Hey! Who turned down the sun? - Shade perennials for the garden including Hosta, Ferns and more.
If you garden in the dappled light of the forest understory, or on the north or east side of a building then you need shade perennials. Here at Plant Delights Nursery, we have a huge selection of all kinds of perennials and we have sifted through our massive on-line catalog of plants to create this (not so) mini-catalog of the best shade perennials for your garden.
When gardening in the shade, don't forget about texture either. Ferns like Onychium, Dryopteris and Athyrium offer a very fine texture to balance with the coarse texture of shade perennials like Hosta, Farfugium and Helleborus. When you are ready to buy shade perennials for your garden, check out our online list of shade perennials for sale below.
If you want to read more about shade perennials, check out Tony Avent's 1997 artcile entitled Gardening in the Shade
Since 1988, Plant Delights Nursery has been the choice of serious gardeners and plant collectors looking for the best and rarest perennial plants. We are pleased to have received the Perennial Plant Association Retail Award in 2011, the American Horticulture Society Commercial Award in 2002, and to have been selected as one of the Best Mail Order Plant Nurseries - Garden Design Magazine 2010. Welcome to our family of plant lovers!
This marvelous native of Cuba ("Coober" to us Southerners) has long been prized for containers and hanging baskets, but no one ever tried it for winter hardiness. Imagine our surprise when in the mid '80s it survived 0 degrees F. Since then, Acalypha pendula has been one of our favorite summer flowering perennials. The 8" tall x 2' wide clumps of small, fuzzy green leaves are adorned all summer with 5-7" long, trailing, fuzzy red cattails. If you can't afford to buy a red cattail plant, stir a can of red paint with your cat's tail for the same effect, but watch the claws. If you're in the North, Acalypha pendula is still great for hanging baskets and summer containers...simply delightful! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Although some taxonomists have lumped Acanthus hungaricus into Acanthus balcanicus, we feel that there is a horticultural difference. Picture a tropical-looking, dark green, glossy, thick-leaf fern forming an 18" tall x 30" wide deer-resistant perennial and you've got an acanthus. Acanthus balcanicus v. hungaricus is topped in early spring with a 3' tall spike composed of purple, pink and white tricolor turtleheads...very unique! Plant this where you want it to stay. While it is easy to move, small root pieces that are left behind keep on giving and giving and giving... Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This charming little bear's breech suffers from a major identity crisis. Some "experts" consider Acanthus caroli-alexandri a form of Acanthus hungaricus, while others propose a possible hybrid between Acanthus spinosus and Acanthus hirsutus. Don't you just love those taxonomists? Regardless of its identity, Acanthus caroli-alexandri is unique among acanthus with its finely cut, black-green, deer-resistant foliage, making a small 18" tall x 2' wide rosette. In late spring, the clumps are topped with compact 3' tall spikes with the typical hooded, white-and-purple, spiny flowers...outstanding for texture and structure in the small garden. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This delightfully saucy acanthus has paraded in the trade for years as Acanthus spinosus, but is nothing like that species...i.e., it's missing the spines. It appears perfectly intermediate between Acanthus hungaricus and Acanthus spinosus and is probably a hybrid, hence we have assigned a cultivar name commemorating its widespread culture in Holland under the wrong name. The 1' tall x 2' wide mass of deeply incised, black-green, deer-resistant leaves makes a wonderful clump topped in late spring with 2' tall spikes of white flowers hidden by spiny purple hoods. Sunny, slightly acid to alkaline conditions are best and be aware that unlike vasectomies, cutting the translocation system (roots) causes more babies. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
In 2011, while Israeli nurseryman Moti Kopilovitch was visiting and discussing our acanthus selections, I explained that most Acanthus mollis we tried did not survive our hot, humid summers. Moti was kind enough to share seed of a form that thrives in Israel's hot, zone 10-11 climate and we are thrilled to share the plants with you. We planted several of this Acanthus mollis in the ground to watch, so we'll all grow them for the first time together. Acanthus mollis makes a 2' tall x 3' wide clump of broad, glossy-green, deeply indented leaves that goes into a midsummer lull but kicks into high gear with the return of cooler nights. The clumps are topped with 4' tall spikes of spiny purple and white flowers. Acanthus is propagated from root cuttings, so if you dig around a mature acanthus, you will create cuttings. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We feel this import by Oregon's Chet Tompkins from a gardener in China is the finest acanthus on the market. Acanthus 'Summer Beauty' is a hybrid (probably Acanthus mollis x Acanthus spinosus) that grows well in our hot summers where Acanthus mollis fails miserably. The 4-6' wide clump of giant, glossy, dark green foliage is much more cutleaf than Acanthus mollis. In summer, the tropical-looking, deer-resistant clumps are topped with 6' tall spikes of white flowers surrounded by wonderful purple calyces...absolutely superb, and soon to be an industry standard! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We have trialed a number of achimenes for winter hardiness and are always thrilled when we find another cultivar to add to our list. Achimenes 'Harry Williams' was a delightful surprise when it returned in great shape after a winter low of 8 degrees F. Emerging in June, the fuzzy green foliage adorns short stems, topped in summer with beautiful pansy-shaped flowers that emerge crimson red then morph to crimson violet, both with a contrasting yellow throat. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Despite the long, tongue-twisting name, the dwarf golden sweet flag is one of the most striking and certainly the cutest of the acorus. The tufts of tiny, golden, ornamental grass-like, evergold foliage make a slowly spreading patch to 2' wide in 5 years. If you get out the magnifying glass, you'll notice the tiny aroid-like tan spadices (flowers) in early summer. Acorus 'Minimus Aureus' is a bright, deer-resistant, dwarf evergreen perennial groundcover in moist shady areas where it makes either a feature specimen or a killer filler between dark stepping stones...a real highlight in the woodland garden. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Actaea 'Misty Blue' is a fabulous Mt. Cuba selection of the native East Coast woodlander, Actaea pachypoda (no, we're not lumping them with cimicifuga, which we find ridiculous). Actaea 'Misty Blue' has glaucous, pewter colored, pinnate foliage compared to the typical green. The 18" tall clumps are topped in spring with short stalks of white flowers, followed by really cool ornamental white berries attached by bright red stems. You're going to love this amazing actaea selection...if you plant it in a light shade site with moist, but well-drained soil. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Although the name indicates this fern is from the Aleutian islands, Adiantum aleuticum is native throughout the western United States and into northern Mexico. Adiantum aleuticum can also be found in a few eastern US states (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). Adiantum aleuticum is similar in form to Adiantum pedatum with its fan-shaped, finger-like fronds atop a thin black stalk. The cultivar Adiantum aleuticum 'Imbricatum' is a dwarf form of this lovely clump-forming fern that matures at 10" tall, which is about half the height of the typical species. Like Michael Phelps, Adiantum aleuticum is much more robust in a moist environment with a few hours of morning sun. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(aka A1FL-113) This selection of the worldwide native Adiantum capillus-veneris comes from Washington Co., Florida, about an hour west of Tallahassee. Adiantum capillus-veneris 'Falling Waters' has made a splendid patch in our garden with frond pinnae (fern leaflets) that are slightly smaller and narrower than what we typically see in other regional southern maidenhair fern forms. Our five-year-old clumps have spread to 2' wide and so far have survived single digit temperatures with no problems. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(aka: Adiantum capillus-veneris A3T-022) We discovered this wonderfully cut leaf form of the southeastern native Adiantum capillus-veneris along Wasp Creek in Kendall County, Texas. Unlike most forms of southern maidenhair fern, the pinnae are shaped like narrow Japanese hand fans. For us, Adiantum 'Fan Dance' forms a tight 6" tall patch that expands to 2' wide in 5 years. We are pleased to finally be able to share this special form of southern maidenhair fern. Moist soils are best. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(aka: Adiantum c-v A1CR-090) In 2010, we discovered a small patch of Adiantum capillus-veneris growing in a wet seep at 1680' elevation on the south slope of Crete's Mt. Ida...very near an amazing population of white-flowered Dracunculus vulgaris. Our spore collections germinated well enough that we are able to share. The parent clump was more compact than most of the US native forms, maturing around 6" tall. We expect a 2' wide patch in 5 years...we'll find out together. