new! slideshow of my 54 top shade plants

under apple peak 2
SHADE IS A TRICKSTER, CAPTURING AND RELINQUISHING territory as years pass and woody plants grow—or are damaged or lost. Twenty-five years into gardening on one site, some former “shade gardens” here now bake, and even more spots that were sunny—well, you get the changeable, unpredictable picture.

Thankfully, for the latter areas, I have old clumps of lower-light plants to divide, including those in this new slideshow of my top 54 shade subjects. I included some woodland-garden shrubs and trees for those seeking to manufacture some shade of their own—or wanting to add more understory structure to what nature has provided.

a mostly alphabetical tour of 54 favorites for shade

plant profiles of shade subjects



Bulbs and bulb-like plants


Deciduous Shrubs

Deciduous Tree

more help in the shade

  1. Thank you Margaret for such an inspiring post! I have some of these plants but wish I had more property so I could try all of them. Your gardens are just beautiful, and your photos are lovely. Thank you for such a detailed post about shade plants. I’ll be referring to it often.

    1. Brett Price says:

      Wow. talk about inspiring. I’m currently working on a shade garden design and this slideshow is so helpful. There are so many species I’ve never encountered or heard of before and that is even after getting a two year degree in horticulture. I’ll have to look harder at some of the local nurseries up here in Maine and see if anyone has some of these cool varieties. Thanks Margaret!

  2. Robert Webber says:

    Wow you’ve given us an entire garden!
    A shade garden!
    Lots of faves here, icluding surprise surprise CS!
    Thanks so much for joining us – we r HONOURED!

  3. Balisha says:

    I started out just to look at a few of your plants… and before long I was at the end of the slideshow. What a wonderful collection you have. I found some of the plants in my woods…that I couldn’t identify…Thanks

    By the way, I just received two of the copies of your new book. I bought one for my daughter, who lives in both DC and Wi. She is wanting to retire to her lake home in a few years…thought this book would be right up her alley. I just started reading it…love it. Balisha

  4. rebecca sweet says:

    Hello Margaret! While in Connecticut last week (my first time!) I had the privilege to pal around with Andrew Keys who mentioned he was possibly going to visit your beautiful garden. Yes, I was a teensy (okay, a lot) jealous to say the least! After reading this post and seeing all of your gorgeous photos I now feel like I’ve visited your garden, too! Thanks for contributing to our group!

  5. Matriarchy says:

    Watched the slide show yesterday, and today I spotted a golden Hakone grass at a nursery. Mine! After wanting one for the past few years of reading about yours. :-)

  6. Karen says:

    I am in awe of the beauty. When I look at your slideshow, I feel the stress drain from my body. I have a formerly full sun garden spot by my drive which now is mostly shade thanks to my neighbor’s beautiful mimosa tree. It is a challenge, but thanks to you I now have some ideas. We will now be able to cohabitate. Seasons do indeed change. It’s what makes life wonderful.

    1. Margaret says:

      Thank you, Karen, for your very kind compliment. How sweet! The garden is a great healer, that is for sure. Hope to see you soon again.

  7. Dixie says:

    Love the slideshow and made notes (local nurseries rejoice!). Would like to add biokovo geranium as a ground cover, blooming in June here, loving shade or sun and lean soil. Want a clump?

  8. Kaveh says:

    That first shot “under apple peak 2” is to die for and then every shot in the slide show is just as great.

    You actually just made me wish I had some more shady bits to my garden (and was back in the north east) which is something no one else could possibly manage!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Amy. My house and the sheds are a very, very dark olive from Benjamin Moore called Tuscany Green and the trim is really an orange color — but it’s called Merlot Red (also from Moore). Nothing the least bit wine-colored about it, promise.

  9. Louise says:

    Thank you! I know now why my Hakonechloa All Gold is miserable. Weed overgrew it. I will move it to the front. And it’s time to dream of more plants for my part shade garden.

    1. margaret says:

      You’re welcome, Louise. The All Gold is tough once established — a big clump will fend off most anything else, but when it’s young it needs time to acclimate.

  10. Sandy Otton says:

    Can’t think of a better way to start the new year than by looking at gorgeous photos of plants & gardens. Thanks for the slideshow.

  11. You show us all those delicious pictures of spring and talk about patience – no fair.

    Three of my faves for shade are not mentioned: Diecntra eximia, Fern leaf bleeding heart blooms from April until October here in Wisconsin; Adiantum venustum Himalayan maidenhair fern with its lacy fronds of tiny leaflets and Cryptotaenia japonica ‘Atropurpurea’, Purple-leaved Japanese Wild Parsley (part shade) for its showy purple bronze stems and leaves.

  12. Joe Caltagirone says:

    Thanks for the ideas and fantastic photos! I’ve recently acquired a new shade area in my yard and your suggestions will help.

  13. Lorie Leonard says:

    One plant I didn’t see listed is brunnera – adorable blue flowers in the spring, lovely leaves that rival hosta leaves, ignored by deer. In the Buffalo area where I live they do very well

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