Plants for Autumn Color in Shade Gardens

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    Autumn is almost synonymous with chrysanthemums in the United States, but they need to grow in full sun. You could purchase plants already in bud to pop in the shaded area of your garden, but there are other more natural ways to have autumn color. Ultimately, growing plants adapted to the shade that are interesting in fall will be more satisfying than planting mums, which don’t really belong there and won’t look quite right. Many annuals will keep blooming in fall right up until the first frost. Some perennials and bulbs also flower as the days grow shorter. Three of the best are hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium, Cyclamen cilicium, and Cyclamen europaeum are autumn bloomers), Japanese anemone (Anemone × hybrida blooms in late summer in sunnier gardens), and autumn snowflake (Leucojum autumnale). Gardeners in mild climates can enjoy the lovely blossoms of sasanqua camellia. Ornamental grasses come into their own in the autumn when their puny seedheads wave gracefully in the breeze.

    Fall is also the season when the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs turn to warm shades of red, orange, russet, and gold, before dropping as the plants prepare for their winter dormancy. In the shade garden, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy turn brilliant red and scarlet in fall, as do many Japanese maples. The leaves of bishop’s hat turn reddish, too. Even evergreens may take on a different color when the weather turns cold. Those of Euonymus fortunei “Colorata” turn reddish-purple in fall and winter.

    Finally, colorful berries are another feature found in the garden in autumn. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), bearberry (Arctostaphylos repens), and bunchberry (cornus canadensis) produce red berrylike fruit close to the ground.

    Perennials and Bulbs

    Leucojum autumnale – Autumn snowflake – white

    Epimedium spp. – Epimedium species – reddish leaves

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

    Solidago spp. – Goldenrod – yello

    Arum italicum – Italian arum – red berries

    Anemone × hybrida – Japanese anemone – rose, pink, white

    Ornamental grasses: – seedheads in shades of gold, tan, cream

    Ceratostigma plumbaginoides – Plumbago – blue

    Aruncus dioicus – Goat’s beard – white

    Tricyrtis hirta – Toad lily – white


    Many annuals still blooming, many colors

    Shrubs & Vines

    Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – Bearberry – red berries

    Parthenocissus – Boston ivy – red to orange leaves

    Cornus canadensis – Bunchberry – red berries

    Camellia sasanqua – Sasanqua camellia – red, rose, pink, white

    Clematis paniculata – Sweet autumn clematis

    fragrant – white

    Parthenocissus quinquefolia – Virginia creeper – red leaves

    Euonymus fortunei “Colorata” – Winter creeper – reddish-purple leaves

    Gaultheria procumbens – Wintergreen – red berries

    Video Credits: Silverline Tools
    Image Credits: fietzfotos


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