Gardening Shade Gardening

Plants for Dry Shade

Dry shade is probably the most difficult environment gardeners have to deal with. Source:

Dry shade, a condition usually found at the foot of tall trees or in a forested environment, causes gardeners many difficulties. Even planting is quite an effort because of the numerous roots, then, just when you think all your plants are in place and should do well, those same roots siphon all the water and minerals, leaving your plants half dead.

Just digging a planting hole is already quite an effort. Source: Claire Tourigny, from the book Les 1500 trucs du jardinier paresseux

I wrote in detail about how to plant in dry shade here—A Laidback Gardener’s Guide to Planting in Dry Shade—a few months ago. Essentially, it teaches how to get plants off to a  good start in this very hostile environment.

Now here’s a list of plants adapted to dry shade. There are many more, but this should get you started.

More Than 150 Plants That Tolerate Dry Shade

  1. Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) zone 3
  2. Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis) zone 3
  3. Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) zone 5
  4. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) zone 3
  5. American spikenard (Aralia racemosa) zone 2

    20181021C LH.jpg
    Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’). Source:
  6. Anemone (Anemone spp.) zone 2 to 6, according to species
  7. Appalachian sedge (Carex appalachica) zone 4
  8. Aspidistra (Aspidistra spp.) zone 8
  9. Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) zone 5b
  10. Banebarry (Actaea spp.) zone 2
  11. Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia spp.) zone 3
  12. Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.) zone 4 to 6, according to species
  13. Bayberry (Morella pensylvanica, syn. Myrica pensylvanica) zone 4b
  14. Bear’s breeches (Acanthus spp.) zone 4 to 9, according to species
  15. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), zone 2
  16. Bedstraw (Galium odoratum) zone 3
  17. Bellwort (Uvularia spp.) zone 3
  18. Bergenia (Bergenia spp.) zones 2 to 6, according to species
  19. Bigroot geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) zone 3

    20181021E Dicentra-formosa-Luxuriant
    Bleeding heart (Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’). Source :
  20. Bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.) perennial, zone 3
  21. Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) zone 3
  22. Blue lilyturf (Liriope muscari,syn. L. platyphylla) zone 6
  23. Blue sedge (Carex flacca) zone 5
  24. Blue wood aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium, formerly Aster cordifolium) zone 3
  25. Blue-stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesium) zone 3
  26. Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) zone 4
  27. Bowman’s root (Porteranthus trifoliatus, syn. Gillenia trifoliata) zone 4

    20181021D Buxus 'Green Velvet'
    Buis (Buxus ‘Green Velvet’).
  28. Boxwood (Buxus spp.) zones 4 to 8, according to species
  29. Broad-leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) zone 3
  30. Bugbane (Actaea spp., syn. Cimicifuga spp.) zone 3 to 5, according to species
  31. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) zone 3
  32. Bush honeysuckle (Diervillea spp.) zones 3 to 5, according to species
  33. Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) zone 8
  34. Calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, Aster lateriflorus) zone 3
  35. Cambridge geranium (Geranium cantabrigiense) zone 3
  36. Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) zone 8
  37. Chinese sedum (Sedum tetractinum) zone 6
  38. Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) zone 3
  39. Christmas rose (Helleborus spp.) zone 3 to 6, according to species
  40. Cliff green (Paxistima canbyi) zone 4b
  41. Common polypody fern (Polypodium vulgare) zone 3
  42. Coralberry (Symphoricarpos spp.) zone 3 to 6, according to species
  43. Corydalis (Corydalis spp.) zones 3 to 7, according to species
  44. Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) perennial, zone 3
  45. Creeping lilyturf (Liriope spicata) zone 6
  46. Creeping navelwort (Omphalodes verna) zone 3b
  47. Creeping St. John’s wort (Hypericum calycinum) zone 6
  48. Crested iris (Iris cristata) zone 3
  49. Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) zone 1
  50. Curly wood sedge (Carex rosea) zone 4
  51. Cyclamen (Cyclamen spp.) zone 5 to 9, according to species
  52. Daffodil (Narcissus spp.) zone 3 to 9, according to species
  53. Eared lady fern (Athyrium otophorum) zone 6

    20181021M Epimedium yougianum niveum
    Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’. Source:
  54. Epimedium (Epimedium spp.) zone 4 to 6, according to species
  55. Evergreen Solomon’s seal (Disporopsis pernyi) zone 5b
  56. False lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum spp., syn. Smilacina spp.) zone 3
  57. False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum spp., syn. Smilacina spp.) zone 3
  58. Fiveleaf aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus) zone 5
  59. Foamflower (Tiarella spp.) zone 3
  60. Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) zone 3
  61. Fumitory (Corydalis spp.) zones 3 to 7, according to species
  62. Giant fleece flower (Persicaria polymorpha) zone 3
  63. Ginseng (Panax spp.) zone 4
  64. Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa spp.) zones 3
  65. Goat’s beard (Aruncus spp.) zone 3
  66. Golden ragwort (Packera aurea, syn. Senecio aureus) zone 3
  67. Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) zone 3
  68. Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) zone 2
  69. Greater woodrush (Luzula sylvatica) zone 4
  70. Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) zone 4
  71. Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) zone 3
  72. Hard shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum) zone 3
  73. Hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) zone 7
  74. Hardy Persian shield (Strobilanthes atropurpureus) zone 4
  75. Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) zone 6
  76. Hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) zone 3
  77. Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) zone 7

