Many of us are left wondering… What do I do with shady area in my landscape?

The answer is, that there are many great perennials that flourish in part to full shade.


One of my many favourites are the newer varieties of dicentra (bleeding heart).  Unlike some of the older fern leaf varieties they are much easier to grow. Dicentra Valentine is great with it’s larger red and white flowers on a background of lush green foliage. Or, for a bit more contrast, try Gold Heart dicentra. It has bright pink and white flowers on a backdrop of golden leaves.

Another great option to add some colour to those shady spots is astilbe. These heavy drinkers prefer to grow in part to full shade. Astilbe has large plumes of flowers stemming up from it’s delicate looking foliage. Two of the varieties we have found grow the best are the Younique series, and the japonica varieties, such as Montgomery and Radius.  There are also some great new varieties including Colour Flash (white flowers on dark green leaves with red edges), and Color Flash Lime (pink flowers on chartreuse foliage). Chocolate Shogun is a stunner with larger leaves than other astilbe, in a rich chocolate/burgundy colour adorned with pastel pink blooms.

For those of you who prefer foliage that is non-flowering , ferns are a great way to fill in a shady space. The Ostrich fern (matteuccia)  is an extremely tough Zone 1 plant. This 46” tall fern has gorgeous bright green fonds, that will sucker and spread to fill in an area with only a few host plants.


As a less invasive option try a Cinnamon fern (osmunda), reaching 40” tall with a broader more exotic looking fond.  An American Maidenhair fern is great for the front of your beds.  It is much smaller than other types, reaching only 8” high, and has softer lacey looking fonds.


Myself and Erna’s absolute favourite perennial, which is great in sun or shade is ‘Sun King’ Aralia (Japanese Spikenard). It’s a bright, tropical looking, shrub like perennial that grows to 3’ tall and wide.  Just an all around awesome plant.

Last but not least, we have the hosta. With so many varieties to chose from, this shade lover comes in a wide variety of shades and sizes. A great new type of hosta to try is ‘Lakeside Paisley Print’, which is great for borders reaching only 10” tall with golden leaves and lime green ruffles edges.

Come and see me in the perennial house for more ideas and advice on all of your gardening needs.

Happy Growing,