Those challenging shady garden spots are only a few wise plant choices away from being inviting oases. Many plants thrive in shade. While their flowers are seldom as bright as those of full sun plants, they can bring soothing shades of green, subtle bloom colors and soothing fragrance to shade. Using these plants beneath open windows on your home's shady sides will fill the indoors with their heady scents.
Lily of the Valley
Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a popular, spring-blooming perennial that will grow in USDA zones 3 to 8. Standing from 6 to 12 inches high and 9 to 12 inches wide, lily of the valley thrives in the shade of trees, where it makes an excellent ground cover. A vigorously spreading plant, it may not be the best choice for perennial beds, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.
In early spring, the plant's nodding stems have exceptionally fragrant, small bell-shaped white blooms. They make good additions to cut flower arrangements. Plant lily of the valley in partial or full shade and rich, moist soil. Give it room to spread. Check plants for leaf spot and stem rot. Divide them when flowering decreases.
Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, perennial sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) grows in USDA zones 4 to 8. Reaching 6 inches to 1 foot tall and up to 18 inches wide, this shady area ground cover has fragrant, deep green foliage. The crushed leaves' scent is reminiscent of freshly cut hay. In April and May, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden, sweet woodruff's stems have clusters of fragrant white blooms.
Use this largely pest- and disease-resistant plant in a shady border or rock garden. Tolerating both partial and full shade, it likes average, well-drained moist or wet soil. In dry, sunny areas, sweet woodruff may be dormant during summer.
Solomon's Seal "Variegatum"
Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum) "Variegatum" is a perennial cultivar that will grow in USDA zones 3 to 8. From 1 to 2 feet high, "Variegatum" is a mounding plant with pale green, white-edged, oval 4-inch leaves. In April and May, its maroon-tinged, upright green stems have short stalks with bell-shaped, fragrant white flowers. Blooms appear where leaves and stems join. In fall, the plants have attractive yellow foliage and bluish-black berries.
Use "Variegatum," advises the Missouri Botanical Garden, in woodland or wildflower gardens and partial to full shade. Give it humus-rich, moist or wet well-drained soil. In the right conditions, plants will spread and form colonies.