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!


Groundcovers for Sun


Variety of thymes creating a multicolored groundcover.

Looking for a groundcover for a sunny spot? Maybe because the lawn isn’t holding up well or because it’s on a slope or is otherwise hard to mow… or simply because you really don’t want to mow anymore? Here is a list of plants you might find suitable:

  1. ‘Angelina’ Sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’), zone 3, FTR: none
  2. Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia spp.), zone 4, FTR: poor
  3. Barrenwort (Epimedium x rubrum), zone 3, FTR: none
  4. Basket-of-gold (Aurinia saxatilis, syn. Alyssum saxtile), zone 3, FTR: none
  5. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), zone 2, FTR: moderate20170426WEN.jpg
  6. Bearberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri), zone 5b, FTR: none
  7. Bergenia (Bergenia crassifolia, syn. B. cordifolia), zone 2, FTR: none
  8. Bigroot geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum), zone 3, FTR: none
  9. Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus ‘Pleniflorus’, syn. ‘Plenus’, zone 3, FTR: good
  10. Bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’), zone 3, FTR: poor
  11. Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon plansicapus ‘Nigrescens’), zone 7, FTR: none

    20170426G J Brew, Flickr.jpg

    Bleeding-heart (Dicentra formosa). Photo: J Brew, Flickr

  12. Bleeding-heart (Dicentra formosa and D. eximia), zone 3, FTR: none
  13. Brass buttons (Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’), zone 4, FTR: good
  14. Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), zone 3, FTR: moderate
  15. Cambridge geranium (Geranium x cantabrigiense), zone 3, FTR: none
  16. Caucasian Sedum (Sedum spurium), zone 3, FTR: none
  17. Creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), zone 2, FTR: poor
  18. Creeping speedwell (Veronica repens), zone 2, FTR: moderate
  19. Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), zone 3, FTR: moderate
  20. Crested iris (Iris cristata), zone 3, FTR: none
  21. Crownvetch (Coronilla varia), zone 4, FTR: none
  22. Cutleaf stephanandra (Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa’), zone 3b, FTR: none
  23. Dwarf knotweed (Persicaria affinis, syn. Polygonum affine), zone 3, FTR: moderate

    20170426D Wouter Hagens, WC.jpg

    Faassen’s catnip (Nepeta faassenii). Photo: Wouter Hagens, Wikimedia Commons

  24. Faassen’s catnip (Nepeta x faassenii), zone 3, FTR: none
  25. Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), zone 3, FTR: none
  26. Goldenstar (Chrysogonum virginianum), zone 4, FTR: poor
  27. Green carpet (Herniaria glabra), zone 4, FTR: good
  28. Hairy greenweed (Genista pilosa), zone 5, FTR: poor
  29. Heuchera (Heuchera cvs), zone 3, FTR: none
  30. Hosta (Hosta cvs), zone 3, FTR: none
  31. Houseleek (Sempervivum spp.), zone 3, FTR: none
  32. Iceplant (Delosperma cooperi), zone 5b, FTR: poor
  33. Ivy (Hedera helix and others), zone varies according to species and cultivar: 4-9, FTR: poor

    20170426E Maja Dumat, WC.jpg

    Kamchatka sedum (Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Weihenstephaner Gold’). Photo Maja Dumas, Wikimedia Commons

  34. Kamchatka sedum (Sedum kamtschaticum), zone 3, FTR: none
  35. Labrador violet (Viola riviniana ‘Purpurea’, syn. V. labradorica), zone 4, FTR: none
  36. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), zone 3, FTR: none
  37. Lamb’s-ears (Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’), zone 3, FTR: none
  38. Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), zone 3, FTR: none
  39. Liriope (Liriope muscari), zone 6 ou 7, FTR: none

    20170425C European Environment Agency.jpg

    Golden moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’). Photo: European Environment Agency

  40. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia), zone 3, FTR: moderate
  41. Moss phlox (Phlox subulata), zone 2, FTR: none
  42. New Zealand burr (Acaena microphylla), zone 4b, FTR: poor
  43. Oregano (Origanum vulgare), zone 4, FTR: none
  44. Ornamental strawberry (Fragaria x rosea), zone 3, FTR: moderate
  45. Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), zone 4, FTR: none
  46. Perennial dusty miller (Artemisia stelleriana ‘Boughton Silver’, syn. ‘Silver Brocade’), zone 3, FTR: none
  47. Periwinkle (Vinca minor), zone 2b, FTR: moderate
  48. Rozanne™ geranium (Geranium ‘Gerwat’), zone 4, FTR: none
  49. Scotch moss (Sagina subulata glabrata ‘Aurea’), zone 3, FTR: moderate
  50. Self-heal (Prunella grandiflora), zone 4, FTR: none
  51. Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), zone 3, FTR: none

    20170426B Crusier, WC.jpg

    Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata) forms a dense, weed-resistant groundcover. Photo: Crusier, Wikimedia Commons

  52. Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata), zone 3, FTR: none
  53. Snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum), zone 2, FTR: poor
  54. Spotted dead-nettle (Lamium maculatum), zone 2, FTR: none
  55. St. John’s wort (Hypericum calycinum), zone 6, FTR: none
  56. Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), zone 3, FTR: none
  57. Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina), zone 2, FTR: none
  58. White clover (Trifolium repens), zone 3, FTR: moderate
  59. Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), zone 5b, FTR: moderate

    20170426H Ghislain118 (AD),

    Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) Ghislain118 (AD),

  60. Woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus), zone 3, FTR: moderate
  61. Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), zone 2, FTR: none

Keeping Them Under Control

Most groundcover plants are a bit to very invasive… and that’s normal, considering that we choose groundcovers specifically for their ability to cover ground. It does, however, mean that you should always plan on how you eventually intend to slow them down when they’ve filled up their allotted space and start looking for new territory. You could, for example, contain them with a walkway, paving stones, a short wall, logs, lawn edging or deep shade.

Groundcovers for Shade

If you are looking for suggestions of shade-tolerant groundcovers, see the article Groundcovers for Shade.20170426A