Tall, dry shade-loving (under a tree) colorful perennial?

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

I have a spot where nothing has been surviving - against a fence, and under a maple tree. I've tried digitalis purpurea, which grows all over my shady yard, but not here. I'd like something tall, as it's behind my japanese anemones, and against a fence.

Does anyone have any ideas about what I can plant there - something at least interesting, if not colorful? It would also be next to my aconitums. Any ideas would be much appreciated, as I've been wracking my brain to no avail. (pref 3 ft +).


Is root competition from the maple tree an issue? I like Thalictrum rochebrunianum 'Lavender Mist' as a taller plant. There might be newer cultivars out there but I like this one for the little lavender flowers. The anemones could hide the bare legs.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Thanks, Cindy! Root competition may be somewhat of an issue, but I've added a layer of soil, certainly enough for a lot of plants. Will the thalictrum do okay in a dryish pretty shady area? I'm not at all familiar with it.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I have a Rodgersia which is holding it's own in the dense roots under a red maple. Big and bold w/ astilbe-like cream blooms. There are some pinkish varieties available also. Might be worth considering.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Thanks, Weerobin. I'm not familiar with it, but I'll check it out.

My Thalictrum will hold up in drier soil as long as we get some decent rain. It gets pretty much all shade so it doesn't get crispy either. My front bed with lots of Hostas, Epimedium, woodland phlox and a few shrubs is languishing due to root competition from a maple and 2 oaks. I originally added lots of dirt about 6 years ago but the darned roots have grown into it. I gave up planting annuals in that bed because the roots are everywhere. Had to resort to tall pots for summer color.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Cindy, your thalictrum is sounding like exactly what I need. I don't have a large yard, so I don't mind watering if it doesn't rain.

What does really well around the base of my very large weed-maple tree (and in fact even thrives in foundation cracks and flowers profusely from spring through fall is corydalis lutea. So if you like yellow and want something short there, you might try it.

If you find that you like the Thalictrum, it's easy enough to start from collected seed as well. I think I got my original plant from Forestfarm about 9 years ago and have given away seeds and seedlings to a couple of people. I'd send seed but don't have any freshly collected. I do have the Corydalis frolicking through part of the lower garden which is a more naturalized space. Also have C. ochroleuca as well. It's a white variety - not a bright white though. Is C. sempervirens the same as C. lutea? I would love to have some of the blue varieties but they don't seem to do well here.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

I don't know how dry it gets there, but what about symphorocarpus?


Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Cindy, I just looked up corydalis sempervirens. No, it's different, but thanks for adding a new plant to my want list! The lutea is yellow and has different foliage. This may not be my best pic, but I don't know how to organize them to find what I want.

Katie, I'll go there and have a look. ((I always forget that if I check something out while writing, everything gets erased. Remembered just in time.) Thanks for the suggestion.

Thumbnail by perenniallyme
Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Katie, if it's a shrub, I doubt there's enough soil for its roots, right next to the trunk of the maple tree.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

My brother and SIL have a stand of it under two mature conifers, which is what made me think of it for you. I had always thought of it as a wetland plant, but apparently it can take some dry soil. You'd have to add some soil and water well to get it established.

I have Nandina at the base of a limbed up fir tree that is mature. There's also a Star Magnolia right at the base of that tree. I don't ever water them (literally) in the summer. They are well established plants, for sure. But it just goes to show that they can survive a spot owned by a tree if they get a chance.

I have seedlings of Oso Berry or Indian Plum starting at the base of my mature Cedar tree all the time, as well. They quickly for a deep tap root, but how they get any moisture is a mystery to me.

I'm wondering if plants don't at some point actually start to "borrow" water from the tree's roots.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Thanks, Katie. I'll have another look at it.

Cindy, forgot to say I have a c. ochroleuca too, and love it (more than my lutea, I think, but maybe partly because it's much newer in my garden) , but so far it hasn't spread itself around, though it's a fast grower. I have a (blue) c. elata, which I love, but definitely doesn't have similar habits. It's very slow growing and only flowers for a short time (but happily isn't one of the varieties that goes dormant. I also have a c. nobilis that I bought last year, and loved the one brief somewhat exotic flower cluster it gave this year, but I do believe that was its entire show for the year. Oh well. I just recently bought another blue corydalis - "china blue" - don't remember the species. If you remind me later, I can tell you how it does here.

