My Garden Plants

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.

Adiatum pedatum maidenhair fern

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.

Aruncus dioicus goat\'sbeard

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 arendsii diamont white astilbe

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 japonica europa

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.

Astilbe simplicifolia \'hennie graafland\'

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 niponicum pictum Japanese painter fern

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.

Athyrium \'ghost\' (ghost fern)

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.

Brunnera macrophylla \'jack frost\'

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, Bellflower

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 carpatic \'blue clips\'

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 portenschlagiana Hoffman\'s blue

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 posharskyana blue waterfall

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.

Campanula rotundifolia harebells

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.

Chionodoxa luciliae (glory of the snow)

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.

Dicentra spectabilis alba

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.

Dryopteris expansa

Geranium (cranesbill)

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 stella de oro

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.

Hemerocallis red

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.

Iris blue

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.

lily orange

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.

Linum perenne \'Blue Sapphire\' (flax)

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.

matteuccia struthiopteris ostrich fern

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.

muscari armeniacum grape hyacinth

Osmunda regalis (royal fern)

This is a tall fern that looks a bit like a shrub. It looks lush in the shade and appreciates moisture.

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.

paeonia lactoflora sarah bernhardt peony

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 lewisii \'blizzard\' mock orange

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 divaricata \'clouds of perfume\'

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.

Phlox paniculata \'david\'

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 alba\'

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.

Puschkinia scilloides \'libanotica\'

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.

scabiosa columbaria \'butterfly blue\'

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.Syringa vulgaris \'Wedgewood Blue\' (lilac)

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.

Taxus media \'Nigra\', nigra spreading yew

281 thoughts on “My Garden Plants”

    1. Many of the flowers are familiar to me and l am looking for plants that will grow under 2 big spruce which give light shade in front of the house. Here you have given me many choices for which l thank you kindly.

  1. Commonweeder, thanks. I like to see what other people are growing too, and read their impressions on the plant’s garden performance. I’ve included plants here that have made it through a winter in my garden.

  2. Thank you for visiting me recently. Our gardens are very similar, what with the shade and the types of plants we grow. I’ve always considered our region to be zone 3/4 (at least, I know things will be hardy here if I look towards these plants), but lately we’ve been rezoned to 5a. Uncanny.

    Beautiful photographs. We “inherited” a lot of astilbe when we moved here nearly 6 years ago. One set is a medium height, medium green with the light pink flowers. I wonder if I could just label mine Astilbe japonica ‘Europa’ (astilbe). I can’t think of another way to identify the plant…

    I do have several oriental/asiatic lilies. There are so many types, colors, etc. However, they don’t make an interesting bed by themselves. Eventually the bed will fill out. I do have that bright orange one. I wonder if it has a label? :-)

  3. Shady Gardener, it probably doubles the number of plants you can grow, if the zone 5 turns out to be accurate, but zone 3/4 plants will make it through the winter without any fussing.
    The Europa astilbe is a very soft, light pink, without the peach tones that some astilbe plumes have, if that helps. The Hennie Graafland astilbe has dark pink centres to its blooms, extra glossy leaves, and a decidedly shorter stature.
    Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the lily, since it was here when I moved in to the house.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I loved what you commented about the monsoons. So apt!
    What lovely plants you have, Northern Shade! I can see what you meant about the lily…. it really stands out doesnt it?.
    Its fascinating visiting a garden which is so totally different to mine. I’m in Zone 10 , I think. Or is there anything higher than that? (We dont go by Zones in India)Its mostly hot, hotter and really, really hot : ) Except during the monsoons, when its hot and wet !
    Yet we do seem to have a couple of plants that pop up in both our gardens… the Maidenhair fern and the Ghost fern both show up during the monsoons here.

  5. Sunita, I picture lots of hot colours radiating in your garden, to equal the power of the bright sun. Right now they’re probably glistening with moisture too.
    I like to see gardens from such a different climatic zone, especially in winter.
    Ferns are amazing. They’ve been on Earth for so long, and have adapted to so many niche ecosystems. I like the idea of the Ghost fern haunting your gardens too, and the maidenhair fern swaying in the breezes in India.

  6. Regarding the orange lilies you don’t especially like, I recently saw them planted together with some purple heuchera that was blooming with the airy spray of ivory flowers. It was a surprisingly appealing combination!

  7. Your website is exciting and i just want to know if you live anywhere near Drumheller, Alberta. i recently visited my son there, trying to help with his awful old garden–mostly leggy junipers that we ripped out. Do all these things grow in central Alberta?

  8. Linda b, I live in Edmonton, in central Alberta. All the plants on this plant list page have survived at least one winter in Alberta. On the other post pages, I usually mention if a plant is new this year, or borderline hardy. The other post pages contain more detailed information about many of the plants, and more photos too. You can also use the search to pull up any posts that have mentioned certain plants.
    Renewing a garden is fun, but it is a lot of work if you have to remove the old plants too. Good luck with the garden redesign.

  9. I popped over to see your site after you kindly visited our Central California blog – Your conditions couldn’t be more different than where I garden, that’s for sure. It was lovely to see lily of the valley in your list – which I remember from the U.K.

