Ten Shade Perennials for the Mid South

Apr 30


Julia Stewart

Julia Stewart

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Do you have shade in your garden and think you can't grow a thing? Think foliage color and texture to liven up your shady areas. You can't go wrong with these plants.

Do you have shade and think you can't grow a thing there? Think again!  There are actually so many shade perennials for the Mid South that it is hard to narrow the list down to just ten.  Here in the Mid South, Ten Shade Perennials for the Mid South Articles even plants that are considered full sun actually appreciate a little afternoon shade.  The trick to planting shade perennials is to choose a spot that has little competition from trees that have surface roots such as maples, sweet gums, and dogwoods. Assessing your site before you plant is essential.

Assessing Your Site

Assess your planting area and identify light and shade levels for that area. To do this, take a walk around your yard and observe what areas get full sun and which areas are truly shady areas.  Remember, light levels change throughout the year as the seasons change and as trees leaf out or grow to maturity. Keep notes in a journal as to what areas receive shade in the morning, midday, and early afternoon. Note whether the area is full shade, partial shade, or full sun.  For the beginner gardener, those terms may be a little confusing.  Here's what those in the landscaping business  mean.

 Full shade areas have a dense canopy where no direct sunlight penetrates, or perhaps the plant is in the shadow of an evergreen tree or building all day. Partial shade means that the garden receives dappled shade throughout the day. This simply means that you can see some portions of the sky through the leaves above you. Another type of partial shade is the garden that is more densely shaded for a part of the day but receives bright sunlight for two to six hours. In the Mid South, these hours of sun need to be  preferably in the  morning. I know I wilt with just one hour of hot afternoon sun!  Your shade perennials will too.  The third type of area is full sun which means the area receives at least six hours of direct sunlight during the day. As mentioned earlier, many plants considered full sun plants in northern climates, actually appreciate some afternoon shade here in the Mid South.

Ten Shade Perennials for the Mid South

  • Italian arum (Arum italicum)
  • Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
  • Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
  • Cardinal flower (Lobelia Cardinalis)
  • Solomon's seal (Polyanatum odoratum)
  • Spiderwort (Tradescantia x Andersoniana)
  • Lenten rose (Helleborus spp.)
  • Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)
  • Astilbe (Astilbe x Arendsii)
  • Toad lily (Tricyrtus formosana)

Given the right conditions, shade loving perennials will thrive. The list above barely covers the vast array of plants you can use in the shade. Ask you local garden center or extension service to help you learn more about the plants that are right for your area. Keep in mind there are also ferns, vines, annuals, and shrubs that do well in shade. As a general rule, plants that do well in the shade have large, flat leaves that help them absorb light for photosynthesis and growth.  They will generally have fewer flowers and seeds than plants grown in the sun.  Think foliage color and texture for shady areas in your garden.   This list of ten shade perennials is a good place to start for gardeners in the Mid South.