.
Bletilla striata  Chinese Ground Orchid. Purple flowers in spring. USDA Zones 5-9 or can be container grown and moved indoors during cold months.
Geranium x ‘Rozanne’  Cranesbill.  Violet blue flowers, late spring-summer. Moist soil. USDA Zones 5-8.
Acanthus balcanicus  Bear’s Breeches. White and purple flowers on 3-4 foot flower spikes in mid to late summer. Very showy foliage and flowers. USDA Zones 7-9.
Tricyrtis formosana and ‘Amethystina’  Formosa Toadlily. Lilac flowers in late summer, early fall. USDA Zones 4-9.
Mertensia virginica  Virginia Bluebells. Flowers open pink in Spring, then turn lavender blue. Often go dormant in summer. USDA Zones 3-8.
Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’ (aka: Ligularia tussilaginea 'Gigantea')  Giant Leopard Plant.  Grow in moist areas for foliage and flowers. Large, shiny, 15 inch leaves. Stalks of yellow daisy-like flowers in fall. USDA Zones 8-10.

Perennials Grown for Foliage in the Shade
Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’  Dwarf Golden Sweet Flag.  Attractive foliage, small flowers. Deep shade tolerant. Groundcover. USDA Zones 5-8.
Asarum splendens  Chinese Wild Ginger. Groundcover spreads by underground stolons. Green leaves with silver mottling. USDA Zones 6-9.
Beschorneria septentrionalis  False Red Agave.  Moist shade-has a yucca look without spines. Tall flower spikes with green tipped red bells. USDA Zones 7-10.
Arachniodes simplicior ‘Variegata’  East Indian Holly Fern. Slow growing and late to put out new growth in spring. Evergreen. USDA Zones 7-9.
Dryopteris sieboldii  Siebold’s Wood Fern. Thick wide leaves look tropical but unfernlike. USDA Zones 6-9.
Dryopteris ludovichiana Southern Shield Fern.  Semi-evergreen with shiny deep green fronds. South East U.S. native. USDA Zones 6-9.
Thelypteris kunthii  Abundant Lady Fern.  Spreads by rhizomes, bright green fronds. U.S. South East native. USDA Zones 6-9.
Helleborus foetidus  Bearsfoot Hellebore.  Evergreen deeply cut foliage. Light green flowers early spring. USDA Zones 5-9.

Check out this article for more shade ideas:
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