Longest blooming plants for light shade

Saint Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

Hello, all!

Now that the growing season is over in Minnesota, I'm starting to plan for next year. My whole yard is pretty shady, and I mostly grow perennials for foliage. I miss flowers! I'm thinking of starting a new perennial bed in the sunniest corner (a triangle about 12 feet on each side). It's still not full sun - it gets dappled light through the day, and some direct sun mid-afternoon. It's enough that the sedum spectabile grown nearby do well, but mums and asters (even well pinched) are gangly.

What are your longest blooming, most showy light shade flowering plants? Which do you like best?

I'm also going to post this in the perennial forum.

Thanks, Peg

Stanford, CA(Zone 9b)

Hellebores are my favorite flowering plants in the shade. Ligularias bloom in the late summer and their blooms last a very long time but they need quite a bit of water. I'm feeling zone handicapped here but I'm fond of azaleas too. And some clematis will bloom in light shade. And of course there is the hydrangea - now they have hydrangeas that bloom more than once a year.

Saint Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

Thanks, doss. I tried planting ligularia in another bed this summer - they got nearly totally consumed by whatever was eating my hosta (it was a horrible year for the hosta). I think earwigs - I never found any slugs. There's a yard down the street from me that has beautiful ligularia, so I know it's possible. I like azaleas, too - the 'Northern Lights' types are supposed to do well here, and I'm real interested in the hellebores after lurking through some threads in this forum!

There were newly planted 'Endless Summer' in a planter near where I'm thinking of putting in the new bed. They bloomed that first year, and did not have a single blossom for the next two years. The same thing happened with a couple of others I'd planted around the yard. I finally dug them all out last fall and planted them near the backyard fence, told them that this was their last chance, then surrounded them with hurricane fencing and buried them in oak leaves. This year they bloomed well on old wood and had a couple of tiny blooms on new wood. I'm hoping that as the plants become more established I'll see more blooms on new wood. Anyway, though ES is from here, most of ones I see around here that are blooming are fresh from the greenhouse. I'm observing some neighbors' plantings to see if the newer releases are any better before I try any of them out in an exposed location.

Danville, IN

On a tip from another DGer, I'm using super-phosphate on my Endless Summer hydrangeas next year. She says her plants are full of blooms all summer after using it each spring. I tried all types of fertilizer, including Hollytone. The plants were healthy and huge, but few flowers. I'm crossing my fingers that next summer mine will look as good as her photos showed.

Saint Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

I will try that. Thanks!

Stanford, CA(Zone 9b)

Good luck to your hydrangeas in their new home. I have some Brestenberg hydrangeas that bloom both on old and new wood pretty religiously. I had to mail order them though from hydrangeas plus.

Saint Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

I'm optimistic that some combination of global warming, super-phosphate and newer cultivars will help my hydrangea ambitions.

Lake in the Hills, IL(Zone 5a)

I had a huge tree removed from my front yard. Dropped in a replacement and then planted coneflowers around it as quick fill. The new little tree will never fill the *huge* hole left by the removed tree. Overbought so one lone coneflower was planted closer to the house. House faces north so there's quite a bit of shade on that one. The others get filtered light in the morning, direct overhead sun in the afternoon. Guess which area gets the most blooms and those blooms stay pretty for a long time.... Yep. The one in the most shade. Always thought of coneflowers as "full sun" plants. Have readjusted my thinking.

That was a long story to tell you that coneflowers would work for your filtered sun spot. :)


Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

It's probably one you have thought of but what about alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle?)

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Epimedium versicolor 'Sulphurum', polemonium caerulem (Jacob's ladder, also comes in white), Japanese painted fern.

And white thalictrum in the upper left corner.

This message was edited Nov 23, 2009 11:51 AM

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Saint Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

Sharon - thanks for the coneflower information. I like the things you learn from "accidental" experiments.

Donna - Lady's mantle is one of my long time favorites. I love how the dew sparkles on the leaves.

I have one polemonium (a purple leafed cultivar that I can't remember - I'd have to check my records) planted two years ago. The first year it looked great. This year it shot up a single tall, skinny shoot and then fell over on some sedum. I liked the flowers, and it lasted a long time, but it looked kind of funny just laying there. I'm assuming this wasn't lack of light. Do you know if too dry/wet/fertile/infertile soils cause this? Should this question be its own thread?


Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

You know, Peg, I think I remember reading that the purple leaved cultivar tended to do that. Mine is the basic blue, and white, that I grow from seed. In fact, I just found pic of it in shade that I had installed. New plants from seed, not blooming yet, but it gives you an idea.

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

The peony in the pic is another great shady blooming plant - Burma Ruby. It's under some shrubs but blooms before they leaf out. Brings a zing to a shady area.

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Hi Peg,
My place is woodland - all shade. I mostly hang out in the Mid Atlantic Forum, and I noticed a few posts from stormyla that had pictures of lillies blooming in her shady areas. I always thought lillies need full sun, but stormy says she tries things out in her shade anyway - she said you'd be surprised at what you find out on trial and error. She gave me the following list of lillies that seem to do best for her. I planted a few with end of season sales, so I'll see how they perform in my shade next season. May be worth a try for you too - I love lillies, and they add late summer color.

From a post from stormy:
Terry, Here are some really pretty ones for you that all do well in shade for me:










This message was edited Nov 27, 2009 9:14 AM

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Do you want to try some natives? The wildflower center has a database by location and characteristics like shade, http://www.wildflower.org/plants . Red columbine, I think, does well up there? There's a woodland sunflower - the foliage is a little sparse maybe for some people in there yard, but if you've already got the foliage plants you could probably work around that to use the blooms. Cardinal flower or some other lobelias. Obedient plant is good in the fall when other things have petered out.

Santa Cruz, CA(Zone 9b)

I agree about trying things out that might not seem entirely just right. For blooms all year around here I planted wax begonia I know this doesn't seem right for your zone but once it gets up past a certain temperature could they work as annuals? I have white and it is a bloom machine and brightens up a shady area. But it sounds like you have a little more sun than that so I also second the cone flowers but these are late bloomers around my neck of the woods so. Also, for a big showy flower you can plant Nicotiana (flowering tobacco)the tall one. These are actually tender perennials that bloom all year around here but they grow bloom from seed rapidly.I was thinking that tender perennials might fit the bill because they naturally are going to bloom as long as its warm enough and arent trying to set seeds all the time and quit blooming like annuals. Also alpine strawberry has dainty white flowers and red fruits all the time and they would do quite well in dappled shade with a little afternoon sun. Also easy to start from seed but I wouldn't start in situ as you have something that eats tender little things sounds like.
Have you looked at night with a flashlightfor the bugs that are eating your ligularia? Slugs and snails come out at night to eat and so do earwigs. I thought that the pillbugs were eating my strawberries but I came to realize it was the sneaky slugs coming out at night and then the pill bugs coming in after the destruction was already perpetrated to spend the day in the holes the slimy snails had made. Sluggo is the solution. My ligularia would be eaten down to the nub if i didn't bait for the snails and slugs. Enjoy your new bed.

P.S. my favorites are pansies.

Woodinville, WA(Zone 8b)

I love Brunnera . . .

Santa Cruz, CA(Zone 9b)

Me too. It blooms for ever.

Chalfont, PA(Zone 6b)

My Dicentra 'luxuriant' blooms forever, as does Geranium 'Rozanne". I love my Brunnera 'Jack Frost' - it blooms a lot in the spring, and then intermittently during the summer/fall - but it's foliage is just gorgeous.

Brookeville, MD(Zone 6b)

I can only achieve a continuous display in my shady garden by using varieties that bloom at different times. I've had good luck with Cimifugas, Cardinalis, Foxgoves, climbing hydrangeas, clethras, viburnums, Kalmia, azaleas, and Astilbes above all. There are numerous varieties of Astilbe that bloom at different times, all of them beautiful.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

this was late afternoon, that is why you see sunshine... but this is my north bed... here is my Polemonium caeruleum 'Brise D'Anjou'

I have two in this bed, and bought 3 more last yr for my Wisc garden.

Thumbnail by tcs1366
Saint Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

Thanks, everybody, for all the advice. I've started the difficult negotiations with my husband, the master of the lawn. Beautiful polemonium. Peg

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