Many gardeners automatically turn to hostas as the solution to their shade problems, says the University of Illinois extension's Tony Kahtz. Many other plants, however, thrive in shade. Those partly shady spots, receiving filtered sunlight for a few hours each day, welcome more plants than fully shady areas that get no sun at all. Regardless of your situation, shade plants and shrubs will bring form, texture and color to those light-deprived areas.
American Maidenhair Fern
American maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), native to shady, moist woodlands, ravines and slopes across Eastern North America, stands 12 to 30 inches high and up to 18 inches wide. Its clump of wiry stems has curving, divided fronds. Fiddleheads, or coiled fronds, are pink in spring and green when mature. Hardy to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, this fern may brown in sun or hot summer weather. Mix it with hostas and other shade foliage plants in shaded borders, rock and woodland gardens, suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden. Give it partial to full shade and consistently moist, acidic--pH below 6.8--humus-rich soil.
Angel wings (Caladioum bicolor) are clumping plants standing 12 to 30 inches high. Their showy leaves, up to 18 inches long, have green backgrounds and extensive white, pink, red or combination markings. They add a tropical flair to shady areas. Give them partial and full shade and acidic, fertile and consistently moist soil. Where winter temperatures fall below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, lift in-ground bulbs after the first frost and overwinter them indoors. Potted plants can remain in their pots while overwintering inside, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Deciduous bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) grows from 6 to 10 feet high and wide. From spring to early summer, it bears large, showy, spherical flower heads above large, green leaves. Flowers may be white, pink or blue depending on soil pH. Withstanding temperatures to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, this shrub is susceptible to several problems, including aphids and leaf scorch. Use it as a foundation planting, garden specimen or container plant, suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden. Plant it away from competing trees in moist, fertile soil. Prune immediately after flowering.
Rhododendron 'English Roseum'
A broadleaf evergreen, rhododendron (Rhodeodendron) "English Roseum" survives to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It grows 4 to 10 feet high and up to 11 feet wide, and it has elliptical, dark-green leaves. Large clusters of pale, rose-lavender flowers appear in April and May. Like all rhododendrons, this cultivar is susceptible to attacks from a wide range of insects and diseases. Minimize them with the right care and growing conditions. Plant this shrub in part to full shade and acidic, well-drained, humus-rich soil. Poorly drained sites lead to root rot, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Remove spent flowers as quickly as possible.