This is an alphabetized list, with pictures and information, of the perennials and shrubs I grow in zone 3. All of these plants have made it through a number of winters in Edmonton, Alberta. The descriptions and information are based on my observations and experiences in my garden. Most of these are currently growing in shade or part shade with a few noted exceptions. There are still more photos to be added and comments to expand.
Adiantum pedatum (northern maidenhair fern)
This beautiful fern has a delicate appearance with its thin black stalks and its airy looking foliage, but it is hardy. It looks great in the shade under trees and contrasts nicely with broad leafed plants.
Aruncus dioicus (goat’s beard)
This tall perennial has an almost shrub like appearance in summer. The foliage grows about 6 feet tall while the flower plumes wave above. It only blooms for about 2 to 3 weeks, but the foliage looks good until fall. I cut off the plumes when they turn brown. It grows well in medium shade, but shorter with few flowers in deep shade.
Astilbe arendsii ‘Diamant’ (astilbe)
This is a tall white astilbe that blooms for about 2 to 3 weeks in summer. The flowers fade to brown, but still look attractive, so I keep them on through the winter and cut them back in spring. The foliage of astilbe looks somewhat fern-like. Like all astilbes, it needs good moisture. These handle medium shade well, with lots of blooms.
Astilbe japonica ‘Europa’ (astilbe)
This is a medium sized astilbe with a terrific soft pink flower. The flower colour is my favourite of all astilbes. When the flower fades to brown, I leave them on the plant for winter interest. Like all astilbes the plant appreciates moisture. These bloom well up to medium shade.
Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Hennie Graafland’ (astilbe)
This shorter astilbe has light pink flowers with dark pink centres. The foliage of this variety is a very shiny dark green and contrasts nicely with other shade foliage. The plant appreciates extra water if it’s in a dry site. Like the other astilbes, they bloom well in shade.
Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
This fern grew naturally from spores at my old garden, between the cracks of my patio. It is a very lush medium sized fern that can be divided easily when it gets larger. It will spread outward, but is not rampant or invasive. This fern thrives in deep shade.
Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese painted fern)
With silver tinged foliage and reddish purple stems, this is a very colourful fern that really stands out in the shade.
Athyrium x ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern)
This fern is related to the lady fern and Japanese painted fern. It is similar to the painted fern, but with an overall silver gray foliage colour that shows up well in shade.
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss)
This is a fantastic foliage plant. The beautiful silver leaves with strong green veining are stunning. Each leaf looks like a beautiful stained glass painting. In spring, it has blue flowers that are similar to a forget me not. This plant glows in the shade and is one of the last plants to be visible at dusk. Mine do well with only an hour or two of sun.
Campanula carpatica unknown variety (carpathian bellflower)
I brought this Campanula carpatica from my old house so I lost track of which variety it is. These bellflowers are easy to grow and their blooms last for months. They have more blooms in the sun, but do well in dappled shade as you see here. The foliage makes a small neat mound and the blooms face upwards for maximum impact.
Campanula carpatica ‘Blue Clips’ (carpathian bellflower)
This plant is easy to grow, with a neat mound of foliage and upward facing flowers. The long lasting blossoms are a bluish purple. I really like these plants as they give long term colour in the shade garden, which you don’t find in many perennials. They spread gently, but don’t annoy their neighbours.
Campanula carpatica ‘Blue Pearl’ (carpathian bellflower)
This plant is is supposed to be an improvement on the C. ‘Blue Clips’. They seem very similar, but I have only had it for one season. I’m going to observe it carefully this season and I’ll report on any differences.
Campanula carpatica ‘White Clips’ (carpathian bellflower)
This is the white flowered version of ‘Blue Clips’. It is otherwise identical in culture.
Campanula carpatica ‘White Uniform’ (carpathian bellflower)
This is another white variation of this low growing bellflower.
Campanula glomerata (clustered bellflower)
This is a tall bellflower with a large, round purple flower at the top which generally lasts for 2 to 3 weeks. There are sporadic smaller blooms later. When in bloom, it is a gorgeous flower, but the foliage is not as attractive, since it flops over and starts browning later in the summer. It also tends to spread a little too well, so I’ve removed one section of them and now only have a small patch. It blooms in semi-shade.
Campanula portenschlagiana ‘Hoffman’s Blue’ (Hoffman’s Dalmation bellflower)
This low growing bellflower has a very long lasting bloom time. The flower are pretty bluish purple coloured bells and the foliage stays attractive right through fall. It is one of the few perennials which remain green under the snow blanket over the long winter in my zone 3 garden. It adapts well to the shade.