After killing 'China Blue' and 'Blue Panda', I gave up on the blue Corydalis.
I don't think the C. ochroleuca is quite as prolific as C. lutea here. I think if the C.o. was a brighter white that I might like it a little better than the lutea. I had forgotten that I had C. sempervirens (at some point anyway) and will now have to look to see what species I actually have. I do tend to let that part of the garden do it's own thing. Does anyone know what the differences are?

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

In the pics, c. sempervirens is mostly pink with yellow on the bottom of the flower. I haven't come across it in real life.

OK - don't have sempervirens anymore. Thanks for the clarification, perenniallyme. Hmm - might have to reacquire that one (and edit it from my plant list).

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Oh too bad! It looks really lovely. So it's the lutea you have then? I'm going to go on a c.sempervirens hunt soon. Will let you know if I find any.

Yep, lutea and och. I was looking at C. solida earlier this spring. ge had mentioned 'George Baker' a while back but I don't think it's hardy enough here.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

I haven't heard of that one (George). Is solida one of the ones that goes dormant in the summer? I really hate it when plants do that. I try to not have too many that go dormant. Too confusing. I might end up planting something else right on top of them! One reason I don't have too many spring flowering bulbs.

I think so. I'm just remembering off the top of my head. Trying to keep track of too many summer-dormant plants might tax my memory a little too much. Bleeding hearts and Virginia bluebells are about my limit to say nothing of all of the daffodil bulbs scattered everywhere.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Hmmm. My bleeding hearts don't go dormant. In fact they flower all summer. Are you talking about the fancy hybrid ones?

Only fancy one I have is 'Gold Heart'. Have plain ole D. spectabilis in pink and white. I think I tried last year cutting them back to see if I could keep them going all summer but they usually give up by July.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Oops. Spectabilis is the one I call the fancy one. Maybe it's not hybrid - I don't know. The flowers are showier, but only last a few weeks.

Mine are done blooming but I do let it go to seed to get a few more seedlings. I can never catch the seed pods before they fall off.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

I attach organza bags with drawstrings around forming seed pods to collect seeds when they're ripe. You can buy them cheaply on ebay.

Well I bought a thalictrum rochebrunianum and a cimifuga "Hillside Black Beauty". Most websites and the tag say sun/part shade for the thalictrum, so I may put it in a slightly sunnier spot, and try the cimifuga in the spot under the tree. I'm not sure yet.

Ach! I've never thought of collecting the seed that way. I just made a batch of 15 or so bags a couple of months ago for my daughter's dried lavender.
What a nice color combo with the thalictrum and cimicifuga. Both of mine get mostly shade/dappled shade and seem to do alright. I think the cimicifuga will have nicer color if it does get a little more sun. At least that's what I've read. I just have the plain species on that one.

Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

Cindy, the organza bag thing came from another DGer. Very ambitious of you to make the lavender bags yourself! I was going to try to make some organza bags myself, but dreaded the thought, before I found out you can actually buy them and they're very cheap. I'll try to remember to hunt down the place I bought them from.
I still haven't planted - am trying to get ready for our yearly street-wide yard sale this weekend (and it's supposed to rain - hoping they're wrong). Just got home from helping my friend/neighbor price the china and glass she inherited - (the blind leading the blind, I'm afraid), but was delighted to find my order from Geraniaceae waiting for me, and it was a very heavy box for 10 plants! - nice big fat roots!!! and very reasonably priced plants. Most were $7. She will be getting a glowing recommendation from me in Garden Watchdog.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Cindy, corydalis George Baker has been hardy for me in St Louis.
It's only it's 3rd year, but we had a pretty cold winter this past year and did OK.

Edited to add that it blooms early spring and goes dormant early,
so has virtually no presence in summer.

This message was edited Jun 4, 2010 5:02 AM

Thumbnail by Weerobin
Jamaica Plain, MA(Zone 6a)

That's a lovely one, Weerobin.

That is definitely a cutie. I might have to reconsider that one.

North Chelmsford, MA(Zone 6b)

I think the dicentra that doesn't drop its leaves is d. eximia, about six inches tall, throws out seedlings but keeps on blooming until late in the season. There are some lovely hybrids, and I
am hoping to get some.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images