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Northwest Gardening: Stumped by Dry Shade?

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Don’t let dry, shady conditions get you down. There are plenty of creative solutions, including these from Lowe’s Northwest region garden contributor.

sedums in stump
elderberry leaning on wrought iron

By Marianne Binetti

Giant cedar, fir, and hemlock trees cast plenty of shade in my garden, and over the years I’ve tried many different planting combinations. A new idea is planting hardy succulents in old stumps. As long as sedums and succulents get a few hours of sunlight, they do just fine.

Here are some more dry shade solutions in my garden, using plants that thrive on rainfall alone—with a good soak in late summer, when things really get dry around here.

Partial shade, up against the house. The black lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the hero in this bed, which gets less than one hour of warm afternoon sun and is smothered in darkness most of the day. Heuchera, hydrangea, and Tiarella fill in below.

yellow lady’s mantle bordering path

Garden path, morning sun. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), with foamy citron blooms, thrives in dry shade and echoes the colors of the golden-variegated Vinca minor spilling from the black urns. By adding urns to a shaded bed, you raise the plants up to catch some extra sunlight.

ferns and acuba

Deep shade beneath evergreen trees. Cedar and fir trees cast shade in this bed all year long. But Acuba japonica ‘Gold Dust’ thrives with native ferns, yellow-blooming Corydalis lutea, and a hydrangea. The stacked stone wall allows for a raised bed with improved soil.

Every plant in dry shade is happier if you amend the soil with organic matter, and a raised bed is the practical solution to gardening under trees with thirsty roots.

white leaves of brunnera

I also use lamium, hostas, pulmonaria, and brunnera. The white foliage of brunnera in the image above really stands out in the dark shade beneath trees and shrubs.

So what plants survive in your dry shade garden?

See more by this author.