Knowing which plants to grow in shady New England gardens remains a challenge for many gardeners. But the results can be rewarding since many shade-loving plants offer unique textures and visual interest to areas of a garden that might otherwise offer little appeal. Plants that thrive in the shade often include those native to the area; they require little maintenance or watering once they are in the ground. Plant a few of these shade-loving plants and you could discover that shady areas have become your favorite parts of the garden.
This perennial offers it all: spring foliage, fragrant white blossoms in early summer and golden-colored leaves in the fall. The striking foliage features 2- to 3-foot stems of green leaves beautifully edged in white. In late spring or early summer the plant sports little white flowers that later turn into black fruits among golden-yellow foliage in autumn. Preferring well-drained soil, Soloman's Seal thrives in humid conditions and, other than keeping the soil moist, requires little maintenance.
Sporting lacy green foliage with pink or white heart-shaped flowers that bloom in a horizontal row, the bleeding heart perennial adds early summer beauty to the shade garden. Consider using bleeding hearts behind shorter plants; varieties such as fringed bleeding heart grow up to 18 inches tall while Japanese bleeding heart grows up to 30 inches tall. Bleeding hearts like well-drained, slightly acidic soil, making them perfect for growing under trees, especially evergreens or in shaded rock gardens.
Featuring rather delicate, lavender-colored fragrant flowers, woodland phloxes make effective shade plants, especially along the edges of wooded areas. Preferring slightly dry soil, this perennial features slightly fuzzy, slender leaves and its stems grow up to 12 inches tall. It requires little maintenance once planted. Used as a ground cover, the blooming plants make a showy drift of fragrant flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
This perennial, commonly found in the Appalachian Mountains, works well in humid areas with moist soil. The umbrella leaf grows in clumps consisting of a large, umbrella-like leaves that grow as tall as 3 feet as wide a 1 to 2 feet. A few stems sporting smaller leaves support a cluster of 1-inch white flowers. Consider growing the plant in large groups or plant them in the back of shorter foliage. The flowers turn into small blue fruits in the late summer and early fall, creating even more visual interest.