Shady areas in your garden and landscape do not have to stay bare and unappealing. It's true that shade gardens receive limited amounts of filtered light and rainwater. But they are also protected from an overabundance of water by the trees and shrubs overhead. Shady areas are sheltered from afternoon heat in the summer and the weight of snowdrifts in the winter.
Astilbe (Astilbe x arendsii) grows fern-like, divided leaves that are tinged red when newly formed. Tiny flowers in red, pink, rose, lilac, cream or white create showy flower plumes in the spring and early summer. The flowers grow 2 to 4 foot high on their upright stems in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9. Astilbe is commonly planted near water features in landscapes.
Columbine Meadow Rue
Columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegifolium) produces divided green leaves and grows 2 to 3 feet tall in USDA zones 5 to 8. Lavender and white blossoms are constructed of many fuzzy stamens in dense clusters. The flower plumes appear on top of the upright stalks in late spring and early summer. This perennial flower tolerates wet soil and grows well in water gardens and alongside ponds.
Goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus) is a shrub-like perennial growing 3 to 6 feet tall in USDA zones 3 to 7. The large leaves are split into three parts. Goat’s beard produces tiny cream flowers on large airy plumes in the late spring and early summer. Male and female flowers are on different plants. The tough roots are hard to remove once this perennial flower is established. Plant goat’s beard with hostas, ferns and wildflowers to create a shady woodland garden.
Leopard’s bane (Doronicum orientale) has deep green, triangular leaves that create mounds of foliage 1 to 2 feet tall in USDA zones 3 to 8. This member of the daisy family produces bright yellow blossoms in the spring and early summer. Each plant is capable of growing a dozen or more flowers on slender, leafless stems. Leopard’s bane will die back and go dormant during hot weather. Do not let the soil dry out while it is actively growing.
Rodgersia (Rodgersia pinnata) grows 3 to 4 feet tall with large compound leaves. Pinkish red flowers appear in the late spring and early summer on 1 to 2 foot tall plumes. Provide 3 to 4 feet of space for each rodgersia when planting. Rodgersia likes water gardens because of the constantly moist soil. Plant rodgersia with hostas, irises, astilbes and ferns to fill in a shady woodland garden. This perennial flower thrives in USDA zones 4 to 7.