There's no doubt that choosing plants for dry shade can be a bit of a problem
The dry shaded areas in the lee of buildings and walls and under dense tree cover are inhospitable to many plants and present a real challenge to any gardener.
However, there are plants that will grow in these conditions and I've picked out some favourite perennials and ferns that are definitely worth a try.
I hope there is something to please everyone, from the imposing Acanthus, through the rather luscious and deliciously named Treacle Berry, down to the tiny but perfectly formed Labrador Violet.
Not forgetting, of course, those garden stalwarts, the leathery-leaved Bergenia, the tough Geranium macrorrhizum and the Lily Turf.
All the ferns I've chosen are common in the wild but please don't let that stop you from adding them to your dry shade mix to lend both height and elegance.
For the very best chance of success, prepare your planting site in dry shade by digging in plenty of well rotted organic matter to improve soil structure and help water retention.
After planting, apply a liberal mulch of good garden compost and do make a point of watering your plants until they are well established.
Reasons to grow: A bold, stately, upright perennial that looks good throughout most of the year. Large, deeply cut shiny leaves and tall spikes of white and mauve flowers in the summer make this a really imposing plant for dry shade.
Reasons to grow: A graceful upright perennial forming clumps of attractive grey green foliage divided into lobed leaflets. Clusters of pure white, bell-shaped spurred flowers are carried in late spring and early summer and appear almost luminous in a shady situation.
Also consider: Any of the many variants of this species make great plants for dry shade. 'Nora Barlow' has fully double pink flowers tinged with green.
Reasons to grow: A really good choice for architectural ground cover, these excellent plants for dry shade are grown mainly for their clumps of large, rounded leathery leaves (hence the name Elephant Ears) which redden in autumn and winter. Sturdy spikes of cup-shaped pink flowers appear in spring.
Also consider: B. cordifolia 'Purpurea' for deep green leaves which flush purple in autumn and winter.
Reasons to grow: Really useful evergreen plants for dry shade. Bright yellow green heads of flowers appear in spring above basal rosettes of long dark green leaves.
Also consider: Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea' which has year round rich purple foliage and stems with contrasting lime green flowerheads in spring and summer. It prefers moist soil but will tolerate dry shade.
Reasons to grow: A hard working plant that grows in a range of conditions including dry shade. The deeply lobed leaves are aromatic and turn orangey red in autumn. The light pink flowers with contrasting deep pink calyces are borne in early summer.
Remove old leaves and spent flowers to encourage new growth.
Reasons to grow: This useful plant is also good for acidic soil conditions. From August to November, as other flowers are beginning to fade, spikes of deep violet flowers rise above the dense strap-like foliage. Copes brilliantly with difficult conditions including dry shade and drought and makes excellent groundcover.
Reasons to grow: A bit of a showstopper with dense, foamy spikes of fragrant creamy flowers borne in mid to late spring above the lush lance shaped foliage. It tolerates a wide range of conditions and actually thrives in dry shade.
Reasons to grow: Also known as Viola riviniana 'Purpurea', these delightful little plants for dry shade form low mounds of perfect, heart-shaped leaves, purple bronze when young. Tiny purple flowers appear in spring and summer.
This is a very useful groundcover plant for difficult sites (such as dry shade!). In my own garden it has colonized a particularly inhospitable area beneath a conifer hedge.
It self seeds freely and can become invasive although any unwanted seedlings are easily removed.
Ferns are really useful plants for dry shade as they create a sense of moist lushness in what can be a rather barren environment.
Many ferns are plants of moist woodland, rich in leaf litter, so take the time to prepare the planting site well by digging in plenty of well rotted organic matter and providing a mulch of good compost or leaf mould.
If you provide a little extra care whilst your plants are young they will rapidly become established and well able to cope with the dry conditions.
The ferns below are very common in the wild and may be so familiar a sight that you would not consider planting them deliberately - but don't let this put you off as they can add a whole new dimension to your planting.
Reasons to grow: The tall elegant fronds are invaluable for adding height and structure to a dry, shady border and creating a sense of lushness. Provide extra water until plants are well established.
Reasons to grow: A native of western North America, this tall imposing fern forms arching clumps of dark green leathery fronds and looks good both as a specimen plant or grown en masse.
It is one of the most useful plants for dry shade as it is evergreen and provides structure and architectural interest throughout the year. Remove any dead fronds in spring before new growth begins.
Reasons to grow: This is one of my favourite ferns and appears in my list of plants for deep shade but it is so useful that I'm not going to apologize for including it here as well!
The tall, finely divided fronds make this handsome plant a real winner, adding year round architectural interest and structure to your garden. The feel of the soft fronds also adds tactile appeal.
Also consider: Any of the many named forms of P. setiferum are suitable. The Hard Shield Fern, P. aculeatum also tolerates dry shade.
Gardening in the shade gives an overview of the subject and an explanation of how to identify the different degrees of shade.Links to other 'plants for places' pages can be found at plant guides.
Feb 27, 14 07:52 AM
Climbers for sandy soil need to be able to cope with free draining conditions and relatively low soil fertility. These are my favourite climbers for sand.
Feb 26, 14 05:51 AM
The best perennials for sandy soil positively thrive in free draining soils with low fertility. These are my favourite perennials for growing in sandy soil.