Perennial plants for shady areas

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Many locations on your property feature shady conditions, but are still in plain view and often in need of some landscaping. Select plants that will thrive in areas where full sun rarely or only partially reaches. Perennial plant options do exist for scenarios such as woodland borders or beneath shade trees.

Once you have ascertained just how much sun a specific venue receives, you can make an informed decision about what to plant there.

Dutchman's Breeches

Imagine fairies washing their pantaloons and hanging them upside down to dry and you get an idea what Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) looks like. Native to parts of eastern North America, this shade-loving herbaceous perennial grows in fertile damp ground, as long as it does not become too wet in the winter. The leaves are fernlike, with a greyish-green tint and the aforementioned flowers are cream white, borne on stems lacking leaves and seemingly strung there in a row. Confine this species to wild flower gardens and woodland gardens in the shade; they go dormant by summer after blooming in March, making them a bad fit for perennial borders.


Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is native to the eastern two-thirds of North America, growing in shady settings in woodlands and near waterways. Bloodroot takes its name from the red-orange sap that flows throughout the plant. Bloodroot features one leaf, rounded and scalloped, growing from the base of the plant. A single white flower with a deep yellow centre blooms on an erect stalk as tall as 10 inches, emerging early in spring. The flower will open up during the day, but close in the evening. After the flower wilts away in April, the leaves persist and actually continue to enlarge until the plant goes dormant in late summer. Bloodroot is a good fit for native plant and wild flower gardens, where it can multiply.

Solomon's Seal

Under ideal growing conditions, which include rich humus-filled soil and shade, Solomon's seal (Polygonatum biflorum) will spread and form colonies. Able to grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, Solomon's seal attains heights of 3 feet, although its leafed-stems arch over, making it seem smaller. The white, bell-shaped blooms develop in April and last into May. Often, the green foliage obscures your view of the flowers, notes the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers: Eastern Region." Solomon's seal yields black-blue berries by fall. The plant is appropriate for woodland gardens, rock gardens and shady border areas.

Umbrella Plant

The foliage is the star of the show when it comes to the perennial umbrella plant (Darmera peltata), a perennial that you can use in full or partial shade. Native to southwestern sections of Oregon and northwestern areas of California, the leaves remind you of an umbrella blown inside out in high winds. The umbrella plant grows to 5 feet in damp soil. The leaves can reach diameters of 18 inches, and if you keep the ground moist around an umbrella plant, the leaves will retain their green colour through the end of the growing season. The flowers bloom in April before the leaves appear, emerging in flattened clusters. One alternative for the umbrella plant is to use it near ponds or streams in the shade, where its root system can help battle possible erosion.