Dry shade

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Mobot has a nice article on 10 dry shade plants: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/visual-guides/plants-for-a-dry-shade-garden.aspx

Do you have any thoughts on any of these plants for dry shade -- either pro or con? My far back yard gets very very dry in July/August, and many "dry shade" plants aren't happy there, so I am always on the lookout for plants that will need no (or at least, little) supplemental water.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Pachysandra terminalis: the go-to for back in the day...although I won't doubt its hardiness. My father-in-law has it all over and while back put a covered deck over top of it. Most died off but there are still a few patches underneath that get only blown in rain. That was three years ago and it's still going.

The Liriope is a nice plant. It's flowers are a welcome color to the late summer garden. I'm not sure how well it will do in dry shade though. I transplanted one next to a cryptomeria we have and it's in shade but doesn't do as well as the ones in the sun. It's the variegated variety so I'm not sure if that had anything to do with it.

I'd be interested in trying the Echinacea pallida. I have no experience with it but it definitely sounds worth a try.

I'm pretty certain on the Epimedium too. This isn't the first time I've heard they're good for dry shade.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

We have a large patch of Pachysandra terminalis in the front of our house. For years we didn't water it, and it looked ok -- but never spread and never looked robust. There were holes in the patch we wanted to fill in. We finally figured out that it needed supplemental water to be at its best. So I wouldn't recommend Pachysandra terminalis as a ground cover for dry shade unless you give some supplemental water in extended dry spells.

Liriope muscari can handle anything. It is impossible to kill.

Epimediums -- at least the more common kinds -- are fairly tough (nothing like Liriope which is in a league of its own)

I'm with you on the Echinacea pallida -- I'd like to track down some seed.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Happy,I'll bring you some E. pallida seeds tomorrow.
There are numerous native species that are useful in dry, deciduous shade. Some examples:

Asarum canadensis - Wild Ginger
Aquilegia canadensis - Wild Columbine
Aster cordifolius - Blue Wood Aster
Aster divaricatus - White Wood Aster
Dentaria species
Geranium maculatum - Wild Geranium
Hepatica americana - Round-lobed Hepatica
Heuchera villosa
Hexastylis (Asarum) virginica -Virginia Wild Ginger
Iris cristata - Crested Iris
Mertensia virginica - Virginia Bluebells
Podophyllum peltatum - Mayapple
Sanguinaria canadensis - Bloodroot
Sedum ternatum Wild Stonecrop
Silene stellata - Starry Campion
Solidago caesia - Blue-stemmed Goldenrod

West Valley City, UT(Zone 6b)

Any dry shade list that leaves out Lamium maculatum should not be trusted. :D

I grow it in extremely poor, clay soil with moderate water, and it's thriving like gangbusters.

Behold: http://www.flickr.com/search/[email protected]&q=lamium

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

I would have included it except I was listing local natives for Happy. It grows nearby at my sisters under pines and firs without any watering. Too bad there is not a shade tolerant cactus. :-)

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks dicentra63 and greenthumb99. (gt -- I left my seed bag behind at the swap! I need to see if critter saved it. I doubt she would have pitched seeds!!! I'm looking forward to those!)

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

I know she is aware that you left it, I was there when she discovered it. She would no more pitch the seeds than Jack Benny would leave a stray penny.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Selecting plants for your shady slope iisnít as straightforward as it may seem. There are a lot of considerations when deciding on plants for erosion control issues on shady slopes. Prospective plants have a long list of criteria to fulfill. Plants to consider should be natives and sustainable, provide erosion control (have fibrous roots to hold the sloped soil in place), be adapted in your Maryland environment (plants native to your region will fare better), have tolerance for extreme wet and dry soil conditions (when the slope floods in the spring and fall or dries out during summer droughts), be herbaceous, and enjoy growing in the shade. Many plants can only handle dry shade once established and establishing can take several years.

I have had some success with Hemorocalis fulva (no blooms but holds soil well), Itea 'Henry Garnet' (will sucker if conditions favorable) Christmas fern and Hellebores foetius I find ephemerals or those that go dormant in the heat to not be best choices. (If can't hold the soil, few if any plants will grow, Once soiled pockets are firmly established can build out from there.)
My shady slope yard is very gentle and I still loose a good amount of woodsy soil in a heavy downpour
I'm trying to recall iwhat plants I have seen (like David has listed - all great shade lovers-) actually growing on slopey dry woodland sites?

I know the link below is specific to California, but if they don't get it right there, homes and lives are lost! Ienjoy the writer's perspective on slopes and plants and erosion control right down to his forthwright opinions on mulches! "Mulch drives ecosystems." Some interesting stuff on deer control, too


Poulsbo, WA

Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) is quite drought tolerant once established. It is evergreen, but looks best if you trim old or damaged fronds in the spring before new growth appears. Vancouveria hexandra or V. planipetala also do quite well in dry shade. This is the hexandra, in case you are not familiar with it. The planipetala is a bit darker, glossier and (for me) more evergreen.

Thumbnail by fernfarmer
Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I have several dry slopes also and agree that getting shade-loving plants adapted to a dry slope is tricky. I have had success with chrysogonum and heucharella, maybe not the jazziest shade plants but they spread nicely, bloom pretty well and most important hold the soil. I also have both h. foetidus and another NOID hellebore seedling which has spread all over a shady hillside. Finally epimedium x versicolor cultivars spread well on shady slopes; not so much luck with the other epimediums on hills. I have a beautiful dense patch of dwarf mondo grass on a shady slope, 3x4ft size, but it's so painfully slow growing, it wouldn't be suitable to stabilize an entire hillside. Just some ideas based on my experience. It can be frustrating to nurse along suitable shade plants to stabilize a hillside while trying to hold off vinca, English ivy, japanese honeysuckle, eounymus vine and countless other shade-tolerant beasts which are all too happy to do the job instead.