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(coll. #A2T-034) This form of the wonderful southern maidenhair fern, Adiantum capillus-veneris, comes from spores that we collected in 2000 in the Edwards Plateau region of Texas near the town of Rock Springs. Not that you are interested, but we were stopped three times by border patrol agents who searched our backpacks for illegal aliens...glad I carried a small backpack. Plantsman Scott Ogden showed us this population of southern maidenhair fern growing along a small creek in a very alkaline soil. Our 5-year-old clump is 1' tall x 2' wide and, as you can imagine, quite heat tolerant. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This particularly vigorous form of the little-known walking maidenhair fern was shared by plantsman Roy Works after we admired it in his Tampa, Florida garden. Although Adiantum caudatum emerges late after a hard winter, it is evergreen in milder climates. Our plants have survived 7 degrees F, to form a 5' wide patch in 5 years. The 1.5" wide x 2' long arching fronds, which emerge pink in spring, root into the ground at their tips, forming new plants. Moist soils result in faster growth, but our plants are quite happy in a fairly dry, sandy soil. Adiantum caudatum is a most unusual plant, sure to get your gardening friends talking. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(coll. #A1HA-016) Rosy maidenhair fern is commonly grown as a houseplant but few gardeners realize its winter hardiness. Regular Adiantum hispidulum is easy to grow and reliable in warmer parts of Zone 8, but this rare form has been fine in our Zone 7b woodland garden since 2004. Adiantum hispidulum 'Mt Haleakala' makes an attractive 1' tall x 1' wide clump with fronds which emerge rosy red...hence, the common name. Our spores came from 5,000' near the top of Maui's famed Mt. Haleakala. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Available 4-18-2013Without a doubt, Adiantum pedatum is one of our most elegant North American native plants. The horizontal horseshoe-like wreath of foliage rests atop 18-24" tall, wiry black stems. Northern maidenhair fern thrives in moist, rich soil, but also grows well in all but the driest of woodland garden sites. The light, airy, fine texture of the Adiantum pedatum fronds serves as a perfect backdrop for hostas and other bold foliage plants. In early April, this deciduous native fern unfurls for a true Kodak moment. In 10 years, expect a 2' wide deer-resistant clump to develop. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
My first experience with the sterile Adiantum x mairisii was in 1993, thanks to a gift from the late fern collector, Nancy Swell of Virginia. Not to be confused with the Chinese Adiantum mariesii, this reported hybrid of Adiantum capillus-veneris and an unknown baby daddy was discovered around 1885 at the UK's Mairis & Co. Nursery and subsequently named by Chelsea Physic Garden curator and fern collector, Thomas Moore. Adiantum x mairisii performs like a vigorous clone of southern maidenhair fern, but with very good winter hardiness. For us, expect a 3' wide deer-resistant patch of 1' tall, lacy maidenhair foliage in 5 years. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
It was lust at first sight when I saw Agave bracteosa 'Monterrey Frost' in California's San Diego Botanic Garden. This rare form of the northern Mexican Agave bracteosa has been passed along in California collectors' circles for more than a decade, but is rarely available to the general public. The frozen squid-like architectural rosette of sandpapery green foliage is edged with a perfect creamy-white margin, eventually producing a 1' tall x 18" wide variegated specimen that will offset sporadically after it matures. Agave bracteosa actually enjoys part shade, which also keeps the white edge from scorching. The white edge reduces its winter-hardiness, so where this isn't reliably hardy, Agave 'Monterrey Frost' makes a stunning unarmed container specimen. With great age, your Agave 'Monterrey Frost' will flower with lovely fragrant yellow blooms that attract hummingbirds. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Okay, I'd probably grow Ajuga 'Planet Zork' just for the name, but imagine my excitement when this cool bugleweed turned out to be a cool garden plant as well. Most ajugas don't fare well in our heat and humidity, but to my surprise, Ajuga 'Planet Zork' has performed wonderfully in our garden trials. This compact bugleweed selection comes from Japan where its slow clumping growth habit and upwardly cupped, crinkled, grey-green, deer-resistant leaves with a pink overlay are highly prized. Superficially, Ajuga 'Planet Zork' looks like Ajuga 'Burgundy Glow' that was sprayed with weedkiller...a likely leftover from the "better gardening through chemicals" program. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)