Shade gardens that shine

Beautiful ways to use shade plants in mountain or woodland settings

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GROUND COVERS & PERENNIALS

Bunchberry  (Cornus canadensis). Deciduous. White flowers appear in May, then red berries; 6-inch plant. Sunset climate zones 1-7.

Dead nettle (Lamium maculatum). Deciduous in hard winters. Silvery white leaves have green edges; usually pink or white flowers; 6 inches tall. All zones.

Hosta. Deciduous. Solid or variegated, blue to green leaves; sometimes-fragrant flowers. Zones 1-10, 12-21.

Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis). Evergreen. Attractive, 6-inch leathery leaves. Zones 1-10, 14-21.

Meadow rue  (Thalictrum species). Deciduous. Airy foliage grows 3 to 6 feet tall. All zones.

Redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana). Deciduous. In spring, pink or white flowers rise over a cloverlike carpet. Resists slugs. Zones 4-9, 14-24.

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). Deciduous. Delicate ground cover with white, mellow-smelling May flowers. Resists slugs. Zones 1-6, 15-17.

Vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla). Deciduous. Butterfly-like leaves emerge in April; flowers are cream-colored; to 1 foot tall. Zones 2-7.

Wild ginger  (Asarum caudatum). Evergreen; native to the woods of the Coast Range. Big, heart-shaped leaves have gingery scent when crushed; handsome, dark green carpet to 10 inches. Zones 4-6, 14-24.

 

FERNS & SHRUBS

Coast rhododendron (R. macrophyllum). Evergreen. Pink flowers in May or June. Tends to be leggy unless you prune hard after bloom; 10 to 20 feet tall. Zones 4-6, 15-17.

Maidenhair fern  (Adiantum aleuticum). Deciduous in hard winters. Airy-looking, delicate fronds; 1 to 2 feet tall. Zones 1-9, 14-24.

Ocean spray  (Holodiscus discolor). Deciduous. Western native with toothed leaves bears clusters of creamy white summer flowers; 3 to 20 feet (taller in very rich, moist soil). Zones 1-7, 14-17.

Oregon boxwood (Paxistima myrsinites). Evergreen. Looks like a dark, dense boxwood; 2 to 4 feet tall. Zones 1-10, 14-21.

Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Evergreen. Holly-shaped leaves; yellow spring flowers followed by sour, grapelike fruit; to 8 feet. Zones 1-21. Longleaf mahonia (M. nervosa) grows to 2 feet; zones 2-9, 14-17.

Red huckleberry  (Vaccinium parvifolium). Deciduous. Airy branches with light green leaves are dotted with edible red berries in summer; 4 to 12 feet tall. Zones 2-7, 14-17.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon). Evergreen. Dense, unthirsty shrubs produce edible (if bland) purple summer fruit; 2 to 10 feet. Resists slugs. Zones 3-7, 14-17, 21-24.

Sword fern  (Polystichum munitum). Evergreen. Takes some drought. Shiny, dark green fronds; 2 to 4 feet tall. Zones 4-9, 14-24.

Western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale). Deciduous. Fragrant white or pink flowers with yellow throats; to 8 feet tall. Zones 4-9, 14-17, 19-24.

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