Shady spots make marvelous escapes from summer's glare and heat. They're even more appealing, however, with some shade-loving flowers to brighten them. While most flowering plants need several hours of sun each day to perform their best, there are some welcome exceptions. Choosing shade-tolerant flowering perennials will add color to your dim and inviting retreats year after year. From ground covers to large shrubs, there are perennials to solve those shade gardening dilemmas.
Fringed Bleeding Heart
Fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) is a bushy, mounding perennial herb standing up to 2 feet high and 3 feet wide. Native to wooded slopes and mountainsides from Georgia north to Vermont and west to Illinois, fringed bleeding heart has rapidly growing, pale green fern-like foliage. Leafless stems rise above the foliage mounds to bear pink or red, drooping heart-shaped blooms. Flowering occurs from March to frost, making this plant a shade garden workhorse. The plants spread gradually by rhizomes (roots). Plant it, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, in part to full shade and rocky, moist, rich acidic (pH below 7.0) soil.
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), says the Missouri Botanical Garden, makes an excellent addition to the back of shady perennial borders. Standing up to 6 feet high and 4 feet wide, this perennial herb prefers locations out of the wind. From late summer to fall, it lights the garden with 1- to 2-foot upright spikes of fragrant, creamy white flowers. They contrast effectively with its lobed, deep green foliage. The flowers may need staking if they bend toward sunlight. Plant black cohosh in part to full shade and humus-rich, moist soil. It may develop leaf scorch if the soil becomes too dry.
Canadian Wild Ginger
Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is a colonizing, low-growing perennial. In the United States, it grows wild in woodlands from the Canadian border south to Mississippi and west to Minnesota. Standing between 4 and 8 inches high, it has two large heart-shaped green leaves. The plant's single reddish to greenish-brown flower appears at the juncture of the leaves between April and June. The leaves often hide the blooms. Canadian wild ginger spreads by its thick, ginger-flavored roots to cover large areas of the woodland floor. Cooked with sugar, the root will substitute for true ginger. This plant likes part to full shade and moist, rich, acidic soil (pH between 6.0 and 7.0) soil, says the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Note that touching this plant may cause skin irritation.