A Few Good Plant Choices


Boxwood Green Velvet (Buxus Green Velvet™). Photo: http://www.amazon.com

The following article was adapted from a press release by Handpicked for You® as prepared by the team of horticulture experts at Sheridan Nurseries in Ontario. Handpicked for You® specializes in “reliable plants for home gardeners,” plants that are disease resistant, low maintenance and zone hardy. 

Boxwoods are cherished landscape plant with year-round deep green color, deer resistance and, in some cases, superior hardiness. In 1973, Sheridan Nurseries introduced Green Velvet boxwood (Buxus Green Velvet™) that has bright green new growth which provides great contrast against perennials. In 1975, Buxus Green Mountain was introduced and is cherished for requiring minimal pruning to make a formal pyramid shape. Both are hardy in Canadian/USDA zones 4 to 9 and grow well in shade or sun.

Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’). Photo: http://www.amazon.com

Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’) has massive white snowball-like blooms that make a breathtaking display in any garden or landscape design. It flowers on new wood, so even hard freezes won’t hold this plant back. Flower clusters will appear in late spring to summer and will reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. The stems may need a bit of staking to hold the blooms up to show off every inch of beauty. Ideal for sun or partial sun locations. Zones 3 to 9.

Miss Kim lilac (Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’). Photo: http://www.cramer.ca

Miss Kim lilac (Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’) is a slower growing lilac with dazzling purple buds that open to light-lavender fragrant blooms in May or June. Prune after flowering to keep the plant more compact. Most lilacs are enjoyed as a spring plant, but the foliage of Miss Kim turns burgundy red in autumn. Plant in an area that receives full sun. Zones 3 to 8.

Yucca Color Guard (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’). Photo: http://www.amazon.com

Sometimes we need a plant to thrive drought tolerant areas with at least some tolerance of cold winters. Yucca Color Guard (Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’) adds architectural shape, structure, and color to containers and beds in sunny areas. The long green and yellow leaves are striking, and white flowers bear a dramatic contrast midsummer, although it doesn’t flower every year. Great for rock gardens, erosion control, mass plantings, and areas that receive coastal exposure. Zones 5 to 10.

Dwarf Japanese juniper (Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’). Photo: Rašo, Wikimedia Commons

Junipers are one of our favorite coniferous plants to add year-round interest. Dwarf Japanese juniper (Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’) thrives in areas that receive partial to full sun. Bright green growth emerges from the center and deepens to a blue-green as it matures. In winter, the plant will have a purplish tinge that contrasts greatly against snow. This juniper is better left unpruned and will cascade down slopes or can be staked upright. Zones 4 to 9.

Blue Chip juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’). Photo: http://www.connonnurseries.com

If you’re looking for a juniper to cascade over walls and that grows in rocky, sandy soil, we love to recommend Blue Chip juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’). This conifer is prized for its green-blue foliage. The species is native to regions in Alaska, Canada, and northern U.S. such as Wyoming and Montana. Zones 2-9.

Plants for Dry Shade


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

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: jardinierparesseux.com

  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 gardengoodsdirect.com.jpg

    Bleeding heart (Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’). Source : gardengoodsdirect.com

  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' www.monrovia.com.jpg

    Buis (Buxus ‘Green Velvet’). http://www.monrovia.com

  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 calphotos.berkeley.edu

    Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’. Source: calphotos.berkeley.edu

  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 sublimegardendesign.com.jpg

    Autumn fern or Japanese shield fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). Source: sublimegardendesign.com

  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 blueskynursery.ca.jpg

    Creeping mahonia (Mahonia repens). Source : blueskynursery.ca

  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 www.ebay.co.uk.jpg

    Periwinkle (Vinca minor ‘Illumination’). Source : http://www.ebay.co.uk

  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 virginiawildflowers.org.jpg

    Trille jaune (Trillium luteum). Source : virginiawildflowers.org

  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 mtcubacenter.org.jpg

    Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata). Source: mtcubacenter.org

  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!