Shade gardening is challenging enough when you have ideal growing conditions… but drought tolerant shade perennials? Well, that might seem impossible to some gardeners. But don’t despair, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the variety of plants you can grow in dry shade.
Believe it or not, there are lots of options for dry shade areas of your garden. Heck, you’re probably already growing a few of these plants in other areas of your garden! Here are a few of my favorites…
Drought tolerant shade perennials
Ajuga (aka Bugleweed) – Ajuga is a very versatile plant and can grow anywhere from sun to shade. It’s a cute little ground cover that get brilliant purple spikes of flowers in the spring. It’s a great plant to grow in between stepping stones because it can take light foot traffic. Ajuga comes in lots of different foliage colors, so you can mix and match.
Euphorbia (Spurge) – Spurge is another great drought tolerant plant that will grow well in the shade. The foliage on the variety I grow starts out green, gradually turns different shades of yellow… and eventually bursts into full bloom with very bright yellow flowers in the spring. It’s cool to watch the transition.
Columbine – I bet you didn’t think you could grow such a pretty flower in a shade garden. Columbine is another great little plant that can grow just about anywhere, and it flowers in early spring. The blooms come in lots of different colors, and the plants come in different heights too.
Heuchera (aka coral bells) – Heuchera is one of my all time favorite drought tolerant shade perennials. There are so many different varieties that you could fill up an entire garden area with them and it would be stunning! I especially love the contrast of the dark leaf varieties with the bright green leaves of my hostas. Gorgeous!
Hostas – I know, I know, hostas can be so cliché when it comes to shade gardening – but hold on! Hostas come in all kinds of shapes and sizes these days, and you could create an eye-popping shade garden using hostas alone. Trust me, once you start to mix and match the colors, textures, shapes and sizes of these hardy plants, you’ll come to love them even more!
Hellebores – I never heard of hellebores until I found myself with a shade garden one year (after the neighbors trees grew tall enough). Now I am completely in love with these gorgeous plants! The foliage is fantastic all on it’s own, but hellebores also flower in early spring, and you can find them in lots of different colors too!
Jack-in-the-pulpit – This might just be the coolest plant I have in my garden! I love that both the foliage and the flower looks so tropical, which isn’t a common sight in perennial gardens here in Minnesota! But jack-in-the-pulpit is actually a native plant here, it blooms in early spring, and it thrives in any shady garden area!
Astilbe – Astilbe is another super versatile plant. You can find astilbes that will grow in full sun, others that will tolerate part shade, and still others that will thrive in shady areas of the garden. I love the unique foliage, as well as the cool flower spikes that show up mid-summer – and there are a bunch of different flower colors to choose from too!
Lamium – There are lots of different varieties of lamium out there too, and all the ones I’ve seen have very pretty foliage which will really help to brighten up a shady garden (be careful though, some varieties can be quite invasive).
Bergenia – Bergenia is another shade loving plant that I didn’t know existed before I was thrown into the world of shade gardening (haha, don’t worry – it’s not so bad!). This is another one of my favorite plants, and both the foliage and the flowers are unique to my shade garden. The foliage turns pinkish/purple in colder weather, and spikes of tiny flowers shoot up in early spring.
Solomon’s Seal – Talk about a cool looking plant! Solomon’s seal has some unique looking foliage, and gets tiny bell shaped flowers that hang down in clusters all along the stem in early spring. I love how delicate they look! This is another plant that you can get in different varieties, so make sure to combine a few in your shade garden.
If you have an area of your yard that is dry and shady, now you can fill it with beautiful plants! Take this list to the garden center with you and go shopping. I hope you’ll find some awesome plants to fill up that boring area of your yard (where you thought you couldn’t grow anything).
Other posts you might enjoy:
- Hardy yucca plants for northern gardeners
- Drought-tolerant, dependable spurge
- Vegetables for shade
- Shade-loving Rex begonias that will steal the show
What are your favorite drought tolerant shade perennials? Tell us what we should add to this list in the comments section below.