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Smart Garden

Low maintenance perennials for shade gardens

Levels of shadow

Light requirements for shade tolerant plants distinguish between full and partial shade. Full shade doesn't mean the plant doesn't get sunlight, which translates to four hours of full sunlight, mostly in the morning or late afternoon. Part shade is a location that receives four to six hours of full sun per day, and relief from intense afternoon sunlight from a nearby tree or structure that blocks the sun.

A third less frequently used term to describe the amount of shade is filtered or filtered sun, in which sunlight filters through the branches and leaves of deciduous trees. This shade condition is usually found in forest areas.

1. Solomon's Seal

Solomon's seal is a beautiful showy flower, best for those with patience—they can take years to reach flowering stage. However, once they bloom, they have delicate white or pink flowers that eventually drop into berries that extend the time they produce visual interest. Leaves turn yellow in autumn.

2. Foxglove

Tall, profuse stems filled with tubular, speckled flowers give the fox an easily recognizable look that feels like it belongs in an English cottage garden. These stunning plants add vibrant color to a shade garden, and they self-seed, spreading their tall flowers year after year.

3. Woodland phlox

The beautiful, star-like flowers of woodland phlox form a carpet of flowers in shade gardens in April and May. This groundcover plant is native to much of North America and, as the name suggests, thrives in partial shade and full sun in wooded areas. Its purple and blue flowers attract hummingbirds and other pollinators to native gardens.

4. Virginia Bluebells

With bright pink buds that bloom into blue bell-shaped flowers, Virginia bluebell is a beautiful woodland plant that attracts pollinators from March to May. These native plants spread easily and regrow annually, providing soft color in woodland areas and thriving in partial to full shade.

5. Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny's delicate chartreuse foliage, which gets its name from its tendency to quickly creep up and take over a garden, is what you need if you're looking for a landscape in a partially shaded area. It's easy to grow and stacks well in rock gardens and along the sides of planters, making it a favorite as a filler plant.

6. Deadnettle

For longer-lasting blooms, look to spotted deadnettle, a low-growing plant with silver and green leaves that blooms frequently throughout the summer. Deadnettle thrives in shady, moist woodlands, where it adds vibrant color to green landscapes.

7. Bunchberries

Bunchberries are popular woodland plants that are native to North America and resemble a small dogwood flower that grows on the ground, not on a tree. Their four-petalled white flowers grow in small clusters in moist areas, and, after the flowers fade, they leave clusters of crimson berries, hence the name.

8. Calendula

Although calendula can be grown in pots, they are also popular as shade garden plants, providing a sunny pop of yellow or orange. Calendula does well in the sun, but it doesn't like it too hot, and it thrives in partial shade.

9. Primrose

Clusters of Darling Primrose flowers provide plenty of color in shade gardens throughout spring and will continue to bloom if deadheaded. Because of the variety of colors, you may want to buy the flowers when they're already in bloom, so you know what you're getting.

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