Hobart, IN

Oh, Weerobin, where were you 20+ years ago when I planted all of the latter group of beasts ???

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

We live, we learn...

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Oh man do we ever! I'm going to have the problem of holding off my galium odoratum in favor of a bunch of new shade plants purchased this spring. I think I'm going to end up taking a box cutter to the soil and just lifting it up either that or ssshhh *roundup* :)

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Quote from Weerobin :
We live, we learn...

Or as we said in my family
"Too soon oldt und too late schmart"

Yanking out Sweet Woodruff and then mulching round replacement plants should leave little Woodruff to carry on, where as Roundup and its effects are quite persistent and further disrupt soil ecology. At least a site that sustains Sweet Woodruff has adequate moisture that many non invasives or natives will enjoy.

Since it forms a mat, it is fairly easy to remove it like cutting sod, removing about 1/2 inch of soil as I recall.
Never did get to use mine for May Wine. Would that all invasives were as easy to remove. If you have black walnuts in that area, your replacement plants may have a hard time because of the jugalone which Swwet Woodruff tolerates quite well.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

It's in a Rhodi bed. It actually choked out a Rhodi last year and when I dug the poor bugger out, the woodruff came with. It was quite a mat, just like sod indeed! I think this year, in addition to getting rid of some of it, I'm going to trim it to a tight 3" or so. Ours gets ratty as the summer rages on and there always seems to be a drought that knocks it out for the season. This way I hope to keep it looking good.

Tobyhanna, PA(Zone 5a)

Hi all,

Anyone have any ideas for dry shade and deer resistant? The deer in my neighborhood eat just about everything! Since the bed is small, some kind of groundcover would be ideal. But what?


Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I'll have to mull about that. The deer don't get into my shady beds, just my mostly sunny ones, so I haven't had to address that too much....

Poulsbo, WA

Jane, Vancouveria and epimedium are two nice groundcovers that do well in dry shade, and I believe many of them would be hardy in your region. I have deer too and they leave both plants alone (so far). The deer also seem to be less interested in my Heucherella and Tiarella than they are in my Heucheras, which must have really tasty new growth.

Poulsbo, WA

Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum) is another groundcover that works in dry shade, although 5a is the edge of its hardiness, and that the deer don't bother.

Images of new growth in spring and mature fronds in summer (in lower and right parts of image):

Thumbnail by fernfarmer Thumbnail by fernfarmer
Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I didn't realize Adiantum venustum was ok in dry shade. It is so delicate in appearance -- for some reason, I associate that with a thirsty temperament.

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Oooh that Vancouveria is gorgeous!

Poulsbo, WA

Happy_macomb, most sources will suggest that these need evenly moist soil, but I have been growing them for about six years at the highest point in my yard (no runoff from elsewhere), planted under some very thirsty trees and around pots that steal rain that otherwise would fall on them. Since we can go without any measurable rain for months at a time in the summer, I do give them supplemental water periodically then (every 7-10 days in July and August), but they manage quite well even when I ignore them (much better than the Omeiana they are planted next to). I also find that they transplant pretty easily (although I would water the transplants well until they settle in). Our summers are cooler than yours, so that might make a difference in their water requirements.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Funny -- I compared your precipitation to ours and it is almost the inverse -- you have much wetter winters and drier summers. Don't know what that means. See http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USWA0352 and http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/20815 .

Poulsbo, WA

That's why we moved here from DC; the gardening is great!

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I know -- I have zone (or region?) envy. When I see plants that are native to your neck of the woods, I have learned to not even bother trying them in my yard!

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Happy, I think you have climate envy. I know mine varies according to the time of year.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Exactly! I try to remember that there are plants we can grow that others cannot....

Lititz, PA(Zone 6b)

Yeah like those poor people in Texas! I think that would be the most challenging area to garden.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Texas has extreme variations in climate within the state, from moist and humid to very arid. Sand, swamps, woodland soil, alkali flats. Sea level to nearly 9,000 feet elevation. Almost anything can be grown somewhere in the state, and something grows everywhere. Have gardened in the Dallas area and found it similar to here.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks Fernfarmer-I have always ogled the Maidenhairs, but never even tried because of my irregular watering. I will try the A. venustum!

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I have tried vancouveria several times without success. I blame humidity, but who knows...

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Me too -- I killed several pots off last year. Might have just been neglect....

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

try pussytoes

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Happy, if you want pussytoes, I can bring some to the swap for you.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks woodspirit. Funny you should mention pussytoes -- I just a pot of them at a local club sale. So now I have two healthy patches of it -- so I'm good. Thanks for offering, greenthumb! But I thought pussytoes needed a fairly sunny spot - unlike vancouveria. Am I wrong? Maybe I have it backwards!

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Our Antennaria plantaginifolia grows in a fairly shady area, as can be seen in the photo below. A different species grows down the road a ways in totally full sun.

Thumbnail by greenthumb99
Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

I forgot there were gazillion different species. I don't know what I have.

Columbus, OH

I have epimedium (which is beautiful), Solomon's seal, Brunnera and Pulmonaria in dry shade. I have to dump top soil in there as the dry shade is between two honeysuckles (my neighbors') and my greedy silver maple which sucks up all available water and nutrients.

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