    Nice idea to list all the plants in one page – Beautiful photographs! One of my great pleasures in the garden is photographing it.

  10. Jackie, I made the plant list so gardeners could see what survives a zone 3 winter, and read a short summary of the plants. I have more to add, but I thought it might be taking a long time to load now, with all of the photos. I might break it into two sections.
    I love lily of the valley, and look forward to it scenting the garden again this spring.

  11. Thanks for this photographic album of hardy plants in shady environments. It’s a very useful reminder of things to try in the shade locations (and nice pictures too). Aren’t ferns wonderful! They look so delicate and yet thrive in the most difficult of circumstances.

  12. MacGardens, I thought it would be helpful to show some plants that can take -35C (-31F), and that tolerate the shade (most of them). I love the look of ferns, and they combine so well with many other plants. They really suit the environment under the trees.

  13. Hello,
    BRR, it is cold in Zone 3 for sure. I am so happy to live in Zone 8 because I grew up in Chicago and the winter is no fun. I love all your shade plants, they have inspired me to try more in my shade garden. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Bonnie, right about now is when I get most anxious for spring. You have flowers and green shoots now, and you must have many bulbs popping up and blooming. I added even more of the earliest blooming perennials and bulbs last fall to get a jump start on spring. I’m looking forward to seeing what my first bloom will be this year.

  15. I’m so excited to see your blog this year – I just found it. I am also in Alberta and I love to see what people do in our climate!! :)

    1. Kendra, it’s good to see what gardeners in a similar environment are doing. I’ve listed here some of the plants that have been very successful in my garden. I have others too, but I’m waiting to see how they do over this winter before adding them to this list.

  16. Northern Shade,
    I am new to gardening ( 2-3 years now) I caught the bug from my mom. She is in Vancouver and I have just moved from the Edmonton area to the Calgary area. I have book marked your site. What a great reference. All the names of different species really mean little to me right now, but the photos are fantastic!
    I am about to tackle a small North facing backyard that is a mud hole right now…..not even grass yet! Its should prove to be a learning experience and I know I will be back to your site!

    1. CarleenG, how fun to have a new garden to plan and plant. I have many happy memories of gardening that I got from my family too.

      I’m glad you find the list useful. We have such similar climates, so it’s great to know what another zone 3 gardener is growing. It sounds like you will have a lot of shade too. I’ve tried to mention how much shade most plants seem to tolerate in this list. If you do a search in the site search box, or check the archives, you will see the more detailed posts about the plants. These have even more pictures and discussion of individual plants or combinations

      The scientific names are handy when you go to buy or research your plants, because common names can be a little confusing, since there are often so many of them for one plant, or the same common name for more than one plant.

      Feel free to ask, if you have any questions.

  17. Wow this is a treat ! Finally something that relates to our zones ! I was starting to think that no one figured we grew anything here !

    I really appreciate the list of plants for shaded areas, I have been looking and doing the trial and error (more error) for about 5 years now. I have turned a corner flowerbed into a hosta bed, but need more to go with it and this is going to help immensely!

    I would be very happy to post my pics as well and share my gardening plants, tips & tricks for anyone that could use them. Most of my yard is full sun, then the full shade no happy medium here :(

    I have bookmarked your site and will certainly be back !

    Thanks again for the handy, dandy info !


    1. Debkay, I will be adding to this list, now that I see what survived the last winter. Perhaps I should wait until after Wednesday night’s frost. :) I planted a number of new plants in the fall that have done well, despite being labelled for warmer zones, so I’ll add the pictures, review and information about them. I’ve written a bit about them in the most recent posts too.
      I’m glad it’s useful. There are many interesting plants that could keep your Hostas company.

  18. I needed information for a story I’m writing. I’ve been looking for plants and shrubs that grow well in this region. Your web page proved a wonderful tool and the pictures helped me create a solid visual for the reader. Thank you so much.

  19. I was searching the web to try and find the name of a plant I have taking over my garden (tag raked out long ago) and I see from your site it is a campanula bellflower. I am in zone 5 (Ontario) and this pretty blue-purple flowered plant is a compact mound that does extremely well in part sun or shade, but then shoots out offspring below ground in every direction, so mulching has no effect whatsoever. I even have it cropping up in my grass far from the parent plant. I also found Campanula Rotundifolia (harebell) in my Ontario Weeds book. It seems some campanula varieties are sold in garden centres which is where I purchased my Campanula Bellflower however some can be very invasive and difficult to eradicate once established, especially Harebell. I have limited garden space, more shade than sun, and get annoyed when the tag doesn’t tell you a plant can be invasive. I have one Campanula variety with smaller leaves and small white flowers which is very obedient and I have no problem with it. I was just wondering if you had any such problem as I wouldn’t want someone to be spending hours trying to dig out all those babies and chucking the parent too like I have had to do.

    1. Laura, there is a type of Campanula called rapunculoides (creeping bellflower), which is an annoying weed and spreads everywhere. It is somewhat similar in appearance. If you search for images of it, it might be the plant you are thinking of.

