Even though options may seem limited, there are many perennials that grow well in shady spots, and most garden centers have an excellent selection.
Even though options may seem limited, there are many perennials that grow well in shady spots, and most garden centers have an excellent selection. Here are a few to consider:
Columbine (Aquilegia spp.): Columbine performs well in areas that receive afternoon shade, but not full shade. Most varieties reach 18 to 24 inches in height, but there are a few dwarf varieties available. There are many color options, including white, yellow, pink, red and purple. Columbine often goes dormant by late July and generally only lives 3 to 4 years, but it freely reseeds.
Lupine (Lupinus spp.): Lupines flower in mid-spring for 4 to 6 weeks. There are multiple species and varieties available. Flower colors include white, red, pink, purple and yellow. The standard size for most is 2 to 3 feet high and wide, but some stay smaller.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spp.): Most of us have a great aunt or grandma who grew old-fashioned bleeding heart in her yard. The commonly grown species is recognizable due to its pink, heart-shaped, springtime flowers. Less common varieties include a white flowering version and lower growing fern-leafed types. Bleeding hearts go dormant along the Wasatch Front by mid-July. They may flower the entire growing season in cooler mountain valleys.
Coral Bells (Heuchera spp.): The primary attraction of coral bells is the beautiful foliage that varies in color from green, to red, brown and yellow. The plants offer hard-to-find color contrast to what can be a rather muted landscape. Coral bells also have ornamental white, pink or red flowers in the middle of the summer. Plant size varies from 12 to18 inches high and wide.
Foam Flower (Tiarella app.): The foam flower is closely related to coral bells, and hybrids of the two exist. The foliage is the main attraction, but its pink flowers are also vibrant. Plant size averages about a foot in height.
Perennial Geranium or Cranesbill (Geranium spp.): Perennial geraniums grow in shadier areas quite well but require at least some morning or evening sun. Depending on the species, they grow to 3 feet high and wide. Many groundcover forms also exist. Flowers primarily appear in late spring and vary in color from white to dark pink.
Leopard's Bane (Doronicum orientale): The main attraction of leopard's bane is that it has brilliantly colored, yellow daisy-like flowers. Additionally, it is very cold hardy and survives in almost any populated area of Utah. Leopard's bane reaches a foot high and wide and lives for 3 to 5 years in the landscape.
Wind Flower (Anemone spp.): Several species are available. Some bloom in the spring and others in the fall. The autumn-blooming types are interesting because few other shade perennials bloom at this time. Over time, plants reach 1 to 3 feet high and wide. Flower colors include pink, white, red and yellow.
Hosta (Hosta spp.): Hostas are the most popular problem-free shade perennials. They have beautiful foliage and reach anywhere from 6 inches to 5 or 6 feet tall. Leaf shape and color is highly variable, and many blue-tinted and variegated types exist. Deer and snails are about the only detriments to hostas.
Answers by Taun Beddes, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, 801-851-8460, firstname.lastname@example.org