Campanula posharskyana ‘Camgood’ (blue waterfall Serbian bellflower)
This is an extremely attractive low growing plant with a very long lasting bloom time. It is covered in bluish purple upward facing star shaped bells. The foliage remains fresh looking right through the fall, and is still green as the snow is melting in the spring. With our early frosts, a plant that stays green is an asset. It is vigorous, but easy to keep in check.
Campanula rotundifolia (harebell)
This is another of the easy care, pretty bellflowers. It is of medium height, with dainty bells. They flower more in the sun, but do well in the shade.
Chionodoxa luciliae (glory of the snow)
This is a very pretty bulb with blue to purple flowers in the spring. The foliage disappears in late spring.
Cimicifuga simplex ”White Pearl’ (bugbane)
This plant has good foliage and provides height in the shade. This variety blooms very late, and since I only planted it last season, I didn’t get to see the blooms. I’ll have to see this year if it can bloom before the first frost, since I’m not sure if it’s suited to our shorter growing season.
Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley)
I love the sweet scent of these flowers. The dainty white flowers are perfect for spring and the foliage looks good until frost. They do spread, but I don’t find them annoying since they are so easy to remove and don’t pop back repeatedly like aggressive plants. If they come up in the lawn, you can mow over them once and they are gone until next year. These take the deepest shade with no problems.
Dianthus caryophylus ‘Grenadin’ (carnation)
This plant grows in one of the sunnier areas of my garden. I have a pink flowered version that has a sweet scent. These tend to be short lived, so I replant new ones every 2 to 4 years. If I was more on the ball, I would propagate new ones from cuttings before the old ones died.
Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ (bleeding heart)
This large perennial has light looking foliage and pretty white blooms. I find in the shade, with some supplemental water, the foliage looks good until frost, but then we don’t get the extended heat of other zones.
Dodecatheon (shooting star)
This is a pretty woodland perennial that blooms in late spring. It has dark pink flowers with a distinctive shape. The foliage tends to die back over the summer, to reappear the next spring. My plants have had a few unfortunate accidents, so they haven’t bloomed for 2 years. I’m hoping to see the pretty blooms back this year.
Dryopteris expansa (spiny wood fern)
This medium size fern has lush foliage and no problems in deep shade. The foliage looks great all season.
This geranium got mixed up when it was brought from my old house, so I’m not sure which species it is. The foliage is awkward, though, with single leaves at the end of very long stems. It tends to look sparse close to the plant, and the leaves flop onto nearby plants. These are in semi-shade.
Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’ (daylily)
This ubiquitous daylily has sparse blooms in the shade. When Stella first came out she was the life of the party and went to every ball in town. People admired her many attributes. Then she started showing up at parties at the local fast food restaurants and gas station parking lots, which gave her a common reputation. Now some people look down on her, and don’t want to associate with a girl who parties on the wrong side of town.
Hemerocallis unknown variety (red daylily)
This daylily was in my garden when I first moved in so I don’t know the exact variety. It grows in a sunnier area of my yard. At first I didn’t like it that well, but now I’ve grown to appreciate it. Last summer it put on a fantastic floral show for many weeks and was covered in dark red blooms with orange throats. It is in a semi shaded area.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ (annabelle hydrangea)
This shrub with large white blooms is new to my garden. I’ll write more about it after another season.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (p.g. hydrangea)
This is a great shrub for part shade. It has large white flowers in the mid to late summer which fade gradually to brown. They are attractive enough to leave on through winter and cut back in the spring. The shrub has a nice shape and good foliage.
Iris unknown yellow variety (iris)
This iris was here when I moved to the house. I’ve divided and moved it to many different areas around the yard. It seems to do well in a variety of exposures from sun to shade. The flowers are yellow with a maroon fall. Each plant’s blooms last about 2 weeks. With the different exposures in the garden it is bloom for about 6 weeks, starting at a warm, sunny spot by my back door and continuing around the deck to the shady south east corner.
Iris unknown blue variety
This is an unknown blue iris that doesn’t bloom every year. It’s a very pretty purplish blue. I thought it had disappeared, but it’s back again this year, with more buds. It is in semi-shade.
Lilium unknown variety (lily)
This orange lily was here when I moved in, but it has been moved around a number of times. It is now at the side of the house by my raspberries. I’m not particularly fond of it, as the orange colour doesn’t really coordinate with the rest of my garden and it only blooms for about 2 weeks. The foliage is okay, but not particularly showy. The only reason it’s still in the garden is because it’s healthy, easy care and tolerates the shade, so I can’t bring myself to rip it out.
Linum perenne ‘Blue Sapphire’ (flax)
This plant is in a sunny area of the garden. It has pretty blue flowers and light delicate foliage that sways gently in the breeze. It self sows, but is not annoying as they are easily removed or transplanted elsewhere.
Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern)
This is a tall fern with a narrow base and broad top. It looks good with other shorter plants, such as Campanula or lily of the valley placed around it’s base. It is very easy care and spreads a bit, but is not aggressive in my garden. The dark fertile fronds look good through the winter, so I don’t cut them back until spring. It doesn’t mind deep shade, though it is shorter in the shadiest areas.
Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ (grape hyacinth)
This is a small bulb with pretty blue flowers that last about 3 weeks. The blooms on this variety are open, giving them a fluffier, more showy appearance than the basic grape hyacinth. The foliage dies back like most spring bulbs, but sometimes comes back in the fall.
Osmunda regalis (royal fern)
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ (peony)
This gorgeous peony is covered in large double pink flowers that have a wonderful scent. When it’s in bloom I have to walk by it every day to sniff its intoxicating scent. It needs support to keep it from flopping. I put a large metal ring around it after the new shoots appear in spring and it is quickly hidden by the growing foliage. It grows in a partly sunny with some shade area of the garden. Despite not growing in a full sun location, it gets a fair amount of blooms.
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)
This plant grows in a sunny area of the garden. It has silver green foliage with lavender purple blooms in summer and fall. The flowers are long lasting. My variety tends to flop a bit, but there are other varieties that are more upright.
Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’ (blizzard mockorange)
This shrub has beautiful white scented blossoms. It has a more attractive shape than P. virginalis. This particular variety is supposed to do very well in a cold prairie climate. I planted it last year, so I’ll update this season with the results.
Philadelphus virginalis (mockorange)
Although the foliage on this shrub grows fine, it hasn’t bloomed in the 4 years I’ve had it. I’m not sure if that is because the location is too shady, or because of spring frosts. I will probably keep it in its present location for now since it is 6 to 7 feet tall and provides a good privacy screen. The branches are long and tall so the overall shape is not as pleasing as P. lewisii ‘Blizzard’ or the PG Hydrangea.
Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ (woodland phlox)
This short Phlox is very eye catching when in bloom. The beautiful lavender flowers bloom for about 2 to 3 weeks in spring. They look great planted in front of ferns to show off the blossoms. I used to have this perennial in deeper shade under a willow and on the north side of a fence where it never bloomed even though the foliage was fine. Then I moved it down the fence to a medium shaded area, where it gets about 1 to 2 hours of morning sun, and now it blooms very well and is gently spreading.
Phlox paniculata ‘David’ (phlox)
This tall Phlox has large, clear white flowers that bloom throughout summer. As you can see, the blooms are very showy. It is mildew resistant, so the foliage stays fresher into fall. It is in a semi shaded area.
Puschkinia scilloides ‘Libanotica Alba’ (white striped squills)
This is one of the small, early spring flowering bulbs with pretty white flowers. It is the first flower to bloom in the spring in my garden. It is a whiter variation of P. scilloides ‘Libanotica’. The foliage will die back fairly quickly after flowering to reappear next spring.
Puschkinia scilloides ‘Libanotica’ (striped squill)
This is another of the small spring bulbs with exquisite flowers of white with subtle blue stripes. It blooms in very early spring and then the foliage dies back until the next year.
Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (pincushion flower)
Neither the scientific nor common names do justice to these pretty flowers. The variety name, Butterfly Blue, works harder at the PR, but they are really more of a bluish lavender. They are very long blooming, but the foliage can get some mildew. I have them in a sunnier area of the garden, but still semi-shaded. They prefer the sun. I removed these from my garden, since they kept getting powdery mildew.
Scilla siberica (squills)
These reliable, small spring blooming bulbs blossom for about 3 weeks with bluish purple flowers. They are in a very shaded area of the garden so I have been pleased with how well they bloom. The foliage dies back quickly after blooming.
Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’ (squills)
This is another small bulb that blooms in the very early spring with purple flowers.
Syringa vulgaris ‘Wedgewood Blue’ (lilac)
This lilac, which grows to 6 feet, has beautiful light blue flowers with a wonderful scent. Unfortunately it has not bloomed very much for me. It is in a sunnier location in my garden, but there might still be too much shade for reliable blooming.
Taxus media ‘Hicksii’ (yew)
This evergreen tolerates the shadier areas of my yard with only a small bit of browning after the winter. Fortunately, yews can be pruned without leaving bare spots. It is upright and is, so far, slow growing in my garden. This variety seems to tolerate the cold climate.
Taxus media ‘Nigra’ (nigra yew)
This evergreen is more spreading than Hicksii. It has very dark green foliage and seems to do well in the deeper shade of the front garden. Like T. media ‘Hicksii’, it seems to do fine in the northern climate.