      Although C. rotundifolia is hardy, I haven’t found it annoying in the garden. However, some plants can perform differently in different regions. Campanula rotundifolia is a native plant in much of the northern part of the northern hemisphere, and generally considered garden worthy.

      I know what you mean about garden centres selling potential problems. I think about that each time I see Aegopodium (Goutweed) being sold.

  20. Thanks, Northern Shade. Perhaps Creeping Bellflower is what I bought. The nursery stock is this cute little plant with a picture of its flower and some details, and each garden makes it act differently according to soil, sun, zone, location. I am still a “baby gardener” although a senior so at last have some time for my passion. Can anyone help me with a japanese quince that looks very healthy but has never bloomed. I believe it’s in the right location, lots of healthy foliage, gets fed and watered and I understand the flower comes before the foliage. 7 years now in this location and I hate chucking what looks like a healthy plant. I too cringe when I see Goutweed, and Creeping Jenny in the garden centres. I like creeping Jenny or Periwinkle or some of the beautiful ivys in a patio container and they usually are alive in the spring if I invert it out of the container into the garden in the fall.

  21. Great site!! I’m in the same zone/province and your pics and info are fantastic. Bookmarked & I’ll be back! :)

    1. Hi Rebecca, I’ve tried some new perennials that were supposed to be for warmer zones last fall, and they all survived, so I’m going to add them to this list. The links to the posts about some of the new plants are in the sidebar. It’s always good to know what survives a zone 3 winter.

  22. Yes, it is very useful info to know what survived, I’m always hesitant to plant anything from Zone 4 although I might try a Midnight Wine Weigela. Your beautiful pictures of actual plants in an acutal garden are very helpul, much moreso than the pics on the tage or sites selling plants.

    Your garden reminds me of mine is size, shape and composition (right down to the fence!), as I fill in all of the nooks & crannies, most areas are definitely shade/part shade. Also, as lovely as the mature trees are, they do restrict sunlight and more thought is needed as to what to plant. I’ll look for the Dalmation Bellflower (I have other Campanulas that I love), the Brunneras and the shorter, Clouds of Perfume Phlox. Thanks Again! :)

  23. PS. Can you tell me what the small white flowers to the right of the spiny wood fern are? They are beautiful! Thanks.

  24. Rebecca, one advantage of the trees is that you get lots of fallen leaves in the fall to cover the plants. Most of my perennials get covered up with leaves for the winter, and I think that helps some of the borderline ones survive.

    The little white flowers to the left of the wood fern are an annual double flowering impatiens. On the right is a PG Hydrangea, but it was too shady in that location and is not there anymore.

  25. Thanks for the info! You know, I hadn’t thought of using the fallen leaves as winter cover. I don’t rake the beds at all, but do clear the leaves off the lawn into bags. Perhaps I will try using them as cover this year. Also, do you leave your perennials standing all winter? I do for some, but not for others, without any rhyme or reason.

    As to moving plants, are you particular about time of year? I have some perennials that I should have split earlier (heliopsis, shasta daisies), and I’ve been advised to wait til next year, but I’m wondering if I could go ahead.

    Great info on Aegopodium, I knew it was invasive, but I was going to try and contain it in a narrow strip between the house & lawn, not something I’ll attempt after reading your post!

    1. Rebecca, I try to clear up any foliage that might get diseased, like iris and peony, or anything that might have been infested with something, and any that looks particularly unsightly by late fall. The rest I often leave until spring. Some plants I leave up because they look decorative, like the astilbe.

      I generally try not not move plants in flower, often moving later blooming plants in spring and spring blooming plants in fall. However, sometimes I want to redo a bed, and just go ahead, making sure to give extra water to everything for a while afterwards. The shady beds are probably not as bad to rearrange or divide in summer, as they don’t get as stressed from direct sun.

      Aegopodium tends to laugh at containment attempts, since it is very good at sending runners under sidewalks, etc. You’d be amazed at how often it will grow back after being removed. It really does not play nice with other plants.

  26. can quince grow in alberta? i was wondering i prefer to grow things that cannot be found in the market all year around.

  27. What a great web site. I live in the mountains of North Carolina at 4500 feet. Supposed to be zone 7 but I call it zone 6 because we are up so high.
    My garden is all shade or partial shade. You can see some of my plants here My plants are all under my nameValerie 2 on this site. You have given me a lot of good ideas for my shade garden. Thanks so much.

    1. Val, you’re welcome, I love experimenting to see what grows well in the shade, and can survive our winter temperatures. We have a few months before the earliest bulbs start showing, and I’m eager to see how the perennials did over the winter.
      You have a beautiful setting for your garden, Valerie.

  28. What a wonderful site..I was searching for shade perennials in Alberta and yours was, by far, the best search result. Your photos are exceptional and have inspired me to take pix of my flowers, now that I know what many of them are, lol.
    A few years ago, I joined a website called Freecycle, where folks can offer up all sort of items in order to recycle and reduce the dumping in landfills. I then donated a selection of ‘stuff’ and shortly thereafter put out my own call for perennials to help start my own yard transformation. I figured avid gardeners would prefer to see their thinned out perennials go to a new home rather than get dumped or composted.

