A yard that's short on sunlight doesn't necessarily spell the end of your gardening dreams. Areas considered partially shady for gardening purposes get a minimum of six hours of direct sun. At least four, however, are morning hours when the sun is weakest, says U.S. Botanic Garden Executive Director Holly Shimizu. Full shade means no direct sun. Many plants native to the United States thrive in partial to full shade in the wild. That shade tolerance will transfer to your home garden.
White Wood Aster
White wood aster (Aster divaricatus) is a clumping perennial that grows wild in dry woods across the eastern United States. The plant is hardy to minus 40° Fahrenheit, and has serrated, heart-shaped green leaves and tall--up to 30-inch--sprawling stems. In August and September, its stems bear profuse clusters of white-rayed, yellow or red-centered daisies. They bring butterflies to the garden.
Largely pest- and disease-resistant, white wood aster is attractive as a group planting for shaded perennial borders or in native plant gardens, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It grows well beneath trees. Give it partial to full shade and dry to averagely moist, well-drained soil. The plant's young leaves are edible when cooked.
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), a perennial shrub of the horse chestnut family, is a woodland shrub native to central Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Reaching from 6 to 12 feet high, it has branches that become increasingly upright as they ascend the tree. Lowest branches may touch the ground. Deep-green leaves provide yellow-green autumn color. Spikes of feathery, pink stamen in white flowers appear in June and July. Red anthers (pollen holders) add a bright accent. Yellow-husked buckeye nuts follow the blooms.
Use this generally insect- and disease-resistant shrub as a border planting, specimen or in shady spots under trees. Its flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Give the plants a partially shady location with thin, well-drained moist soil on a sandy loam or limestone base. Note that its leaves and seeds are toxic to humans.
Blazing star (Chamaelirium luteum), a 2- to 3-foot lily family perennial, grows wild in moist hardwood forests from Massachusetts south to Alabama and west to Ohio. Between March and June, dense spikes of feathery white, yellow-stamened flowers grow on its stems. Stems rise from rosettes of oval green leaves. Flower spikes on male plants are up to 8 inches long. Those on females are smaller. Blazing star, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, grows readily in partial shade and humus-filled, acidic (pH below 6.8) soil. It appreciates oak leaf mulch in the winter.