Dry Shade Gardening

Know the type of shade you have!

  • Shade from buildings or other structures – shade is denser, sun may be reflected, sun may change during the day
  • Shade from trees – root competition – adding humus on top of existing soil, adding mulch can help condition of soil

Ideal soil should be loamy and relatively well-drained

  • Ideal soil should be loamy and relatively well-drained
  • Shade loving herbaceous plants in general do not have very deep roots but require a minimum of 4-6 inches of good soil

Designing a garden for shade

  • Under trees in early spring -can use a wide variety of spring bulbs and spring ephemerals
  • Rely on plants with variegated foliage, different textures, leaf size, size of plants, use of cool and warm greens

Perennials for dry shade

  • Bergenia
  • Brunnera
  • Columbine
  • Dicentra
  • Epimedium
  • Hardy geranium
  • Hellebores
  • Heuchera
  • Hosta
  • Rodgersia
  • Solomon’s Seal
  • Wild Ginger Asarum canadense or Asarum europaeum

Shrubs for dry shade

  • Spice bush
  • Japanese maple
  • Oak leaf hydrangea
  • Yew
  • Euonymus


Cramer, Harriet L. (2000). A Garden in the Shade. New York: Friedman Fairfax.

Hodgson, Larry. (2005). Making the Most of Shade: How to Plan, Plant, and Grow a Fabulous Garden that Lightens Up the Shadows. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.

Westcott- Gratton, S. (2016) 8 plants for dry and shady gardens. Gardenmaking August 2016 retrieved from https://gardenmaking.com/8-plants-dry-shady-gardens

Chicago Botanical Gardens Plant Evaluation site is a great resource. https://www.chicagobotanic.org

Submitted by Penny Keegan and Nancy Burnett