5 Native Plants For Shade
The catalogs made me do it. My intention was to add only a few new plants this spring. But then the catalogs came. Before I go to sleep, I like to leaf through the garden catalogs. I find it soothing, and I told myself I was only looking. There’s no harm in looking.
But after they were put aside, the catalogs whispered to me. They reminded me that I still had holes to fill in the shady back garden: Along the south wall of the back porch, along the hedge to the west and the fence to the east, not to mention the fence along the alley. This was especially the case in areas that were filled with spring ephemerals in April and May, but then left rather forlorn for summer.
No gardener can long withstand the enticements of whispering plant catalogs. And so I ended up giving in, and ordered a whole bunch of new plants, including the following:
Marsh Phlox (Phlox glabberima). I don’t have a lot of Phlox – just a couple of clumps of the white-flowering cultivar ‘David’. This species likes moisture, as the name suggests, and it is supposed to be quite shade tolerant, and mildew tolerant as well. I’m going to try it in the border along the back porch, where the soil tends to be quite moist. I’m hoping it will bring more hummingbirds for our viewing pleasure. Native from Ohio to Illinois, and from Georgia to Arkansas.
Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginiana). This is the white-flowering straight species. I have a lavender cultivar in the Driveway Border out front. The straight species is very adaptable as to soil and sunlight. It blooms in summer, so I’m going to plant it along the west hedge, among the ‘Purple Sensation’ Alliums that flower in May and then gradually collapse. Native from Connecticut to Minnesota, south to Arkansas.
Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata). This is a Milkweed that tolerates full shade. It’s not what I would call a beautiful plant, but it’s interesting – and hey, anything for the Monarchs. It has a taproot, so it’s not an aggressive spreader. We’ll see how it does. Native from Maine to Minnesota, and south along the Appalachians to Tennessee.
Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea). This is a groundcover-type plant that is also highly adaptable in terms of shade and soil – however, it doesn’t like overly dry conditions. I’m going to try it along the back fence near the ‘Golden Raindrops’ crabapple. It has bright yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. Native from Maine to Minnesota and from South Carolina to Oklahoma.
Mistflower (Eupatoreum coelestinum). I tried and failed once already with this plant, so this is a second effort. Mistflower blooms look like the blue annual Floss Flower (Ageratum houstonianum). A plant that likes moisture, I think my first effort failed because I put it where it was too shady and the soil dried out in summer. Mistflower likes partial shade, but not full. It spreads by rhizome if happy, and can form a groundcover – though it grows up to 3′ tall. I’m going to put it with the Marsh Phlox by the back porch. Native from Pennsylvania to Illinois, and from Florida to Texas.
I ordered all of these plants from Prairie Nursery. And now I’m done – no more new plants for this spring. At least, no more plants for shade. Definitely no more for moist shade. I mean it.