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Many options for shade plants

I've recently received many calls from people who are struggling to find plants that bloomed in the shade.

They were surprised to hear that there are choices beyond hostas and impatiens. In fact, there are quite a few shade loving plants that can add color and texture to your garden, some of which bloom throughout the summer.

Shade gardening doesn't have to be frustrating; if you can grow hostas and impatiens, these beauties will do well in your perennial beds.

• Astilbe chinensis: (false spirea) is a shallow rooted perennial that requires shade on hot summer days. Hardy to zone 3, astilbe's delicate leaf and plumy flower comes in a variety of colors and sizes. (6-48 inches) Blooming from mid-summer — late fall, Astilbe will lighten up those dark spaces in your yard.

• Pulmonaria saccharata: (Bethlehem sage) is a smaller perennial (12-18 inches), that blooms in mid-spring. The lance shaped leaves can be speckled and spotted, and the flowers are in shades of blue, pink and white. Pulmonaria is one of my shade garden favorites! "Mrs. Moon" is a popular cultivar, but I particularly like the cultivar named "Spilled Milk".

• Dicentra spectabilis: (bleeding heart) is an early summer favorite. Its heart shaped flowers dangle pendant-like on plants that can reach 36 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

• Baptisia australis: (false indigo): If you're familiar with the rich blue of baptisia, you might be surprised that it comes in a variety of colors. "Lemon Meringue", "Cherries Jubilee", and "Dutch Chocolate" are just a few of the new, colorful varieties you should try. Baptisia grows 36-48 inches tall and 24-36 inches wide, and blooms from late spring to mid-summer.

• Ligularia stenocephala: (leopard plant) is a deer resistant, GIANT perennial (4-6 feet), that produces bright yellow flower spikes from late summer to early fall. "The Rocket" is a popular cultivar, but "Bottle Rocket" is its smaller cousin that might fit better in your garden space.

• Lilium Martagon: (Turk's cap lily) is the darling of the shade garden. Hardy to zone 3, martagons are down-facing lilies that come in a variety of colors. These 36-48 inch plants bloom from late spring to mid-summer.

• Filipendula ulmaria: (Queen of the Meadow) Hardy to zone 3, this 36-48 inch plant has white blooms June - August. Placed in a moist, woodland soil, these fragrant plants tolerate deer and rabbits.

• Heuchera micranthra: (Coral Bells): Heuchera is another leafy perennial, hardy to zone 3, that sports stalks of bell shaped flowers in shades from bright coral to white. Blooming from late spring to fall, depending on the variety, coral bells adds texture and light to your shade garden. "Palace Purple" is a very common cultivar, but leaves come in a variety of colors to please even the most selective gardener.

• Tiarella cordifolia: (foam flower) is a dainty perennial with leaves similar to Heuchera. The fuzzy white stalks on this 6-12 inch plant appear mid-spring to early summer.

• Heucherella tiarelloides: (foamy bells) If you love the characteristics of the previous two flowers, you are sure to like Heucherella, a cross between the two. Small in stature, foamy bells borrows the fuzzy inflorescence of Tiarella and pairs it with the leaf color of huechera. Grown mostly for foliage, heucherella has a white to pinkish flower.

With few exceptions shade-tolerant plants will do best in well-drained, relatively fertile soil. Both sandy soils and heavy, clay like soils will benefit from the incorporation of organic matter such as peat moss, compost, or well-rotted manure. Such materials are particularly helpful in areas of hard, compacted soils.

For more information about gardening in the shade, visit: www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/landscaping/gardening-in-shade/

Until next time, happy gardening!

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