As temperatures begin to rise, and Summer nears, my outside exposure gradually begins to decrease.  I am not a fan of heat, especially humidity.  My routine, much like winter, becomes a mad dash to the house, to the car, to the office, to the car, and back home to the safety and comfort of air conditioning.  Now, of course, this isn’t always possible.  Life dictates that I must spend some time outdoors.  It’s inevitable, but when I do, I tend to seek out the cool, reassuring comfort of shade.  It, at least, makes the outdoors tolerable.

Much like myself and other vampire-like creatures, there are certain plants that not only prefer shade but thrive in its cool, dark bliss.  I know what you’re probably thinking – Hosta, Hosta, Fern, Hosta.  Alas, no!  There are so many viable, interesting options that offer not only color, but texture, scent, and all around interest and intrigue.  Let’s explore some of these options that will brighten and liven any shady area of your landscape.

Georgia Peach Alumroot (Heuchera Georgia Peach)

Large, peach colored foliage with a delicate white overlay emerges in Spring and darkens to a rosy-purple in Fall and maintains its brilliance through Winter.  Foliage almost seems to glow in the shade and draws your eyes inward.  Prefers moist, well-drained soil and will grow 12-18″ tall and 18-24″ wide.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia Virginica)

Dangling pink buds mature and bloom into lovely blue, bell-shaped flowers.  They prefer moist, well-drained soil and can grow 18-24″ tall and 18-24″ wide.  They look quite at home in a woodland setting.

Raspberry Splash Lungwort (Pulmonaria Raspberry Splash)

I know the name is somewhat off-putting; however, the Lungwort offers variegated, almost speckled foliage with small, clustered, raspberry colored blooms that change to a purplish-blue as they mature.  They also prefer moist, well-drained soil and will grow 8-12″ tall and 12-18″ wide.

Black Leaved Ligularia (Ligularia Britt Marie Crawford)

A truly unique, bold and brazen plant, Ligularia offers large, rounded maroon-black leathery leaves with raspberry colored undersides with golden-orange daisy-like flower clusters that are great for cutting and creating stunning bouquets.  The Ligularia prefers moist soil and can grow 3-4′ tall and 2-3′ wide

Black Bugbane (Cimicfuga Racemosa Brunette)

Fragrant, white bottlebrush flowers bloom in the Fall on upright, arching stems, flanked by deep purple foliage.  Truly a stunner!  Bugbane prefers moist, well-drained soil and can grow 4-6′ tall and 18-24″ wide, giving visual, vertical appeal.

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”

-Jane Austen

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney