2 Useful Native Plants for Dry Shade

Starry Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum stellatum) and Wild Currant (Ribes americanum) are both useful plants for the native shade garden, or any shade garden for that matter. They are blooming now in our own place. They are not spectacular, but they are beautiful in their own quiet way. Adaptable to a variety of light and soil conditions, they can help provide a sense of fullness and green abundance even in areas of dry shade.

Starry Solomon’s Plume flowers are tiny white stars on short spikes.

We have Starry Solomon’s Plume mainly in two places: in the Parkway Bed, where I transplanted it by accident and it quickly made itself at home; and at the base of the ‘Donald Wyman’ Crabapple.


Growing about 1 foot tall, this plant spreads by rhizomes but does not cover the ground so densely that it suppresses most other plants. It may be best to mix it with other low-growing companions. In the above picture it is mingling with Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) and Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana).


Starry Solomon’s Plume dominates the area under this Crabapple, but other plants have been sneaking in. Unlike many spring-blooming shade plants, Starry Solomon’s Plume stays green throughout the growing season.

DSC_0229 starry solomon's plume

In late summer and fall it sports interesting striped berries which eventually turn bright red. This is one of those plants you have to look at closely to appreciate fully.


Wild Currant is a good understory shrub that reaches just 3-4 feet tall (so many shrubs get excessively tall, don’t you think?). Arching stems grow until they touch the ground and take root as new plants, so some effort is needed to control its spread.


Spring flowers grow in dangling clusters of greenish yellow. They are a good source of nectar and pollen for many kinds of bees. In summer there are edible black berries, tart but not bad. I find it best to leave them for the birds – that way you get to watch the Robins, Cardinals, and others feeding on the fruit.


The leaves are a soft green and densely veined. Some people get dramatic fall color, but for us the foliage turns a decent yellow.

What are your favorite plants for dry shade?


27 Comments on “2 Useful Native Plants for Dry Shade”

  1. I didn’t know either of these. When I looked at the USDA map for Maianthemum stellatum it was completely absent across the Gulf states, from Texas to Florida, so that explains that. I especially like the photo of the Solomon’s plume mixing with the other flowers. It’s very attractive, and especially nice that it keeps its foliage.

  2. Yes, please, people share! I have dry shade, alkaline soil and hordes of plant and soul destroying rabbits. I need more native suggestions( for the US northeast, but can also include Carolinian zone, as I live in southern ON)!!!

  3. I hadn’t heard of that Ribes. Here in the PNW our native is Ribes sanguineum, which gets big (10ft. tall), but it has beautiful bright pink flowers in late winter/early spring, which feed the hummingbirds. It’s a good shrub for dry areas. My favorite perennials for dry shade are Epimedium, and two ferns, Asplenium scolopendrium (hart’s tongue) and Polypodium scouleri (leathery polypody). Brunnera does ok for me in dry shade too.

    • Thankfully, rabbits do not. Seems like rabbits don’t like leaves that are highly textured or have a strong flavor. Although it does seem they will learn to like new plants, especially if they are hungry enough. Thinking of the Virginia Bluebells.

  4. Ha! I believe our ‘dry’ shade is different from what we know as ‘dry’. In my former neighborhood, I got about a foot of rain annually. Trona gets about four inches. Of course that is an extreme case, and no one does much gardening there.

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