I don’t know what your home at Smith Mountain Lake is like, but I have more shade than full sun at mine. I love gardening and being a part of God’s growing process. Each year however, I find myself challenged to find something new and wonderful to fill spaces that will grow without a whole lot of direct sunlight.
This year I went online to see what other folks were planting and recommending for those spots where bright light is a far away dream. I found some great plants, some familiar to me, others I had never heard of. Here are just a few of the plants I read about along with a very short synopsis to help you see if you would enjoy growing them yourself. Perhaps as I did you will look up their pictures and find a couple you just have to incorporate into your landscape.
Lungwort – This plant got it’s name from being used medicinally for lung ailments in days gone by, but it is also called “Cowslip” or “Bethleham Sage” as well. A spring flowering perennial, it grows about 12” tall and 18” wide and has long, lance-shaped leaves that are often speckled, splotched, variegated or frosted looking. Highly attractive foliage and vivid flowers make lungwort a favorite understory plant. Part shade and well-draining soil are preferred.
Hosta – It’s probably the most popular shade plant on the market, but with more than 2,500 varieties to choose from, it’s not likely to get overused anytime soon. The hosta, which originated in Japan, China and Korea, is adored for its big, bold leaves. Hosta comes in many dramatic leaf textures and shapes, can be solid or variegated, and includes combinations of blue, green, gold and white. Some leaves change from light colors early in the season to all-green later. Hostas also send up spikes of small lily-like flowers in lavender and white.
Mountain Laurel – are beautiful woodland native shrubs that do very well in part shade or dappled shade gardens. Broadleaf evergreen foliage and attractive late spring flowers are part of what this shade loving shrub has to offer a creative bed or border. Mountain Laurels are medium to large shrubs that grow anywhere from 5-15′ tall and wide and make an ornamental evergreen backdrop for other perennials, shrubs and annuals. Mountain laurels need well-drained soil and do not perform well in clay soils but do well when given slightly acidic, well-drained and shady garden conditions.
Hydrangea – Many of us have pined after this voluptuous shrub while visiting warmer climates, not realizing handsome varieties thrive here as well. Hydrangea arborescens, such as “Annabelle,” grows big pompons of white flower clusters that are similar to the mopheads, while hydrangea paniculata, including “Limelight” and “Quick Fire,” sends out pyramidal clusters of white blooms that turn pink with age. Or try oakleaf hydrangea with its elongated blooms and deeply lobed leaves.
Lily-of-the-valley – these plants are charming and often grown as an attractive ground cover where they will naturalize well when conditions suite them. Fragrant white bell-shaped flowers on 6” stalks appear mid-spring and were popular as cut flowers in wedding bouquets. Prefers part shade and well-drained soil and will tolerate dry conditions well, especially after flowering. Lily-of-the-Valley spreads through rhizomes underground and will naturalize readily so provide plenty of room and a natural boundary.
Lupine – This stately flower has long charmed with its sturdy stalks of pealike blossoms. Varying in height from 18 inches to 5 feet, the lupine is also stunning in pink, rose, lilac, yellow, apricot, white and bicolors, and has handsome lance-shaped leaves. Blooming in the cool days of late May, the old-fashioned flower prefers shade from hot afternoon sun and will quickly grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet in loose, rich, slightly acidic soil.
Lady’s Mantle – So named because the lobes of its leaves look like the scalloped edges of the Virgin Mary’s cloak, Lady’s Mantle is a handsome silver-gray ground cover with sprays of foamy chartreuse flowers. While the dainty star- shaped flowers are a lovely contrast to the foliage June through August, many gardeners also grow the plant for its felted foliage. The herb grows 6 to 24 inches high, and prefers moist, fertile soil and afternoon shade.
Japanese Anemone – (or Windflower) this poppy-like flower has saucer-like blossoms that bloom in the fall on top of wiry, waist-high stems. Considered an indispensable shade plant for late summer to frost, the anemone’s lightweight pink, lavender and white flowers bloom for six to eight weeks above lush, clover-like leaves. The anemone is also a wonderful cut flower, particularly rose-red “Pamini” and white “Honorine Jobert,” lasting up to two weeks.