    My boys were very little and I wanted to get them interested in gardening and digging in the dirt, not a difficult objective with wee boys. Once I put out the request, I received several dozen offers for perennials.
    All I had to do was go and get them, and that was the fun part. I got to visit with so many wonderful gardeners. As a fairly new gardener, I learned a wealth of info, heard lots of interesting stories and met some great people.

    I was surprised and pleased to find that I have a good percentage of the perennials you listed in your shade presentation. Your site was very helpful to me in identifying all these plants that I had and no idea what they were….amazing that they survive, considering I didn’t know too much about them, haha.

    Last fall we added some new trees and are hoping for the best.

    Today my garden is a work in progress, as is the case with many gardeners, (of course it’s dormant right now)and my boys are enthusiastic participants. We are already planning the veggie garden.

    Thank you very much for all of your info and taking the time to create such a wonderful site. I will be visiting it often.

    1. Darlyn, thanks, I’m glad it helped you identify your perennials. There are quite a few plants that do well in the shade in Alberta, although a few of these don’t have as many blooms in the shade.

      You had an adventurous beginning to your garden, with so many new perennials. It’s fun to see how the plants grow, and what they look like as they mature. If you take pictures of them, it gives you a visual for planning over the winter too. It’s especially fun to take before and after shots of your garden beds, as you rearrange them.

      Good luck with your garden. Maybe I’ll be seeing how it grows on your garden blog someday. :)

  29. Thank you for all your info. I am learning Edmonton gardening after many years of gardening on Vancouver Island, and I am having fun, although, of course, I find the season a tad short. Winter definitely rules six months of the year here.

    1. Jane, you’re welcome. Edmonton does have a long planning season, and a shorter digging season. At this time of year, I’m anxious for the real spring to arrive. Our unexpected warm spell of the last few weeks, and a few bare patches between the snow, has me eagerly scanning for the sight of new green foliage, even though I know it is still too early.

  30. I had so much fun looking at your plant pictures and reading the posts from fellow gardeners. I am in Minnesota and have many of the plants on your list. I do see a few plants I haven’t tried and I’m anxious to give them a try. It’s so hard to wait to get out and be in my garden. Every day I see something new poking out of the ground. It won’t be long now!

  31. Connie, we probably have very similar zones and growing conditions, although mine might be drier. It’s fun to take a peek into other gardens, and see which plants are working.

    I’m eager for spring too. We’ve had a few extra snow falls this week, and the bulbs are buried a little deeper now, but soon there will be flowers to replace the white blanket.

  32. I have learned and enjoyed so much from your blog. Specially tagged in my favorites.
    Soon, during summer time, I will receive my house in Sherwood Park. I come from tropical gardens country. Proud of my skills there but learning a lot here. Surprisely those colorful “Hemerocallis” also grow over there…Sure these ones will be in my wish list.
    What would be your best advice if I’m planning to have a nice year-around tree spot in my front yard. My lot is facing North, wider in the front and besides the park walk way. I will receive 3 trees from the developer and don’t know what to choose besides a pine. I dont know if mapple tree would be a choice in Alberta.

    1. Lorena, a lot depends on the size of your lot, how much room there will be for the mature trees, and if you mind trees that drop fruit, etc.. If you want some smaller ones, then a flowering crab apple or apple can be beautiful, but they will also drop fruit. A lilac can make a nice small specimen too, and give you gorgeous blooms and scent in the spring. I love the look of a birch tree, with wonderful bark, but they’ll need water. The large spruce look great in the winter, but they need lots of room, and grass doesn’t grow well under them, if that’s important to you. The beautiful maples of Eastern Canada don’t grow as well here, but there are some that will.

  33. You have a very informative site! I have struggled with our north facing front yard since we moved to Calgary 10 yrs ago. I just don’t seem to have luck growing a whole lot in the raised bed under our bay window at the front of the house. I would like to have some containers on our front porch but it is in full shade. I’ve had luck with hanging fuchsia baskets and bergenia in the raised bed. I’ve tried astilbe’s, hostas, vinca vine, heuchera and monkshood. The monkshood grew very tall but last year it didn’t flower. The bed is a dry shade bed. I have read about planting indoor tropical plans in pots for the front porch – might try that this year. Any ideas you can give would be wonderful….I’ve spent a lot of money over the years. Have even resorted to to fake flowers in pots – yuck! Oh and did I mentioned we have deer. Thanks so much for any suggestions you have. I am ever hopeful!

