Do you have a shady spot in your garden? An old established tree might take up an entire corner of your yard or a neighbor’s tall house might create a big cool shadow. You might feel discouraged and unsure what to do. Well, don’t worry because you can still grow a lot of colorful plants. If you mix in some fresh compost in the area and occasionally water, you can make several perennials for shade very happy. Here are six of my favorites.
Georgia Peach Coral Bells
Heucheras are wonderful because they don’t just bloom with color but sport colored foliage all season long. And is the orangey-red color on Georgia Peach stunning or what? This evergreen perennial grows to about 12″ tall and puts out tall spikes of teeny flowers that hummingbirds love. To keep it happy, give it a few applications of fish fertilizer in spring and summer. I grow it beside ‘Merlin’ Hellebore (see below) whose dusky rose-colored blooms recall Georgia Peach’s rosy foliage. Hardy to zone 4.
Hadspen Cream Brunnera
With its light blue flowers in April and spade-shaped leaves, Hadspen Cream Brunnera brightens dim areas nicely. It practically glows! I also like Hadspen Cream because the variegation is yellower than other cultivars and therefore, softer in beauty. I’ve also found it’s easier to design with in terms of perennial pairings. It grows to about a foot tall and flowers in delicate blue forget-me-not-like blooms. This photo shows it emerging, not fully grown yet. Herbaceous. Hardy to zone 3.
Fragrant Blue Hosta
I love hostas. They come in so many colors and sizes. And they’re tough. Yes, slugs might chew little holes in their leaves but a bit of Sluggo or beer will solve that problem. I have many favorites but one I think should be used more is Fragrant Blue. The large-ish leaves beam in the shade with a creamy, greenish-blue color, creating bold impact. The white flowers are fragrant. Grows to about ten inches tall. Herbaceous. Hardy to zone 3.
Blue Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) cheers up a garden in early spring with delicate, two-toned flowers: pink and smokey blue. The white speckles on the foliage add even more interest, and once this plant takes off, you’ll have lots of babies to either cover your bare ground or pass on to friends. The foliage looks a little tired by late summer but you can cut down the leaves and they’ll grow back in a tight happy mat. Herbaceous. Hardy to zone 3.
Lime Rickey Coral Bells
Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’ is worth growing just for that chartreuse foliage. It glows as if someone turned on a neon sign! This Coral Bells cultivar creates pretty scalloped leaves and delicate white flowers. Plant it beside a dark hellebore for a brilliant contrast. Works great in containers. It’s mostly evergreen but may be die back in some areas. Hardy to zone 4.
Merlin Lenten Rose
If you need a reliably handsome hellebore, consider Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Merlin.’ It grows unusual blue-green foliage with white veins for an almost variegated look. It also blooms for weeks with dusky rose-colored flowers that echo the Georgia Peach’s foliage nicely. Hellebores are classified as evergreen but their leaves often look brown and anemic after winter. You can remedy that by cutting them all off at the base in early spring. Fresh new growth will appear soon afterward. Grows to about ten inches tall, hardy to zone 4.
The other day, I was roaming my local nurseries and noticed some enchanting red and orange heucheras. They’re commonly called Coral Bells. Some I’ve grown and some I’ve yet to put in my garden. But I recommend growing all of these low perennials. They show off beautiful foliage, bloom in tall wands of delicate flowers, and attract hummingbirds. Plus, they grow in an array of gorgeous colors and variations. Many even survive down to zone 4 temperatures. So with a little fertilizer and trimming in spring, these part-shade babies will please you with long seasonal interest.
Usually, I favor the purple and silvery heucheras because they blend so harmoniously with magenta and orange flowers, which I like. But these more heated colors work well in contrasting arrangements. Try pairing them with blue hostas or forest green ferns or even glossy ginger.
Heuchera ‘Peach Flambe’
I love how the leaves of ‘Peach Flambe’ emerge as a dusky red. Then, as they broaden, their hue turns orange and lightens up. You can see what I mean in the top photo of a fall container arrangement.
Heuchera ‘Fire Alarm’
In contrast, ‘Fire Alarm’ warms with a muted brick tone. That shade could smolder beautifully against a variegated euonymus or dark green hellebore.
Aren’t those markings cool? Heuchera ‘Paprika’ glows with a wonderfully smoky peach color, highlighted by those prominent, craggy veins. I adore how the foliage is like a painting itself.
Heuchera ‘Forever Red’
Heuchera ‘Forever Red’ seems to deepen the longer you look at it. It’s utterly enchanting. The ‘Forever’ series includes a purple cultivar as well, which is absolutely electric. Also, they both hold their color in milder climates.
I haven’t even gotten to cultivars somewhere between red and purple, of which there are many. And then there are the green tones. But I’ll leave all of those to a future post. And leave you to decide which of these lovelies you might like to try growing in your garden!