Many wildflowers do well in shade gardens

Q: My yard is mostly shade. I need help planting something new — maybe wildflowers? I’m tired of the same old.

— Loretta from Boardman

A: Wildflowers are a great option for the shade garden. While researching plants for shade gardens for my own garden early this year, I realized the choices and detail for this topic were both overwhelming. There are lots of options. I chose to focus mostly on wildflowers. Many wildflowers can add special interest for our native pollinators. Here is what I ultimately chose for my own garden:

• Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaentriphyllum) is that hidden gem. One day you see the trifoliate leaves, then the next there is Jack. After pollination, the bloom turns into a green to red cluster of seeds that disperse. I have reared my own babies to give away.

• Dutchmen’s breeches (Dicentra cucularia) is up to 1 foot tall with ferny leaves and the white flowers that look like pants. This is a must have plant, but it needs well drained soils. Under some deciduous trees with gently sloping ground should work.

• Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is 1 to 2 feet tall, unassuming plant, that blooms pink turning to rich blue between March and May. I have ordered these as a friend has a hillside of them, and I have to have them.

• Blood Root (Sanguinaria Canadensis) is a pretty plant all growing season, with scalloped leaves, and the almost daisy-like flowers in March and April. They get seed pods after that ants have a symbiotic relationship with for dispersal. They can get up to one foot tall.

• Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is amazing. While I don’t have it (yet), I had to settle for its cousin European Ginger (Asarum europaenem) that is a wonderful ground cover. Its shiny green leaves hide the beautiful purple magenta flowers in the spring, as it freely seeds and covers the ground.

• Although not native, I also included my hellebores (helleborus spp) as they are such early bloomers. This year mine bloomed in February. As well, I have babies from the seeds (a miracle my horticulture friend told me!) that went into my wildflower garden as well. There are many, many cultivars on the market these days. It is a must for one of the earliest blooms of the season and the dark green, leathery leaves are gorgeous.

• Another non-native is Dead nettle (Lamaistrum galeobdolon). It is a small plant appearing as soon as the ground warms. We see fields of lavender and this is it. It is one of the first flowers of spring (along with coltsfoot), and bees love it. It does spread quickly, so beware.

I cannot wait in the next few years to see the maturing of my new shade garden and yours. Wildflowers are a wonderful thing. Learn more about wildflowers for shade at http://go.osu.edu/wildshade.


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