List of plants that grow in dry full shade in zone 5?

paulsiu(5a)September 12, 2011

I am looking into plants that grows well in dry full shade, here's what I come up with on the initial research.

actea pachypoda (white baneberry)

actea rubra (red baneberry)

ajuga reptans (bugleweed)

asarum europaeum (european ginger)



liriope muscari

phlox divaricata (woodland phlox)

phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)

polygonatun odoratum (solomon's seal)

pulmonaria saccharata (bethlehem sage)

smiliacina racemosa (false solomon's seal)

Tiarella cordifolia (foam flower)


Tricyrtis (toad lilly) Sinonome?

uvularia grandiflora (bellwort)

vinca minor (periwinkle)

What do you think?


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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Most grow in my garden in dry shade; I'd question Ajuga and Tricyrtis, however. I think the former needs a little sun and the latter a little moisture. Also, few ferns will be happy in dry conditions. Christmas fern is, but not many others.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 5:59AM
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It depends how dry is the dry full shade, and whether it is under the trees or not. Do you want the plants just to grow or to thrive? Half of the plants you mention will not thrive when very 'thirsty': Uvularia, Pulmonaria, Actea, Trillium, Tricirtis. Hosta and Smilacina will turn to mini-versions.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 6:22AM
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Got the list from the Chicago Botanical Garden. I am not sure how dry the shade is, but it is underneath some trees, so I figure dry shade version would be more competitive. So far, I have planted some hosta, triciris, dwarf crested iris, and heuchera early summer. All of the hosta appears to be doing fine, but heuchera and the iris have died. The triciris got killed off by some animal who for reason dug it out. Nearby, and osterich fern planted early sumnmer seems to do well underneath some trees.

I should remove ajuga because it needs light, liriope muscari because it's not zone 5 hardy, tricyrtis because it needs moisture and trillium, too.

So Uvularia, Pulmonaria, Actea also needs a lot of moisture.?


    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:13AM
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tepelus(6a SW MI)

It also depends on what kind of trees they're planted under. Trees, such as maples, have surface roots that suck the life out of the soil beneath them, others are deep rooted, such as oak, and many shade perennials will grow under them because of the lack of root competition. I've discovered catalpa is deep rooted, and have planted hostas, ferns and other shade perennials underneath mine this year. Because of the thick canopy in some spots, the ground beneath it can be somewhat dry, whereas in the areas where the canopy is thinner the ground is more moist. Thinning the canopy will probably help allow more rain to reach the ground. Some food for thought.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:28AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Pulmonaria definitely needs a lot of water, and some sun.

I wouldn't get rid of the liriope, unless you don't want something viciously aggressive. It will probably overrun everything else on that list except hosta and vinca.

Add epimediums and pachysandra.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:28AM
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Birch is one of the absolutely worst trees to have.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:39AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

of most importance.. its what creates the shade ... e.g. if its a norway maple.. NOTHING is going to grow under it ..

hosta will not like dry shade..

all transplants will need water until fully established.. no new transplant can handle drought ... even if shade created ...

if you are not sure how dry an area is.. go dig a hole.. and find out ... do it after a nice rain.. and find out how far down the water actually gets .... you might be surprised how little actually penetrates to any depth ....

digging the holes.. will also give you an idea of how invasive the tree roots are ...

so.. first ID the trees that create the canopy .. then define the water content of the soil and the soils ability to move water thru itself .. THEN LOOK FOR A LIST OF PLANTS ... you are kinda jumping to the last part of the equation ... pix of trunk and leaf can usually get you a tree ID in the tree forum ...


    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 8:55AM
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OK, I'll try to id the tree. Since there were lots of weeds growing there before I mowed them down, I assume it wasn't too dry.

