Easy to grow plants in the shade

neodolatelnaJuly 19, 2004

Our backyard is very shady, what are some easy to grow & maintain plants that do well in full shade and preferably not much watering?

I also would like to grow moss & ferns, and I realize that those do need a lot of watering. What species of ferns & moss grows best in my area? I'm in fremont, california, zone 9.

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My back yard is shady as well. I grow lots of hosta, eupatorium 'Chocolate', astilbes, hardy begonia, colocasias and alocasias (which are much more suited to your zone actually), acanthus mollis (bear's breeches), ferns, arasaema ('Jack in the Pulpit'), arums, clematis, itea (Virginia Sweetspire), hydrangea (oakleaf and the mopheads), groundcovers moneywort, houttonia cordata, oriental lilies, lady's mantle, heucheras, heucherella, tiarella, ampelopsis brevipedunculata (porcelain berry vine). I also grow Rue (herb) for my eastern black swallowtail and giant swallowtail butterfly larva.

Some of these things may not be appropriate for your warmer climate, though, so I would check them out on the web. There may be a California forum that can help you out, too.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 11:49AM
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thanks! i'll look into the plants :)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 2:47PM
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Several ferns will grow in drier soil - autumn fern is the only one I can think of right now, but the list is pretty long - almost any of the woodland ferns, I think.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 7:53PM
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euphorbphreak(z10 SF)

Neo, since you're in Fremont, there's a huge range of California native shade-loving plants. Unlike the rest of the country, we don't get summer rain, so the so-called "drought tolerant" ferns of other locations may not survive here at all.

For ferns, definitely get some Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern, common in nurseries here, but not the box stores). It doesn't need any summer water, but will look better if you give it some. It creates a beautiful 3-4 ft clump. The Polypodium californica (California polypody) is a pretty rhimozatic fern that pops up when the winter rains begin and goes dormant and disappears in June. It takes NO summer water at all, so shouldn't be used where you might water.

Also, Acanthus mollis (Bears Breeches) take a good amount of shade and bloom in spring. No summer water needed, but they will stay green if you do water. (Back east, this plant is on a different growth cycle--here it is winter-growing)

Aquilegia formosa (native California columbine) will grow in shade and requires very little water.

Dicentra formosa (native California bleeding heart) likes shade and you don't need to water. It blooms heavily and spreads.

For taller plants, the Ribes sanguineum (native Flowering Currant) is good. Nice pale green foliage, spring bloom, and no summer water.

There are two native California heucheras (Heuchera maxima and Heuchera pilosissima) that perform beautifully in shade (even under oak trees) and don't need supplemental water). One blooms in white and the other in red.

A nice bloomer is the native California Salvia spathacea (sage). It clumps nicely and blooms in red. No summer water needed.

Finally, Thalictrum fendleri var polycarpum is a very airy, ferny like native plant that thrives in shade with very little summer water. It gets about 3 ft tall.

There are many choices out there, but unfortunately, many box store plant departments here carry stuff that's better suited to places where it rains in summer.


    Bookmark   July 30, 2004 at 10:07PM
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