Need suggestions for shade perennials in woodland

denninmi(8a)June 15, 2009

In a problem area that is shaded most of the year by deciduous trees -- oaks, sycamore, Ky coffee tree, hackberry, and some underplanted shrubs (forythia, mockorange, quince. Shade is dappled in summer. Spring ephemeral bulbs do well, such as narcissus, fritilarias, etc. Also, rocket, money plant, and helebores thrive. Daylilies used to, but as the shade got more dense, they mostly are just foliage with few flowers.

To compound things, its sort of dryish shade at times of the year, AND deer and rabbits eat anything remotely edible.

So, what WOULD grow there? It's pretty early on, in April and May, when the shrubs and bulbs and spring perennials bloom, then boring and ugly the rest of the year.

I realize I don't want much -- just colorful plants that are virtually indestructible in a really tough environment. Should I just load up on silk flowers at Michael's or what?

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Ferns are certainly nice. Epimediums are another one to consider.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 1:52PM
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coolplantsguy(z6 Ontario)

Sounds like a "dry shade" condition. Here's some of my favourites for such:

Aquilegia canadensis
Geranium x cantabrigiense
Geranium macrorrhizum
Lamium (as a groundcover)
Podophyllum peltatum (May Apple)
Polygonatum (Solomon's Seal)
Viola labradorica

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 3:39PM
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This spring I sent for seeds from a local wildflower nursery in my area of west central WI. I wanted something for dry shade and got Butterfly Weed, Wild Columbine and Harebells. Then I just recently found WC growing on the shoulder of our road right in the gravel. It is dry, but in the sun!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2009 at 9:24PM
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coolplantsguy(z6 Ontario)

Aquilegia canadensis (aka: Wild Columbine, Red Columbine, Canadian Columbine) has a wide natural habitat, and is relatively versatile. I would suggest it can grow in either sun or shade, although I would think by mid-summer it would like very tired in a full sun position.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 8:32AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I'll probably take you up on most of them, with the possible exception of Lamium -- I'm fighting it off in a couple of other areas, so I'm kind of sorry I ever planted it.

The other thing I may do is to install drip irrigation in this bed. It's a border strip at the back of my yard, and is about 25 feet wide x 110 feet long. I have an abundant supply of T-tape irrigation tape, as well as all of the fittings, and this would help a lot with the drought situation, which can be an issue since the soil is a sandy loam.

I think that some of the Nepeta species might work as well. As I said, the area does get some dappled sunlight throughout the year. In the next few weeks as time permits, I'm "going in" and doing some major thinning and pruning on most of the trees (except the oaks, which I have to do in the winter to avoid oak wilt) and shrubs. I hope to rework the perennial plantings in late summer, so that it's established and looks good next year.

Does anyone know if any of the gentian species will tolerate these conditions? I used to have bottle and fringed gentian in the area, and it seems that they did well in similar conditions in similar native soils.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 10:38PM
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ontnative(5b Can/USDA 4)

Epimediums are not native, but fit into a mostly native garden quite well. I have versicolor sulphureum and versicolor neo-sulphureum (almost identical). They are both very tough and attractive year-round in very dry shade. They have little yellow flowers in the spring, and will spread slowly to form a ground cover. Epimedium rubrum is another easy one. Some of the native asters do well in dry shade, e.g. aster divaricatus, aster macrophylla, aster cordifolius. Solidago caesia is a very nice shade-tolerant goldenrod.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 10:51PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Hellebores will also thrive. You might also try Saruma henryi, Salvia koyame, Brunneras, Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats), Calamagrostis brachytrica, and Pulmonaria--all highly deer resistant.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 6:21AM
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barbamaman(z5/6 OH)

Sweet Woodruff, Kirengeshoma, Digitalis grandiflora and ferruginea, Tiarella, Dentaria, smooth yellow Violet, Geranium maculatum, Hosta, Wolfsbane, Wood Aster, Eupatorium rugosum and coelestinum, native Heuchera, Trillium and Wreath Goldenrod, a lovely delicate thing, all grow in our dry shade, despite deer and land beavers.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 4:08PM
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I have had success with Lungwort, cinnamon, and ghost fern, sweet woodruff, and the small mounding geraniums (perennial). There is a 150ft bed under trees and I've been filling it over time with the large Hostas along with the Phlox that grows along the a yellow sedum that fills in everywhere (small ground creeping)

It stays dry due to the trees but only the Wood Ruff need watered occassionally.
I put pots of annuals on tree stumps for color and a couple of hanging baskets from the trees for color.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 1:57PM
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cynandjon(Z 5/6)

I planted Ligulara in my woodlands. It hates direct sun, but loves dappled or part sun. Definately hates afternoon sun it will wilt.
It has large leaves and a yellow spike.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 11:50PM
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