Shade gardens can be exciting and colorful, even without bright sunlight. While interesting foliage plants are excellent for use as textural elements in a shade garden, flowers can add just the right touch of vibrancy to bring a shady spot to life. Plant shade-loving flowers in containers, or use them in beds and borders.
Native to woodland areas, columbines are ideal for any shady spot in your garden. Columbine flowers are available in various colors and bi-color combinations. The foliage may differ slightly between varieties, but the leaves are generally finely cut and fernlike, drooping in a graceful manner. The blossoms are held among the foliage on graceful, slender stems. Columbines have distinctive petal structures called "spurs" that extend from the backs of the flowers. Hybrid columbines, as well as self-seeding open-pollinated varieties, are widely available from seed companies and nurseries.
Plant columbine seeds directly in the soil when the weather warms, or start seeds indoors early for transplants. Columbines tolerate sun, but they prefer shady areas with moist, rich soil. Keep the spent flowers deadheaded to prolong the blooming season.
Foxglove seeds may be started indoors early for garden transplants in the spring. The plants will bloom from late spring to the end of summer. Foxglove flowers are borne on tall spires that may range from 2 to 6 feet tall. The flowers are in a wide range of colors, including white, yellow, pink and salmon; the interesting hooded blossoms have spotted throats. Although foxgloves will tolerate sun, they need consistently moist soil, and they grow and bloom equally well in the shade. Foxgloves should not be grown in a garden where children or pets might play, because the plants are toxic if ingested.
Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis)
Astilbes add both color and texture to a shady spot. The plumed blossom heads may be held erect, or they may droop and sway with the breeze. The flower heads are feathery looking, on tall stems above the fern like foliage. Astilbes are available in shades of pink, red, yellow and white in plants of various sizes from 2 to 6 feet tall. Arrange different colors and various sizes of astilbes in shade garden beds and borders. They like moist, rich soil with plenty of humus.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
Bleeding heart is an early spring plant that is at home in the moist woods or a shade garden. The soft, deeply toothed foliage is carried along drooping stems that bear the flower clusters at the tips. The flowers of bleeding heart resemble little hearts dangling along the stem. The flowers are available in shades of pink or in creamy white. Bleeding heart is a spring-blooming perennial; the foliage dies back each summer and the plant seems to disappear until the following spring. Interplant bleeding hearts with later blooming flowering plants to avoid an empty spot in your summer shade garden.