Ideas sought for tall shade perennial

paul_(z5 MI)July 21, 2014

My sister has a bed running along the back of her house and is looking for ideas for an area in one of her beds. She lives in southern Michigan (Zone 6) -- not terribly far from the Ohio border.

The bed in question has an EAST exposure. Part of the bed gets full sun from early morning until around noon. The other part gets only an hour or two of early morning sun before being shaded by a large maple. The maple stands approximately 10-15ft outside of this area of the bed. Tree removal is not an option.

The sunny side of the bed is pretty much done containing various Hosta, a climbing rose, some sun loving annuals to add spots of color, etc. Once the Rose of Sharon stumps rot away enough to pull them out, several Weigelia (most probably 'Wine and Roses') will be planted against the house in that part of the bed.

The shady area is where the issue arises. This area runs about 12-15ft deep from front edge to the house. This side also contains numerous Hosta, as well as some low growing shady loving annuals. The problem lies further back in that shady area, closer to the house. Ideally, she would like either a shrub or a perennial that:
� grows up to 4ft or so (she'd like it tall and wide enough to hide the power meter box)
� not a rampant reseeder or spreader
� flowers (with a leaning towards summer bloomers but that's not written in stone)
� interesting foliage (colorful and/or interesting leaf shape)
� does not have high water needs (between the maple and no automatic sprinkler system, high water needs could prove difficult)

Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) does not interest her. While the leaf shape makes a decent divergence from the typical Hosta leaf form, the flower color is too bland.

Azalea or Rhododendron are considerations but I don't know of any that have any foliar interest.

Suggestions?

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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

How about one of the purple leafed Actea AKA Cimicifuga such as Hillside Black Beauty or Brunette. Late summer flowers are tall, though the foliage alone is only about 2 1/2 feet.

I like the foliage on the PJM rhododendrons, and if you also put in one of the larger leafed rhodie varieties, they make a nice contrast in color and size. Another evergreen shrub to look at is Daphne x transatlantic 'Summer Ice'. Finely variegated leaves (white edge) small, scented, season-long flowers (literally last spring frost to first autumn frost in my garden) although there is never an overwhelming flush of flowers all at once. Mine only gets a very few hours of midday sun due to hemlocks to the south, large shrubs to the east and west, and a large building to the north.

Also, she might want to reconsider that particular Weigelia. I have 'Wine and Roses' in an eastern exposure with sun until 1:30 or so, and it is more brownish green than wine colored.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 2:39PM
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samnsarah

Your sister has quite a few options available. I would suggest Viburnum dentatum 'Rastzam' (Raspberry Tart Viburnum). It has sharply toothed leaves that turn bright red in the fall. Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lady in Red' (Lady in Red Hydrangea) has red veined deep green foliage in the summer and reddish purple foliage in the fall plus it flowers. Also, Fothergilla major 'Blue Shadow' (Blue Shadow Witch Alder) has icy blue foliage in the summer and bright red foliage in the fall.
Does your sister have acidic soil? If she does than she may consider Azaleas. Rhododendron azalea x 'Conlee' more commonly known as Autumn Amethyst Azalea has dark lavender blooms, lustrous green summer foliage and purple winter foliage. It grows to 4â wide and 4â tall. Of course, Azaleas usually only grow in warmer climates, so I don't know if they would reliably winter in Michigan. But its worth investigating.
Hope these suggestions help or give you other ideas.

This post was edited by plantingman on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 16:01

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 3:57PM
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edlincoln(6A)

The flowers aren't much, but Diablo Ninebark has red leaves, flowers, and tolerates shade. Can be pruned to whatever height she likes.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 12:06AM
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jadeite(6/7)

How about oakleaf hydrangea (h. quercifolia)? These have oak-shaped leaves which are deep green in summer when the long white flowers are borne. In fall the foliage turns deep gold and russet while the flowers gradually age to muted pink. Snow Queen is a reliable cultivar which will grow to 6', but there are dwarf forms as well. I grew this when I lived in the Midwest as well as in the Northeast, and it looked good year round.

For perennials, my favorite flowering plant for shade is monkshood (aconitum), mainly for the gorgeous deep blue flowers which are produced from summer to early fall. I grew this in a shade border with astilbe, cimifuga, rodgersia, ligularias and fringed bleeding heart (dicentra eximia).

Cheryl

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 12:09AM
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rouge21_gw(5)

How about oakleaf hydrangea (h. quercifolia)?

i have always wanted to try one of these hydrangeas in (quite) shady location but I have run out of room. I do wonder how much shade it can take and still look good.

my favorite flowering plant for shade is monkshood (aconitum)

I agree...a great fall flowering plant that can take lots of shade. (Just in case you don't know this plant is extremely poisonous).

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:01AM
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shadeyplace(7)

vernonia,

Ligularia 'Chinese Dragon' gets very tall and the midsummer blooms are over 5 feet. Meanwhile the foliage is wonderful. Vernonia blooms late but very tall. arendsii monkshood blooms here in October, but maybe not at all in your area. Veronicastrum likes more sun but it does okay in some shade. I believe the cimicifuga looks better in front of garden because then you see the foliage..the native one seems to be taller and yet no fragrance.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:11AM
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debbiecz3(z3MB)

Perennials include Meadow Sweet, Tall Solomon Seal, Martagon Lilies,

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 8:38AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Another vote for Oakleaf Hydrangea. It is an awesome plant with the most distinct leaves of all the ones suggested above. The flowers are also distinct and beautiful. It is a native so requires little care.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:55AM
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jadeite(6/7)

Rouge - I have never grown oakleaf hydrangea in deep shade so I don't know how it will do. I grew it in the Midwest in bright shade, on the north side of a small garage. In the Northeast I grew it in dappled shade on the east side of the house which was shaded by big (but not dense) trees.

It's a very easy shrub, handsome all year round particularly in fall. My Snow Queen topped out at about 6' with graceful arching stems ending in long white flowers. I also grew Pee Wee which is about 3' x 3', nicely rounded with the same arching stems.

Cheryl

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:26PM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

Although I am not the original poster, I want to thank everyone for these great suggestions as I was about to post almost the exact same question.

I also have an east facing bed in the front of my house. In the early part of the day it is shaded by a large (30 foot) Japanese maple. As the day progresses, the shadow of the house falls on the bed. So, all in all, a bit of a challenge.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 9:49PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Thanks for all the ideas, folks! Keep 'em coming!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 8:07PM
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shadeyplace(7)

forgot to mention Joe Pye weed..It gets very tall and yes it can take shade.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:56AM
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