This article Sponsored by:
In Failures Tell Tales, a gardener is frustrated to have had only 2 or 3 of 20 or more species "take" in his new shady garden. He sees it as a dismal plant success rate. However, we're not surprised. In fact, we think 2 or 3 self-selected thrivers is a great start. The trick is to use more of those and keep trying others.
We're not being flippant - we know that losing plants puts the hurt on a gardener, spiritually if not economically. What we write here is what works.
Best plants for this dry shade (a subset of our complete Shade Gardening Plant Lists)
It's what we've done since 1995 in 1,000 square feet of our big Adopt-A-Garden perennial area at the Detroit Zoo. It's all fast-draining, alkaline sandy soil under mulberries and oaks, with no irrigation system other than one beleaguered volunteer per week, given a hose and bucket and charged to try to "keep the new things and annuals going."
In that space we began with about 50 species...
...and after a few years settled on 8 that stood the test...
...tried another 20 over several more years, netting 3 more winners. We play all winners to their limit. (More details below.)
Our winners may not be yours, or right for your next garden
Rejoice in every perennial that signs on for the long haul in a shady garden. However, don't expect it to transfer to every other shade garden. You may move it into the same light situation (same number of hours and times of day) but the soil type is a bit different, so that it has occasional damp roots, or too little of a given nutrient, and it struggles. The trees above it may be a different species, with roots formed differently or exuding a different chemical cocktail. We don't get frustrated over this. It's a living, immortal jigsaw puzzle.
That said, the most successful perennials so far in our dry, shady garden mentioned above, have been:
To browse other Sponsor-recommended articles, click here or on any Sponsor seal to reach those lists. From our Sponsor lists you can jump directly to articles from the name of the people who endorsed them, or choose by topic.