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Natives That Are Made For The Shade

When gardeners think of native plants, they often have a sunny patches of Coneflowers, Black-Eyed Susans and Butterfly Weed in mind. Yet, some of the most fascinating native plants are found along a treeline and inside woodlands. Here are 12 of our favorites.

6 for Shade

Trillium grandiflorum

They say good things come in threes and Trillium is a beautiful example. The simplicity and symmetry of these spring bulbs is a welcome sight after winter. Give them loamy soil and they’ll reward you by settling in and multiplying. Pictured: Trillium grandiflorum

Tiarella 'Sugar & Spice'

Foam Flower grows low to the ground with maple-shaped leaves often with contrasting veins. It can reseed and establish a small colony treating you to light pink sprays of flowers in the spring and colored foliage in the fall. Pictured: Tiarella 'Sugar & Spice'

Dicentra eximia

There are a number of native Dicentras that make wonderful shade garden plants. Dutchman’s Breeches easily adapts to a shaded area. Or try the fern-leaf varieties in pink or white for a longer bloom time. Pictured: Dicentra eximia

Iris cristata

The dwarf crested iris is a darling native to add a pop of color among the dappled shade. It pokes up through the leaves under a tree, or looks just as delightful lining a shady path.

Sedum ternatum

Sedum is not a plant you’d expect to be native, let alone one that is at home in the shade! Yet this succulent happily spreads among the roots of trees and shade plants. The white flowers in spring are an added bonus.

Podophyllum peltatum

Large umbrellas of leaves unfold in the spring and shelter a single cream colored flower. Mayapples create a fascinating knee-high texture in a shaded bed or woodland area.

6 for the Edge

Chelone lyonii

Turtlehead is an appealing native to establish along a shaded edge. The part sun keeps the soil a little moister so it can thrive. Foliage creates a stand of delicate stems and leaves until the flowers emerge to steal the show. Pictured: Chelone lyonii

Lobelia cardinalis

Some natives are shy, and others are Lobelia! Bright cardinal red flowers on tall stalks catch the attention of hummingbirds too. This native likes moist soil and may reseed in disturbed soil areas. Pictured: Lobelia cardinalis

Maianthemum racemosum

Solomon’s Plume is a less known native plant that merits more use in gardens. It grows in arcing stems similar to a Solomon’s Seal, but the flowers are more like an Astilbe in showy creamy white.

Phlox div. Blue Moon

Woodland Phlox is my favorite aroma of spring! Let this easy-to-grow native form a small colony, then stop, close your eyes and just inhale the amazing scent! Yummy! Pictured: Phlox div. 'Blue Moon'

Phacelia bipinnatifida

A biennial, Phacelia is an incredibly showy addition to the woodland edge. Loads of purple flowers cover the plant each spring is lively sprays. Let it reseed so you get more! Pictured: Phacelia bipinnatifida

Mertensia virginica

So easy to grow and naturalize, Bluebells are a natural for informal gardens, along walkways or even in pots. Try them mixed with Mayapples for a delightful effect.

Trillium: Bonnie Moreland, Public Domain, via Flickr
Tiarella: TerraNova® Nursuries, Inc.
Dicentra:, CC3, via Wikimedia Commons
Iris: © Larry Metayer |
Sedum: Fritzflohrreynolds, CC3, via Wikimedia Commons
Podophyllum: Valis55, CC3, via Wikimedia Commons
Chelone: F.D. Richards, CC2, via Flickr
Lobelia: © Joshua Fuller |
Maianthemum: Kai Best, CC2, via Pl@ntNet
Phlox div.: Wilson44691,CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Phacelia: Alan Cressler, CC0, via Wikipedia
Mertensia: Jarek Tuszynski, CC4, via Wikimedia Commons

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