6 early native spring wildflowers for shade

Uvularia grandifloraMY GARDEN, LIKE MOST (and like the assortment at the garden center), is a jumble of non-native and native plants. But at this early spring moment, a half-dozen Eastern wildflowers take my breath away. In a slideshow, six easy, captivating natives for the woodland or shade garden.

stylophorum diphyllumFollow each plants name (the green link) to a full plant portrait, with all the details.

  • Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla: Delicate and fleeting white flowers, but I love this plant from the moment it emerges from the ground, all purple-bronze (thanks to pigments called anthocyanins—read about why plants disguise themselves with non-green pigments in early spring).
  • Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica: Invite a few bluebells into your garden and you will soon have more. (Photo below.)
  • Celandine poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum: Great foliage, great fuzzy seedpods—and of course great golden flowers from early spring and on and off into summertime if they’re happy. (Photo above.)
  • Wake robin, Trillium erectum: You have to love the vivid color red this one outfits itself in, despite an otherwise-pastel spring garden. Tough as can be—and I even divide mine in spring, like this.
  • Large-flowered bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora (top photo): As many years as I have known, and grown, this yellow-flowered gem, I don’t think I have ever failed to be startled by its intricate construction. I call it merry bells, but who knows if that’s the common name of this species or one of its cousins. The sight of these blooms makes me happy, so the name seems apt.
  • Blue cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides: This one hasn’t bloomed yet, but as with the twinleaf, I’m captivated by it from the first foliar hint poking through the soil—in this case a stunning purple. Yellowish flowers follow, and then the handsome round blue fruits.

Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica

the slideshow

CLICK THE FIRST thumbnail to begin, then toggle between images using the arrow keys on your computer, or the arrow on each photo.

woodland wildflower sources

10 comments
May 3, 2013

comments

  1. Terryk says

    Thanks to having read your blog and book, I have most of them in the garden. I now need to add more of each so it gets better looking.

  2. wendy cleaver says

    I love bluebells but they have always failed to show the next year. I live in southern Ontario Canada. I did plant them in shade in a rather damp area of my garden under trees.

    Any tips on how to keep them coming year after year?

  3. says

    Would you recommend a hardiness zone for these? I am in Zone 3 – I think I need to do some searching for native plants for my area (though I love each of these in the slideshow!!)

  4. Louise says

    Thanks to your blog and insight, I planted Trillium and Virginia Bluebells. Now there’s even more to add and enjoy.

  5. Lorie says

    We were the unlucky ones who got slammed with snow AGAIN plus cold rain for days and days….but…all that moisture has not discouraged the celandine poppies and soloman seal from pushing up in anticipation of better days. Hope my space will resemble yours soon. The snow brought in a huge batch of orioles, grosbeaks, indigo buntings and a red headed woodpecker!!! I’m on the 5th jar of grape jelly, 2nd bag of oranges and a huge jug of nectar. Every stressful scenerio has a bright side, right? Now we need some warmth to get those veggies and annuals in the ground.

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