Most gardens have various microclimates, from sunny lawn areas to shady corners. The shady portion of your landscape can present a challenge, as many plants require lots of sunshine. Use this opportunity to experiment with stunning shade-loving vegetation with eye-catching green foliage. The result can be a lush, subtle look that matches the shade's serene ambiance.
Variegated Broad-Leafed Sedge (Carex siderostricta)
The variegated broad-leafed sedge, sometimes known as the creeping broad-leafed sedge, grows to a height of 8 inches. As its name suggest, its foliage is the plant's focal point, made up of vibrant greens bordered by cream white stripes. The plant thrives in partial shade and requires moist soil. It's often used as a ground cover because it forms a thick carpeting mass as it spreads via underground roots that sprout into new plants. For best results, grow the broad-leafed sedge in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.
Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)
The royal fern is a deciduous species that's hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 3. In the wild, the fern is common in bogs and marshes. In your garden, it does well in full to partial shade. The fern has two characteristics that should appeal to gardeners. It's a clumping fern species, so you don't have to worry about it invading other parts of your shade garden; and it shoots up tall fronds that can reach a height of 2 to 3 feet, making it perfect as a bordering shrub or backdrop for other plants.
European Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum)
The European wild ginger originally hails from the Old World, but can now be found in shade gardens throughout North America. It is prized for its ground-hugging growth that reaches a maximum height of 5 inches, as well as its glossy heart-shaped leaves. The plant can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 7 and spreads via rhizomes rather than flower seeds. Given the ideal conditions, it can sometimes produce flowers, but you're not likely to ever notice them--they're brown-colored and grow against the ground, hidden under the plant's foliage and blending in with the soil substrate.
Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)
The wintercreeper is a versatile shade plant, depending on how you manage it. If pruned back regularly, the wintercreeper turns into a dense upright shrub that can reach a height of 4 to 6 feet. If left on its own, it sprawls across the ground like a creeping ground cover. If given a tree or a trellis, it can turn into a woody vine as it clambers upward. The wintercreeper's foliage is evergreen down to USDA hardiness zone 5 and has a mottled green-and-white appearance.