Shady landscapes pose a special gardening challenge. Choose plants well-suited to lower light conditions but be aware that lighting changes through time due to growth of shade trees and shrubs, as well as time of year. Less available water and nutrients are other considerations in shady landscapes. When possible, amend the soil with rich, organic compost to add nutrients and enhance water-holding capacity.
Camellia (Camillia japonica) is an evergreen shrub or small tree with a densely foliated texture. Camellia grows up to 45-feet tall, but is usually seen around 6 to 15 feet. Camellias have 4-inch long leaves and very showy, 5-inch flowers with varying color by cultivar with single, double and other forms. Grow camellias in partial shade on nutrient-rich, well-drained acidic soils. Camellias are hardy to USDA Zone 7.
Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are deciduous, colony-forming shrubs and grow up to 8-feet tall with equal spread. Oakleaf hydrangeas have deeply lobed, 12 inch long leaves with a papery texture with red, orange-brown, to purplish fall color. Twelve-inch clusters of showy white flowers turn purple-pink and bloom during spring. Grow oakleaf hydrangea in partial to fairly deep shade on nutrient-rich, well-drained soils. Oak-leaf hydrangea is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 5.
Liriope (Liriope muscari), also known as lilyturf or monkey grass, is a clump-forming evergreen perennial with long leaves and grassy texture. Liriope grows to a height of 8 to 24 inches, depending on the cultivar and spreads indeterminately. Liriope flowers are small, purple and hyacinth-like, held in short spikes above the leaves. They bloom in late spring and early summer. Grow liriope in partial to deep shade on a wide range of soils. Liriope grows in USDA Hardiness Zone 6.
Common periwinkle (Vinca minor) is a shade-tolerant evergreen ground cover, growing 3- to 6-inches tall, with a trailing form. Its simple, glossy-green leaves are 1- to 2-inches long and its blue flowers are 1 inch in diameter, primarily blooming in mid-spring. Grow in partial shade on moist, well-drained nutrient-rich soils. Common periwinkle is found in USDA Hardiness Zone 4.