Shade offers a gardener growing challenges, with tall trees and buildings that create cool areas with low light levels. These areas of shade usually lack soil moisture due to the rain deflecting qualities of trees and roofs. The plants living in shade areas compete for moisture and soil nutrients. Shade plants need regular watering even during rainstorms, and must be fed with a complete fertilizer in the early spring and early summer. South Carolina offers warm temperatures and mild winters to shade plants, so they grow actively all year round.
Cast-iron plant (aspidistra elatior) is also known as the iron plant or barroom plant. It grows 12 to 20 inches tall with broad, evergreen leaves. Some varieties have variegated leaves with cream markings. The cast-iron plant produces flowers that grow next to the ground. Direct sunlight will wash the color out of the leaves. This perennial is a good choice to grow in unfavorable conditions since it is very adaptable to all types of soil.
Fairy bells (Disporum flavum) are also known as yellow mandarin. It belongs to the lily family and grows 18 to 30 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. The leaves are oval, leathery and 2 to 3 inches long. It produces flowers that hang down from the stems that are 1-inch bells. After the spring blooming, black berries appear in the autumn. This shade plant likes moist, acidic soil.
Farkleberry (Vaccinium arboretum) is called sparkleberry and tree huckleberry. It commonly grows 8 to 10 feet tall, but can reach 30 feet in height. It has leathery oval leaves 1 to 2 inches long. In South Carolina, the leaves will stay on the farkleberry all year unless hit with freezing weather. This shade plant produces bell shaped flowers 1/3 inch long that grow in drooping groups. After flowering, shiny black, berries appear. The farkleberry is one of the largest blueberry plants in the United States. Once established, the farkleberry does not need any special care to thrive. They are even drought tolerant.
Oconee bells (Shortia galacifolia) are wildflowers that grow 6 inches tall. This perennial flower has leaves up to 2 1/2 inches long that are oval with wavy edges. This shade plant produces 1-inch-wide blossoms that are white or pale pink with 5 petals in the spring. It thrives in moist, woody soil and spreads by runners in order to form large clumps.