Selecting plants for shade

Bill and I bought a new house. After sitting in the yard and watching the sun for a whole day, I decided where and what to plant.

The front has mature oaks, lots of shade and a wall built up of stones with a path to the front door. What a perfect location for my new shade garden!

Planning is always a requirement for the best shade garden. So I began researching what to plant and what conditions are the best for each plant.

I made a list of what I wanted and what would work before I starting the layout of the new garden.

As always, we suggest the planting itself begin with a soil test. The results will show the amendments needed, if any. This is the basis for healthy plants.

In many parts of our area, drainage and clay soil conditions need improvements before planting. Not correcting this before planting will result in lots of disappointment when plants don’t perform.

Next, is it moist shade or dry shade? Does it get morning sun, dappled sun or is it deep shade all day? These are questions that must be answered.

After working on these details, answering the important questions, and deciding what plants to plant, I made my list:


Ageratum — blue, purple, pink flowers;

Browalia — spectacular leaf colors, with flowers;

Coleus — many colors, chartreuse to pink to orange, red, green;

Pansy — these are cooler season (spring and then again in fall).

Perennial grasses

Bottlebrush grass (Hystrix patula) 1 to 2 feet;

Hakonegrass (Hakenochloa macra) — light to colored, striped called “horse’s mane” as it lies down (my favorite);

Maiden, or silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) — light, dark green, variegated, zebra, etc.; 4 to 6 feet;

Sedges (Carex spp.) — light to dark green, blue; 6 inches to 2 feet.


Ajuga, carpetweed, bugleweed (Ajuga repens) — 4 inches, flower spikes pink to blue in spring; leaves green to variegated to burgundy;

Lungwort (Plumaria saccherata) — 1 1/2 feet, leaves silvery mottling; Mrs. Moon pink to blue flowers in spring;

Hostas (Plaintain lilies) — solids to green, yellow, blue, variegated, with yellow, white, chartreuse; white, purple flowers.

For complete information on shade gardening, including an extensive lists many types of plants you can use in shade plantings, go to http://go.osu.edu/shade.

Hughes is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.


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