As for liriope, there are two main type that people grow: liriope muscari and liriope spicata. The muscari is varigated and generally stay where it was planted. Liriope spicata tend to spread aggressively.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 9:56AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Not all Liriope muscari is variegated. I have the plain 'ol green L. muscari. The difference is L. muscari is a clumper, L. spicata is a runner. L. muscari should be able to hold it's own in drier soil once fully established; would assume same story with spicata.

Regarding ferns, some are tolerance of dry shade once established (and I'm having a big fat brain freeze at the moment, even though I grow drought-tolerant ones myself...BAH!), others are toast in dry soil.

Hostas generally don't do well in dry soil.

Tiarella? You've got to be kidding me. Mine fried on multiple attempts and the soil isn't even *that* dry where I had them.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 1:42PM
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Actually, Tiarella loves dry shade so long as the crown isn't exposed (otherwise it will dry out just from the wind), and I do very well with Tricyrtis in semi-dry conditions. False Solomon's seal is extremely invasive. And Pulmonaria thrives for me in dark shade with occasional moisture (again, this one likes to have its crown buried and mulched yearly).

I would add Corydalis lutea to this list. It will grow in anything.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 9:23PM
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I would remove the Phlox divaricata from your list. There was a recent thread somewhere about problems with it and we concluded it needs a good amount of sun.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 10:57PM
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After examining the tree, it appears to be an ash. There's another ash growing in the front yard with a large ring of sweet woodruff underneath, so I assume that it's probably not as bad as a maple.

Perhaps the shade is not so dry after all. After planting several different types of plants there, the plants that seemed to do best is hostas.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 11:05PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Ash is deciduous so you could also try bulbs and spring ephemerals. But how they fare does depend on how dry the shade is.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 12:25PM
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Out of curiousity, is there a reason why bulbs would work better than regular plants other than the fact that they usually grow when the tree is dormant?


    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 5:48PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Bulbs generally prefer drier conditions when they are dormant. I have most of my bulbs planted in well-drained and drier beds in between perennials that will hide the dying bulb foliage and fill in as the bulbs disappear.

Ajuga and Vinca minor are aggressive spreaders. Vinca will grow anywhere - including under a Norway maple (and just about the only thing that grows happily under my one remaining tree).

Two native perennials that will grow and bloom well in dry shade are Symphyotrichum cordifolium (blue wood aster) and S. divaricatum (white wood aster). Very pretty, starting to bloom now, and will even grow under maples. They both reseed freely.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 3:37AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Paulsiu - spring bulbs and woodland ephemerals will grow and bloom before the tree leafs out, thereby taking advantage of the available light before the shade develops. I would not try it with the big tulips and daffodils but there are many smaller/species bulbs which will manage under trees. I have miniature daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, Corydalis solida, Erythroniums and hyacinths (ones which have previously been forced indoors) under a birch tree. They may not be prize winning specimens but they do the job.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 4:48AM
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I have a garden I just started under an oak tree. I was going to add Aster Divaricatum (just above), and also Biokovo Geranium.

My Ajuga is doing well in dry shade in a couple of places in the yard. Chocolate Chip has really taken off!

I don't remember if it's mentioned above, but Ceratostigma Plumbago has been a dry shade winner for me too.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 8:30AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Here is a garden under an ash tree in OH in it's even though the garden was just over a year old at the time, from previously being sparse grass. There are hostas, columbine, creeping phlox, Pulmonaria, Bergenia, Trillium, violets, Polemonium (jacob's ladder,) a few bulbs, Lamium, a little lilac, ready to be a tree if the ash got emerald beetle borers (I moved, remains a mystery,) and a few others I don't remember and can't see from this angle. 4" of mulch can retain moisture for weeks.

Of your list, I would avoid the Vinca. Just too sprawling/spready to play nice with the other plants. In general, you don't want vines in a flower bed. Entities like Vinca or Ajuga that rapidly spread really do best in their own, well-enclosed space. Spreading through other more self-contained plants, these spreaders can make the whole thing look like a confused mess. But, like most things-gardening, this is subject to your personal opinion on the matter.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 4:54PM
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