Northwest Arkansas is known for having an abundance of lush beautiful trees covering the landscape. This allows for many of us to have areas in our gardens that require shade plants. I like to mix my shade plants for varying textures and colors. I especially fond of variegated foliage. Some of my favorite perennial plants for the shade include the Hosta, Astilbe, Ferns, and Solomon’s Seal.
Hosta – Who doesn’t love Hostas? A low maintenance plant that returns every Spring with lush beautiful foliage. There a thousands of different cultivars of Hosta with varying leaf shape, size and texture. Known primarily as a shade plant, their sun requirements may vary depending upon color of leaves. Good rule of thumb is the lighter the foliage, the brighter the sun. Variegated varieties need more sun to maintain their white and gold stripes. The deeper darker foliage does best in moderate shade. Hostas produce stalks of white or purple trumpet shaped flowers with some varieties being very fragrant. Once established, they will tolerate most soils and grow for years.
Astilbe – A focal point in many shade beds due to their fluffy delicate plumes which grow high above lacy, fern-like foliage. Bloom colors range from white to dark purple depending upon the species. Astilbes bloom best if placed in a shady area that receives some morning sun or dappled sun each day.
Plant them in loamy soil, and keep them watered, the sit back and enjoy the burst of colorful feathery plumes each spring and summer.
Ferns – Although their graceful foliage looks fragile, there are garden ferns that tolerate winter cold and summer heat and are perfect for a shady bed. Growing ferns outdoor is easy with some being evergreen adding color year round. One of my favorites is the Autumn Fern, a semi-evergreen fern that has copper colored arching fronds which emerge each spring. During the summer, foliage turns a Hunter Green and returns to autumn colors in the fall. Lady Fern has beautiful upright green fronds which grow to 3 feet tall. Lady Fern has proven to be drought tolerant. Christmas Fern is an evergreen and look similar to the Boston Fern. Ferns are easy to take care of and often naturalize to fill in your garden area.
Solomon’s Seal – Want something different and striking for your shade garden, then you must have Solomon’s Seal! 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year, these beautiful plants come in a variegated or solid green variety. Information on Solomon’s Seal indicates that scars on the plants where leaves have dropped look like the sixth seal of King Solomon. Plants reach 1 to 3 feet in height with fragrant blooms in April through June. Blossoms are shaped like little white bells and gracefully hang below the tall arching stems. Hardy in zones 3-7, These special plants like moist, well draining soil but will tolerate some drought and sun without wilting. They naturalize by rhizomes and can be divided as needed. They are also deer resistant!