    20181021G Helleborus_orientalis KENPEI, Wikimedia Commons .jpg
    Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis). Source: KENPEI, Wikimedia Commons
  78. Hellebore (Helleborus spp.) zone 3 to 6, according to species
  79. Hepatica (Hepatica spp.) zone 4
  80. Heuchera (Heuchera spp.) zone 3
  81. Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) zone 7
  82. Holly osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus) zone 8
  83. Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) zone 4
  84. Hosta (Hosta spp.) zone 3
  85. Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), zone 4
  86. Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) zone 3
  87. Ivy (Hedera spp.) zone 5 to 9, according to species
  88. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) zone 4
  89. Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) zone 4
  90. Japanese roof iris (Iris tectorum ) zone 5
  91. Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii) zone 5

    20181021F Dryopteris-erythrosora
    Autumn fern or Japanese shield fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). Source:
  92. Japanese shield fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) zone 5b
  93. Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) zone 4
  94. Jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens) zone 5
  95. Jonquil (Narcissus spp.) zone 3 to 9, according to species
  96. Kerria (Kerria japonica) shrub, zone 5b
  97. Korean rock fern (Polystichum tsus-simense) zone 7
  98. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) zone 3
  99. Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) zone 1
  100. London pride (Saxifraga umbrosa) zone 4b and (Saxifraga x urbium) zone 5b
  101. Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.) zone 3

    20181021H Mahonia repens
    Creeping mahonia (Mahonia repens). Source :
  102. Mahonia (Mahonia spp.) zones 5 to 9, according to species
  103. Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) zone 3
  104. Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) zone 3
  105. Mayapple (Podophyllum spp.) zones 4 to 7, according to species
  106. Meadow-rue (Thalictrum spp.) zones 2 to 6, according to species
  107. Meehan’s mint (Meehania spp.) zone 5
  108. Miterwort (Mitella diphylla) zone 3
  109. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) perennial, zone 3
  110. Narcissus (Narcissus spp.) zone 3 to 9, according to species
  111. Oak sedge (Carex albicans) zone 4
  112. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) zone 5b
  113. Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolia) zone 5
  114. Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) zone 3
  115. Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) zone 5
  116. Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) zone 3

    20181021I Vinca minor Illumination
    Periwinkle (Vinca minor ‘Illumination’). Source :
  117. Perwinkle (Vinca spp.) zone 4 to 7, according to species
  118. Pinxterbloom azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides) zone 5
  119. Plum yew (Cephalotaxus spp.) zone 7 to 9
  120. Purple mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica ‘Atropurpurea’) zone 4
  121. Puschkinia (Puschkinia scilloides) zone 3
  122. Pygmy bamboo (Pleioblastus pygmaeus) zone 5
  123. Red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) zone 3a
  124. Sacred lily (Rohdea japonica) zone 6
  125. Scaly male fern (Dryopteris affinis) zone 4
  126. Shaggy shield fern (Dryopteris atrata) zone 5
  127. Shredded umbrella plant (Syneleisis spp.) zone 3b
  128. Silver sedge (Carex platyphylla) zone 4
  129. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.) zone 3 to 6, according to species
  130. Snowdrop (Galanthus spp.) zone 3 to 5, according to species
  131. Snowy woodrush (Luzula nivea) zone 3
  132. Soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) zone 5
  133. Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum spp.) zone 2 to 4, according to species
  134. Spotted dead-nettle (Lamium maculatum) zone 2
  135. Squill (Scilla spp.) zones 2 to 7
  136. Sticky sage (Salvia glutinosa) zone 3
  137. Sweet box (Sarcococca spp.) zone 7
  138. Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) zone 3
  139. Thelypteris phegopteris (Thelypteris phegopteris) zone 3 to 8, according to species

    20181221K Trillium luteum
    Trille jaune (Trillium luteum). Source :
  140. Trillium (Trillium spp.) zone 2 to 7, according to species
  141. Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) zone 2
  142. Upright wild ginger (Saruma henryi) zone 3
  143. Vancouveria (Vancouveria spp.) zone 4 to 6, according to species
  144. Vinca (Vinca spp.) zone 4 to 7, according to species
  145. Violet (Viola spp.) zone 2 to 9, according to species
  146. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) zone 3
  147. Voodoo-lily (Typhonium venosum, syn. Sauromatum venosum) zone 7
  148. Wandplant (Galax urceolata) zone 4
  149. Wavy hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa) zone 4
  150. White wood aster (Eurybia divaricata, formerly Aster divaricatus) zone 4
  151. Wild ginger (Asarum spp.) zone 3 to 7, according to species
  152. Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaule) zone 2
  153. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) zone 2
  154. Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) zone 5

    20181021L Phlox divaricata
    Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata). Source:
  155. Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) zone 3b
  156. Woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) zone 4
  157. Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon, syn. Lamiastrum galeobdolon and Galeobdolon luteum) zone 3
  158. Yellow waxbells (Kirengeshoma spp.) zone 4
  159. Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) zone 3
  160. Yew (Taxus spp.) zone 4 to 6, according to species
  161. Zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) zone 4

A Reminder

You can’t just plop plants into the ground in a dry shade environment. Once you’ve chosen your plants, I suggest you go back and carefully reread A Laidback Gardener’s Guide to Planting in Dry Shade. Proper planting and early care really are almost essential when you garden in dry shade.

Starting off on the right foot is always a good idea … and even more so when you’re placing plants in a naturally hostile environment!


Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

1 comment on “Plants for Dry Shade

  1. #156. Woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) zone 4 Caution: spreads like crazy.

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