No garden needs to suffer from dark, colorless corners. Nature provides an abundance of shade-tolerant flowering plants to fill those dim spots with form and color. Some are dazzling. Others have more subtle beauty. Many are easy to care for, tolerant of the dry, infertile soil often associated with shade. Before selecting your shade flowers, do an accurate assessment of the amount---partial or full---of shade they'll receive.
Bishop's Hat "Pierre's Purple"
Bishop's hat ((Epimedium grandiflorum), a shade-loving perennial hardy to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, normally stands 10 to 15 inches tall. "Pierre's Purple" is a cultivar reaching 8 to 18 inches tall and wide, with clumps of compound, toothed oval green leaves. In April and May, it has delicate stems with purple, spurred blooms. Largely free of disease and insect problems, this plant makes an attractive ground cover or edging for shady spaces. Mass it in wildflower or woodland gardens, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden. It does best in partial shade and rich, consistently moist loam.
Farfugium (Farfugium japonicum), a shade perennial native to Japan, is hardy to 0 degrees F. Reaching 1 to 2 feet high and wide, it has clumps of showy foliage. Deep green, glossy kidney-shaped leaves may be as much as 12 inches wide. Plants bring September and October yellow, daisy-like blooms to shady areas. They appear in clusters on stems rising above the foliage. Foliage may suffer snail and slug damage or wilt where summers are hot.
Where it's winter hardy, use farfugium in moist, shady spots and along ponds or streams, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden. Elsewhere it's an attractive container plant. Give it partial to full shade and rich, moist soil that never dries completely. Frequent, deep watering helps it survive hot summers.
Christmas Rose "Ivory Prince"
Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is a buttercup family perennial hardy to minus 40 degrees F. The "Ivory Prince" Christmas rose cultivar grows from 1 foot to 18 inches high and wide. A bushy plant, it has a basal clump of shiny, lobed, compound green leaves. From late winter to mid-spring, the plant's reddish-green stems bear cup-shaped, 2- to 3-inch white flowers. Aging blooms take on hints of pink. This nearly problem-free plant may develop leaf spot or crown rot. Note that its roots, foliage and stems are toxic if ingested.
The Missouri Botanical Garden suggests planting "Ivory Prince" where its early spring flowers will be most noticeable. Mass it beneath of trees or shrubs, or as a shade ground cover. It does best in partial shade and fertile, humus-rich alkaline (pH above 7.2) soil. Protect leaves from strong winter winds. Remove spent flowers stems to encourage foliage growth.