Plants for Summer Color in Shade Gardens

Although spring is a season of riches in shade gardes, color abounds in summer as well. Annuals will flower throughout the summer, and their colors are rich and varied. A host of perennials are available for summer color, and some bulbs, too. The airy spires of astilve and goats beard (Aruncus dioicus) bring soft masses of color. The upright spikes of foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora), bear's breeches (Acanthus mollis), black snakeroot (Cimicifuga racemosa), Rehmannia and monkshood (Aconitum spp.) add vertical line and height. Most daisies need sun, but if you love daisy-like flowers, you can enjoy some in summer with purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), golden groundsel (Ligularia dentata), or annual cinerarias.

The lavish blooms of hydrangeas and Siberian and Japanese irises lend a more classic elegance to a shady garden, giving it more of the feeling of a traditional bed or border. Lilies, too, contribute to a more classic look, as do the lilylike blooms of lily of the Nile (Agapanthus spp.).

To bring some color up off the ground, plant summer-blooming vines in a lightly shaded garden. Hybrid clematis is available in many colors, and species clematis such as Italian clematis (Clematis viticellas) offer more delicate flower forms. Later in the season, liver-lace vine (Polygonum aubertii) or sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata) will blanket a fence with masses of small white flowers that cover the plants like billows of fowm. Those of sweet autumn clematis are lightly fragrant, too. You also could plant climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomada) subspecies petiolaris up a tree trunk. Once established, it climbs by itself.

[Photo of Giant Groundsel, Ligularia wilsoniana]
Giant Groundsel
Ligularia wilsoniana
Photo credit: Herbaceous Plants Database

Perennials & Bulbs

Astilbe spp. - Astilbe species - red, rose, pink, white

Acanthus mollis - Bear's Breeches - lavender, pink, white

Monarda didyma - Bee-balm - red, rose, pink, purple, white

Campanula spp. - Bellflower - blue, violet

Cimicifuga racemosa - Black snakeroot, black cohosh - white

Lobelia cardinalis - Cardinal flower - red

Hemerocallis spp. and hybrids - Daylily (some fragrant) - red, pink, orange, salmon, yellow, cream

Digitalis grandiflora - Foxglove - yellow

Aruncus dioicus - Goat's beard - white

Ligularia dentata - Golden groundsel - yellow

Chrysogonum virginianum - Goldenstar - yellow

Hosta spp. - Hosta species & hybrids. Some fragrant - lavender, white flowers

Iris kaempferi - Japanese iris - red-violet, purple, blue-violet

Agapanthus spp. - Lily of the Nile - blue, violet, white

Liriope spp. - Lilyturf - blue-violet

Lilium canadense - Medow lily - red, yellow-orange, yellow

Aconitum spp. - Monkshood - blue, violet

Echinacea purpurea - Purple coneflower - pinkish purple

Tradescantia spp. - Spiderwort - blue-violet, rose-pink

Galtonia candicans - Summer hyacinth
fragrant - white

Lilium superbum - Turk's-cap lily - orange

Chelone spp. - Turtle-head - pink, white

Lilium philadelphicum - Wood lily - orange-red

Annuals & Biennials

Impatiens balsamina - Balsma - red, pink, orange, purple, white

Browallia speciosa - Browallia - blue-violet, white

Caladium × hortulanum - Caladium - red, rose, pink, white, green leaves

Clarkia spp. - Clarkia species - red, pink, white

Senecio × hybridus - Cineraria - red, pink, purple, blue, white

Coleus - Coleus hybrids - maroon, red, pink, bronze, yellow, chartreuse, green foliage

Nierembergia hippomanica - Cupflower - purple, blue, white

Digitalis purpurea - Foxglove - lavender, pink, white

Fuchsia - Fuchsia hybrids - red, rose, pink, purple, white

Viola tricolor - Johnny-jump-up - purple, blue, yellow

Lobelia erinus - Lobelia - blue, white

Mimulus spp. - Monkey flower - red, yellow

Nicotiana spp. - Nicotiana species
some fragrant - red, rose, pink, white, green

Viola × wittrockiana - Pansy
(blooms in cool weather) - red, rose, pink, purple, blue, orange, yellow, white

Exacum affine - Persian violet - lavender-blue

Hypoestes phyllostachya - Polka-dor plant - pink and green leaves

Salvia splendes - Scarlet sage - red, pink, purple, white

Lobularia maritima - Sweet alyssum
fragrant - white, purple

Begonia × tuberhybrida - Tuberous begonia - red, rose, pink, yellow, orange, salmon, white

Begonia × semperflorens-cultorum - Wax begonia - red, pink, orange, salmon, white

Torenia fournieri - Wishbone flower - purple, rose-pink, white

Shrubs & Vines

Rhododendron spp. & hybrids - Azalea
some fragrant - red-orange, orange, yellow, pink, white

Clematis spp. - Clematis species & hybrids - red, rose, pink, yellow, blue, purple, violet, white

Abelia grandiflora - Glossy abelia - white, pink

Hydrangea spp. - Hydrangea species - pink, blue, white

POlygonum aubertii - Silver-lace vine - white

Clethra alnifolia - Sweet pepperbush
fragrant - white

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