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10 Plants for Dry Shade

What to Grow in Shady Areas With Dry Soil


Photo of foxglove. These are pretty plants for dry shade.

Photo of foxglove. This perennial will tolerate light shade.

David Beaulieu

If you have an area on your property with dry shade and wish to grow plants there, you may quickly come to designate such an area as problematic. Indeed, shady areas with dry soil pose a dual challenge, since they are lacking in two elements that many plants need in abundant quantities: water and sunlight.

Following is a list of perennials, biennials and bulbs for dry shade, all of which can tolerate a lack of water and sunlight. Such conditions are characteristic of areas under trees or beneath the eaves of north-facing walls. Lack of sunlight is obvious at once when one considers such areas, but one may not as readily recognize the equally challenging lack of water there. In areas under trees, the tree roots suck up much of the available water. And house eaves block large amounts of rain from falling on the ground immediately under them.

Note that "tolerating" dry shade is not the same as "thriving" in it; most of the plants for dry shade listed below will grow better if supplied with average amounts of moisture. Before planting dry-shade areas, you can improve your chances by mixing organic matter (e.g., compost) into the soil, thereby increasing the soil's water-retention. Sandy soils are like sieves and are notorious for quickly losing whatever water may come their way. Mixing compost into such soil is rather like adding pieces of sponge to it.

Examples of Plants for Dry Shade

1. Hosta

Hosta presents a choice that is quite distinct from the other 9 choices of plants for dry shade in this list. They have greater mass than the rest, standing a foot high or taller, with a slightly greater spread. Hosta forms a leafy garden dense enough to choke out weeds. If planted in rows, they are impressive enough to serve as borders. For more on hosta, please see the following resource:


2. Liriope Spicata

Liriope spicata also has a feature that distinguishes it from the other plants for dry shade in my list. For liriope looks like a grass (its common name is "border grass", or "lilyturf"), even though it's actually a member of the lily family. But liriope also has a spikey flower, ranging in color from white to lavender. In autumn it bears a dark berry. To learn more about liriope, please consult the following resource:

Liriope Spicata

3. Foxglove

Foxglove, like the next entry (daylilies), is distinguished by its showy floral display. It is also the tallest of the plants for dry shade discussed here. But don't grow foxglove around small children: it's quite poisonous! It tolerates light shade (dappled is best), but it can also be grown in full sun in the North. To learn more about foxglove, please consult the following resource:


4. Stella de Oro Daylily

While "Stella de Oro" truly is a "daylily," in the sense that its individual flowers last only a day, don't be fooled into thinking that you won't get much of a show out of this perennial. Another bloom will be along shortly to replace yesterday's departed beauty. In fact, its ability to re-bloom over a long period makes Stella de Oro daylily perhaps the most popular of the daylilies. Its popularity is also due to its ability to adapt to a wide range of planting zones and conditions, including dry shade. For more information on Stella de Oro daylily, please consult the following resource:

Stella de Oro Daylily

On Page 2 we'll consider the remaining 6 entries in my list of 10 plants for dry shade....

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