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"The Best Shade Perennials"

Gardening in the shade can present a challenge as well as an opportunity. There are many different degrees of shade including filtered shade, part shade, open shade, deep shade, and seasonal shade. Depending on the amount of shade, there are many plants suited to growing in shady conditions.

There are many perennials that prefer shade including Christmas rose, Lenten rose, Ligularia 'The Rocket,' hosta, and hakonechloa to mention just a few. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

One of the earliest-blooming perennials for partial shade is Christmas rose. This clump-forming plant begins blooming as early as Valentine's Day in my garden. It bears two-inch-wide white flowers that are tinged with pink. The flowers are long lasting. It has evergreen, palm-shaped foliage that grows about a foot tall or so.


Lenten rose blooms about a month or so later than Christmas rose. In bloom alongside daffodils, the flowers of Lenten rose are creamy yellow, pale pink, rose, or deep maroon. Many are speckled or spotted. Lenton rose is also evergreen. It grows a foot and a half tall and forms a clump up to three feet wide at maturity.

For the deepest, darkest shade, there is a perennial that thrives in such conditions and it is called Ligularia 'The Rocket.' Its heart-shaped foliage is deeply cut along its edges. The leaves almost look prehistoric. It forms a two-foot-tall mound of foliage. In summer, five-foot-tall flower spikes rise above the leaves. The dark-purple stems are lined with bright, golden-yellow flowers.


One of the most common perennials for shade is hosta. It's a large group of plants with a wide range of sizes, from miniatures that only grow several inches wide and tall to large varieties that grow several feet across or more. Hostas are grown mainly for their colorful foliage. There's a wide range of leaf colors from dusty blue to chartreuse. Many varieties have variegated foliage. A hosta I grow more for its flowers than for its foliage is called August lily. It bears six-inch-wide, tubular, white flowers in late summer. The flowers are extremely fragrant.

Hakonechloa is one of the best ornamental grasses for shade. It forms a dense mass of arching stems variegated with gold and white that really brighten up a shady spot in the garden. All the stems arch downward in the same direction, creating a flowing effect. Hakonechloa is a dwarf ornamental grass, growing only about a foot and a half tall and a couple of feet wide.


Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Ants Don't Affect Peony Buds"

Q. In last week's column you talked about peonies. I noticed the buds on my peonies are full of ants. Is it true that the ants should be left alone? Do they benefit the flowers? Thank you.

A. Every year at this time I also notice ants on the buds of peonies. It's a common occurrence. The good news is ants do no harm to the buds of peonies, nor do they benefit the flowers. The ants are attracted to the sweet secretions of nectar. Since the ants do no harm to the flowers you don't need to do anything. If there are a lot of ants or if they are near your house, you could sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth on the ground around the plants to control the ants as well as other crawling insects organically. (Use the diatomaceous earth for agricultural use, not the kind used for swimming pools.)

Click here to order Diatomaceous Earth from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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