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Exotic looking shade plants???

Posted by vgtar z7 copenhagen (My Page) on
Fri, Jan 12, 07 at 15:17

A friend of mine in London has asked me to make a garden plan for both his front- and back garden. -And he would like it to be done in an exotic theme -From looking around his neighbourhood, I would estimate the USDA zone to be a good zone 9...
However almost everywhere you'll find full shade from morning 'till evening...
The obvious choise would of course be tree ferns... -But does anyone have any ideas for colour?
Can day lilies stand full shade?
All ideas will be appreciated..

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Exotic looking shade plants???

There are a few daylilies that will take shade. Try asking on Daylilly Forum.
Hostas have some beautiful shades of blue,yellow,white and green leaves and have pretty flowers in late summer.
Bleeding hearts,Virginia bluebells,native ferns and i think ostrich fern does well in Z7. Astilbe, violets of different varities. Japenese painted fern. Am sure there are many more but thats all i can come up with at the moment.

RE: Exotic looking shade plants???

Daylilies would not flower well in full shade, if at all. I'd suggest Solomons seal and Hellebore. Hellebore has oriental looking flowers early in the year. Solomons seal can also handle some dryness. Maybe some impatiens for annual color? They *may* be hardy in that zone, I'm not sure. Good luck!


RE: Exotic looking shade plants???

I was told that ONLY mushrooms will grow in full shade ;)
Shade is different for many people- highly cut decidous trees will give you different shade than norths side of the house or huge pine.
Many plants will tolerate part shade- high open shade. Many plants will thrive under it. I have shady garden but I am zone 5 so my gardening palette not going to help you. Besides growing hosta and ferns I grow lots of clematis, corydalis, dicentras, conifers, small shrubs, aconitums, columbines, anemonies, cimicufugas, bulbs.
There is some nice books out there for gardening in shade- I am sure your local library bound to have one.

RE: Exotic looking shade plants???

In this area--shade--trust no one. Hostas will not grow in full shade. Impatiens will grow but not thrive. Ferns, as you note, will be good. One nurseryman here (Santa Cruz, CA, zone 10) thinks epimedium will grow in full shade. Maybe trilliums, wild ginger (asarum). Heuchera, maybe. Claytonia Siberica, Spring Beauty, is thriving in full shade on the north side of our building, and it's a lovely, full plant with little white flowers. Foxglove grew and flowered in full shade during the summer last year. This question of deep shade is one of the most fascinating in gardening. Good luck. Kamala

RE: Exotic looking shade plants???

True, deep shade, of course, presents deep challenges. I second lindalana's suggestion to evaluate whether it is *really* all shade all the time, in terms of deciduous trees, etc. Assuming, though, your friend does have shade all morning to all evening, rather than part or dappled shade, there still are many options. In terms of exotic, how about...


-caladium and taro/elephant ears (probably not perennial, but can be dug up and stored fairly easily)

-toad lilies (tricyrtis)




Some bamboo can take a fair amount of shade, but be prepared to isolate them or grow them in containers. has a list of shade bamboos and is a beuatiful book.

I was looking up toad lilies and came across this source in Britain: They seem to specialize in unusual plants and have fair amount that are geared toward shade (also primula, helllebores, etc). They even have "Garden Days" for visiting the nursery in late Feb. If I lived there, I'd be tempted to go!

For other ideas, I, too, would recommend specialized books. Also, several large online nurseries have search engines that let you search by various conditions (incl shade, usda zone) and desires (height, color, bloom time). Try

Some bulbs vendors have recommendations for shade, such as

This is an individual in the Seattle area who seems to be knowledgeable and has extensive information on shade perennials, among other things:

Lastly, make sure that soil' good! Get lots of compost in it, and make sure it drains.

Good luck!

RE: Exotic looking shade plants???

By the way, there's no such word as "mosses." That's what happens when you write in the middle of the night ;-)

RE: Exotic looking shade plants???

kamala, I have no idea what you consider to be full shade, but my experience most certainly does not mirror yours.

Full shade - no direct sunlight - can be very different from heavy shade. The full shade of my front porch (north facing, under wide overhang) receives no direct sunlight at any time yet it gets a good deal of reflected light and is happily home to all sorts of shade plants in containers, including hostas and impatiens, all of which thrive.

Heavy shade is often found under the canopies of large trees, especially conifers, and in similar situations to mine above but that do not receive benefit of reflected light. This is a much more tricky planting situation and is exacerbated when combined with greedy tree roots. Far and away most gardens are some combination of shade - neither entirely full or heavy but typically offering periods with some sun and dappled and filtered shade that changes and moves through the course of the day and the seasons.

I honestly cannot understand why so many follks make such a to-do about gardening in shade. It is not at all that difficult - it just takes developing a different plant palette than most sun gardeners are familair with. The great majority of my garden is in shade to some degree and I have no shortage of plant diversity and color.

vgtar, if you're looking for exotic, look for things that will make a statement on their own or that have an architectural or even tropical character - daylilies ain't gonna cut the mustard!! Consider big leaved plants - fatsia, variegated aucuba, petasites, rogersia, Chinese mayapples. Or those that are truly exotic in appearance - arisaemas, amorphophallus and other aroids, giant Himalayan lilies (Cardiocrinum giganteum). Many bamboos will tolerate significant shade and are great container plants. And of course ferns, hostas, brunnera, astilbe and all sorts of woodland plants. Most shade gardens are very dense, lush plantings and lush can translate to quite exotic - think jungles and rain forests :-)

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