    1. Cheryl, I have a north facing, dry bed under a bay window too, and I know what you mean about experimenting with different plants. I give it some supplemental water, which helps, but it is my most challenging bed, especially because there are spruce trees in front too. For early spring, I have some bulbs, Puschkinia scilloides (striped squill) and Scilla siberica (squill), which have pretty blue flowers. There are two Taxus media (evergreen yew shrubs) for winter greenery, and they do fairly well. The ends of the beds get a bit more sun, so I have a Hydrangea shrub on each end, which do fairly well, but get fewer blooms. The Epimedium grandiflorum (barrenwort) is a nice groundcover, and it doesn’t mind the dry shade. There are some small Aruncus aethusifolius (dwarf goat’sbeard) that get little white plumes in summer. Across the walkway from the bed, I planted some Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss) last year. They seem to be doing very well so far, plus they have great foliage and pretty blue flowers. Also across the walkway, I have some Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) as a groundcover, and they don’t mind being under the spruce trees either. I also planted some Asarum (wild ginger) as a groundcover under the spruce, and they have really nice evergreen leaves. I’ve been thinking about adding some Polygonatum (solomon’s seal) to this bed.

  34. Hi, nice site! I am in zone 3-4 in Alaska and am attempting to landscape a home we bought. Having come from Michigan, its not all new… I wish there were a japanese maple that would live here…any suggestions…weeping cherry maybe? Miss terribly my mother’s wisteria….any suggestions? I have already last summer planted many of the plants you suggest including 3 lilacs… also…an online nursery suggestion that ships to alaska would be fantastic…not asking much here, eh? lovely garden you have…one thing I have that I would suggest for you… I have a gorgeous siberian lily..”blue flag” growing wild in my yard..and a blue geranium…both hardy here in alaska, also lupine…its stunning in my yard and grows wild in all the ditches here making a beautiful field of blue for a solid 30 days.
    Thank you for sharing your gardening journey in zone 3!
    Colleen in Kenai,AK

    1. Colleen, unfortunately, I don’t know of an equivalent to Japanese maple for zone 3, but I often admire the beautiful trees. I also can’t think of anything like wisteria, only clematis for the purple or blue flowers on a climbing vine, but not the same effect.

      Fraser’s Thimble Farms in British Columbia ships to the States, and they have a great selection. However, the costs would add up with the extra certificates needed to cross the border, and minimum order for American orders.

      Good luck with your new garden.

  35. Thanks for the great pictures and informative site! I live in a similar zone/climate to yours and am slowly building my very shady gardens in front of the house and my one in the bright backyard ….. great to find some info on what works and doesn’t!! Thank you!

    1. Hannah, you can find some more ideas by looking at the perennial, bulb and other categories from the right hand menu, too. I’ve got more information, and lots more photos in the individual posts, as well.

  36. I work at a state agency in Massachusetts, and am putting together a fern id pocket guide that I will us for teaching wetland identification. The guide will be free and available for download on the web. More about what I do is at

    Is it possible to use your lady fern photos for this purpose, provided proper credit is given? Photo is from:

    Thank you for your consideration.

    John Rockwell
    Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

  37. Northern Shade,
    Your garden is stunning! I live in Spruce Grove and dug up a big perennial bed in my backyard this spring. I just planted some Ostrich Fern that my great-grandfather dug up from the bush in Saskatchewan, and planted in his backyard in the 1960’s. I would love to plant some Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’ (woodland phlox)
    next to it in my own garden. Do you happen to remember where you bought it? It is so fun to work with my little girls in the garden. I’m hoping they develop a love for growing like I got from my own mother. Thanks for your beautiful posts.

    1. Elaine S., I planted the Phlox divaricata about 8 years ago, so unfortunately I don’t remember where I bought it now. It might have been Holes. Your ostrich fern will have a long history of ancestry. Perhaps your daughters will plant it in their gardens when they grow up. I got my love of gardening from my father.

  38. You gave me idea to do a plant file. I can record my garden and plants I have.
    Thank you.

    ps I am a flower presser. you can check out my blog site.

    1. Andy, the hardiest Hydrangea are the Hydrangea paniculata, like PG, ‘Little Lamb’, etc. I grow them in Edmonton. I also grow Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’. This year I had a small amount of dieback on the tips of some branches, but overall they are hardy here.

  39. Thanks so much “Northern Shade”, I appreciate your advice. I will try planting the ones you mentioned above, since I am worried that the other kinds of Hydrangea might not survive in Calgary.



  40. Hi all,

    I have a big patch of garden which is totally shaded. I am wondering if you have any idea to make it bright with flowers ( it get sun only 6p.m. to 8p.m). For your information Calgary is very new to me.

    Thanking you in advance

    1. Sana, if you want bright colour all summer, then annuals like begonia and impatiens would work well. Lobelia is a nice edging with blue flowers.

      Here are some of the perennials that get the showiest flowers in that kind of shade. You can use Brunnera and Pulmonaria for blue colour in May and June. Pink bleeding hearts provide colour for about 2 months, from the end of May to mid July. Epimediums come in shades of yellow, pink and purple, and they give spring colour too. Some Campanula (bellflowers) like Dalmatain bellflower have blue blooms for a couple of months in summer. Serbian bellflower and fairy thimble bellflower get showy blue flowers. Aruncus (goatsbeard) will get very tall white plumes for 3 weeks in July. Actaea (bugbane) gets tall white spikes in late summer. Astilbe give very bright colour with fluffy plumes in pinks, reds, whites and purples in July and August. Some of the Heucherellas like ‘Tapestry’ get nice pink spikes for a couple of months. Filipendula is another tall perennial for the shade, with pinkish flowers. Primulas come in a rainbow of colour. Those are some of the perennials that get showy flowers in shade.

  41. I stumbled on your page about a year ago when I was first looking for fern varieties, here I am again after Google’ing shady plants for zones 2-3! I just wanted to say thank you for all the details provided on your [mostly] shade loving plants! I’ve been having a bit of a difficulty trying to plan out what I am going to fill my shady, well treed north-east corner, but I definitely have some ideas now. :)

    Thanks again from the nwo!

  42. Hello, I’ve just been looking at your site, it’s very well done! I garden near Winnipeg. I’m pretty sure your orange lily is Lilium philadelphicum, the floral emblem of Sask. It’s quite regionally variable in colour and spottiness. The whorled leaves and petal shape are distinctive.

  43. Hi, I am in the process of moving from Nova Scotia to Sherwood Park AB and have already sent all my daylillies (over 80) to my daughter out there. So glad to see I can take my painted ferns and others you have. I noticed in your pictures most of your plant are against a fence. I was wondering if the fence is being used as a protection for the plants in winter. I have two hydrangra shrub , macrophylla “Forever Pink” and “Nikko Blue”. They are hardiness zone range 6-9. Is there any way possible I can have them survive out there. Any way of protecting them through the winter . Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated.

    1. Myrnah, although technically we are in zone 3, I’ve found that many zone 4 plants can survive in a sheltered location and with a leaf mulch for the winter. We usually get reliable snow cover, which also helps. If you are out on an acreage or exposed site, you’ll probably have more trouble with the borderline plants. I’m surrounded by houses, and pile the fall tree leaves on my borders as protection for my perennials, so I’ve been pretty lucky with some zone 5 plants, too.

      Your hydrangea will probably have trouble. Even the hardier Hydrangea paniculata can have some dieback. I was fortunate with my different Hydrangea paniculata and ‘Annabelle’ last winter, but many gardeners had significant dieback on them.

      There is actually quite an assortment of plants that will grow well in Edmonton. If you look through the most recent posts from the home page and back, there are lots more perennials that are doing well.

      Good luck with your garden move, and welcome to Alberta.

  44. I discovered your awesome site when googling Zone 3 Epimedium. What a wealth of information and what an enormous amount of work you’ve put into this. How do you get your Actaea (Cimicifuga) to bloom? I’ve got 3; they form loads of buds that get frost-killed before they ever open. I’ve been waiting 4 years to smell that delightful fragrance they are supposed to have!

    1. Judith, some years the Actaea bloom, and some years they get caught very quickly by frost. The one I would not recommend for zone 3 is Actaea simplex ‘White Pearl’ as it is especially late blooming. Actaea racemosa and A. ramosa are a little earlier in Fall. Here is a post I wrote last year at this time, showing pictures of the Actaea in bloom.

      My painted ferns don’t grow as large as some I’ve seen from warmer zones, but they can do okay. They are one of the last plants up in spring. I’ve found they thrive better if I start with larger specimens, as the smallest ones don’t seem to get going. The smaller ones seem to stay small, coming up each year, but not increasing much in size.

      Athyrium ‘Ghost’, which is a cross between painted ferns and Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern) are much more robust. However, ‘Ghost’ has the silver tones, without the red and purple colours.

  45. Oh – forgot to ask how you get your painted ferns to grow. Mine never thrived – 3 or 4 fronds at most – and eventually died off.

  46. I came across your site while googling Goatsbeard as I have recently planted it and wanted to read some more information about it. I was suprised to see that you live in Edmonton as I do! It is so nice to meet a fellow gardener! I see that some of the plants that you have listed, I also have growing in my garden. I also have some orange lilies and when I redo my sun garden next year, I am also going to have to find a place to move them as my garden is mostly white, pink, mauve and black/dk. purple. LOL. I have bookmarked your site and I will definetly have a look often to see what you have growing in your garden.
    Thanks again,

    1. Carrie, I never did find a good spot for the lilies, and they are still tucked out of sight around the edge of the house next to the raspberries. They are so uncomplaining, never get any water, and don’t bother any other plants, so I just let them grow there.

      Some of my latest favourite perennials are Heuchera and Tiarella, and I’ve been adding quite a few to the garden. With semi-evergreen leaves, they make the garden look colourful into the late Autumn and in early Spring.

      I hope you enjoyed the gorgeous October gardening weather we had for the last couple of weeks.

  47. Sounds like my lilies too. I rarely water them. Do you have Tiarella ‘Black snowflake’? I have that variety in my shade garden. I think I have another variety as well but the name is not coming to mind at the moment. As for Heucheras I have quite a few varieties. I find that they are no nonsense plants.

    The weather has been nice for sure. I am trying to finish off a few projects outside before the snow flies and also take some pictures of my garden so I can do some planning over the winter.


    1. Carrie, I don’t have ‘Black Snowflake, but I have Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’, ‘Pink Skyrocket’ and ‘Sugar and Spice’. I really appreciate the reliability of Heuchera, too.

  48. I have a shady garden and thought I would be held hostage to hostas and foxglove. We are in the middle of planning our garden, thanks for the inspiration. Its great to see the different varieties and flowering plants that grow well in the shade. I was thrilled to see spring bulbs included in your list.

  49. Just found this site on google search for zone 3. We are zone 3 here in Wyoming in the high mountain desert with LOTS of cold wind and not much moisture – very challenging! Our greatest challenge however are the moose, deer, and rabbits! I love, love, love them, but they love, love, love my plants:) They have nailed every bush and tree that we have planted to the ground! They especially love sumac and dogwoods. I hate to fence them out – do you know how awesome it is to look out of your window and find a moose looking back at you?

    I love your blog and it is very helpful. I am planning a shade garden for the front of the house and your site has been very helpful. Thank you for all the work you have put into it.

    1. Terry, you’re welcome. It sounds like we have similar climatic conditions for growing, as Edmonton tends to be dry, too. However, I don’t have the wildlife population. Since I’m in a suburban area, I only get a few rabbits, but not the larger mammals. They would be wonderful to see, but a little less endearing as they munch on your plantings. Heuchera are supposed to be more deer resistant, but I don’t have the wildlife to stress test them here, and of course hungry animals will find a lot more things tasty. :) We have very deep snow right now, and I was watching a snowshoe hare who appeared to be munching on some of my spruce needles. As I looked around at the lack of available greenery, I couldn’t begrudge it the sustenance. However the little guy wouldn’t make much of a dint in a 30 foot spruce tree, but a moose going one on one with a shrub has better odds.

  50. Hello again, I just started a master gardener program tonight. It was very interesting. Hopefully I will learn what I need to know to grow a beautiful garden here. We have a lot of challenges here: wind, low moisture, short growing season, high salt content in the soil, so it should be interesting. A lot of people garden here and say there are a lot of things you can grow so that’s encouraging. You have certainly overcome some major challenges and have done very well. You’re garden looks beautiful! We have killer frosts in Mid August and it has snowed every month of the year at one time or another! Greenhouse – a gardener’s best friend here:) Everyone I know who has a successful garden here has a greenhouse. I’ll have to invest in one I think.

    1. Terry, although we get frigid temperatures in winter, we usually get good snow cover, which insulates the plants. The fall leaves are good for covering perennials, which also helps. Then I remove the leaf mulch when the weather warms in spring.

      The master gardener program sounds very helpful, as it is great to get detailed info for your area. Plus, it will be fun to meet so many other local gardeners.

  51. Oh yes that’s another major challenge we have here, we are high desert so we don’t get a lot of snow in the winter. Some winters we get a naked freeze. We got one last year and it killed many people’s roses and some trees. It gets down very cold way before we get enough snow to put down a good cover. Sometimes though it freezes the lakes clear, and it is like skating on glass, it’s cool. But NOT for the plants, so you have to put down a heavy layer of mulch to counter this. We really have to work hard to grow anything here, but doesn’t that just make you appreciate it that much more.

  52. I have a rock garden on the side that is always in the shade. I need foliage to fill in the openings,have a rock path way that splits in two paths aiming for something but don’t know yet!I’ve worked on this for five years tried bulbs,annuals. This has given me a push in the right direction perennials!!!!

    1. Janet, there are some great perennials that would work well there. Tiarellas and Heucherellas (coral bells and foamy bells) would make beautiful foliage plants in your shady rock garden, and many of them have pretty flowers too. Brunnera (Siberian bugloss) is another wonderful foliage plant for your rock garden, especially ‘Jack Frost’, and it has beautiful blue flowers in spring. Some of the smaller colourful ferns like Athyrium niponicum (Japanese painted fern) would add nice texture and colour. The little Hepatica, with pretty blue flowers in spring would do well, and some Asarum (wild ginger) would look nice in the nooks and crannies, with their attractively shaped leaves. For feathery texture, some Aruncus dioicus (Korean goatsbeard) would work. They make neat mounds, and have small white plume flowers. If it is not too dry, the shorter Astilbe (like ‘Sprite’) would work well. If you search under the posts, I have lots of pictures and information about these plants.

  53. Hello
    I’m part of a school of horticulture so naturally I was drawn to your site. Currently we are starting a project to cover about 50 square feet in edible plants that still look good. I live in Calgary (Zone 3-4). We get a lot of hard frost and snow, lots of shade in the area and about 2-4 hours of direct sunlight between 10 and 2. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Brandon, although I have many shrubs, perennials and annuals in my shady sections, I don’t grow my vegetables in the shady area, and have a small salad garden in a sunnier area. It is an interesting project for a challenging area.

  54. Thanks for all the inspiration! I am new to gardening, and have a new house with no garden except grass. And with the problem of lots of shade your info has really helped me to find the right plants for my soon to be garden! Thanks so much :)

    1. Natalie, you’re welcome. Starting with an empty garden is a big job, but on the other hand, you’ll get to create it exactly how you want. It is very satisfying to plan, and see how the garden looks as it matures.

    1. Brandon, I enjoy watching the maturing garden, and seeing how the plants come together, as well as how they look across the seasons. The use of edible plants should make your garden both productive and good looking.

  55. And I’m originally from NS so I grew up around fiddleheads. They taste awesome.
    I think I’m going to go with Nasturtium and Wintergreen. And maybe some bergamot.

  56. I’m starting a garden in a small walled courtyard. I’m hoping to have Rosa ‘Randilla,’ Dicentra spectabilis, Paeonia lactiflora, Phlox paniculata, and Syringa vulgaris; I’d love any suggestions anyone might have for good Zone 3 and 4 plants to add. I’m also installing a small pond and am wondering about nice little water plants. By the way, Northern Shade, thanks SO MUCH for posting this list!! It’s helped a lot!!

    1. Magic Rose, your small walled courtyard sounds charming, and your selection of shrubs and large perennials will make a nice frame for the garden planting. If you are looking for some more flowering shrubs, then some Hydrangea paniculata would fit in well with them. The white and pink would fit your colours so far, plus they would add colour in late summer and early fall.

      I’ve underplanted my Syringa vulgaris with Geranium ‘Rozanne (hardy perennial geraniums), and I’m really pleased with the combination. They bloom in blue after the lilac, all summer and fall. There are also some crocus bulbs between the hardy geraniums for early spring flowers, so there is something interesting in bloom in that section all year.

      Some other plants that would blend nicely with your selections are the Campanula (bellflowers). There are many shorter Campanula in white or blue that would go well in between or in front of the larger Paeonia and Phlox paniculata. Most of them bloom all summer, too. They would make a nice carpet of blooms, when the phlox and peony were not in flower.

      I have some purple iris next to my pink Paeonia that flower at the same time, and enjoy the pairing. When they are done, there are some pink Dianthus caryophylla (perennial carnations) that bloom in front, and some medium sized blue Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’.

      Those are some of the perennials that would go well with your current ideas. If you click through on the perennials category link on the right, you can see other perennials that have done well in my zone 3 garden, and the garden design link shows combinations of plants in my garden. The bulbs category has a lot of ideas to add some early spring colour, too. I’m hoping to see some of those bulbs soon. :)

  57. I have not read the entire blog (I was looking for indoor trees) but came across it in my scattered search–so easily distracted.Since you live in Edmonton,as do I,was wondering if this is a business,part time or not at all.I am always interested in another opinion regarding my own yard.Let me know,only if convenient,0f course.

    1. Alice, I don’t actually have a gardening business; I just really enjoy it. :) There is a lot of info and pics on the site of plants that I grow and that do well in our area. I’m hoping that gardening season won’t be too far off now, and am optimistic that our snow will eventually melt, and there are indeed flowers getting ready under there.

  58. Hi,

    I have two areas on either side of my front step that have complete shade. The west side of the step is next to the garage and may get a bit of morning sun, but even so, not much. The east side of the front step is still shaded but gets a bit more of the morning sun. I had two Dwarf Arctic Willows (as suggested by our landscaper) but they both died. I would like something that has height and also something that is welcoming as these areas are beside the front steps to our home. I would love your opinion for these two areas as your garden looks so beautiful. I live in Calgary but the very West end of the city and I am not sure if this changes the zoning. These areas would be somewhat protected from the harsh winds we get here. I love the look of the ferns but not sure what to put with them and I would like to know which fern would give me the most height. I think the width of the area is about 3 feet x 3 feet. I can send pictures if that helps.

    Thank you in advance for you opinions/suggestions.

    1. Claire, if you are looking for a bit of green in the winter, then you could plant some Taxus media (yews), as they don’t mind the shade. Mine do not grow all that large in our climate, some were planted 8 years ago, and are around 100 cm to 150 cm (about 3 to 4 feet). They give a bit of structure, when the rest of the garden has died back.

      For some flowering shrubs, you could try Hydrangea paniculata or Hydrangea arborescens. They flower in part shade in late summer, and will give some height, too. They need some light, but I’ve been pleased with how many blooms they get with a minimum amount of light.

      Some taller perennials that would work in such shade are Actaea racemosa (bugbane) or A. ramosa. They grow around 1 to 2 metres (3 to 6 feet), with nice leaves, that form airy patterns, while some have purple leaves. They have tall flower wands in the fall. Another tall perennial for the shade is Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard), which can grow to 2 m (6 ft) and flowers in June.

      My tallest fern is Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern) which grow around 1 m (3 ft), but some of mine are 1.3 m (4 ft). Their finely cut fronds look great next to large leaves, like Hosta, or Brunnera. I also grow some Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox) in front of some ostrich ferns, and love the combination in spring, when the phlox has pretty lavender blue flowers. In front of the short phlox are decorative Heuchera, for when the phlox flowers are done.

      Some other shorter perennials for that shady site are Astilbe, which have nice fluffy flowers in mid summer, but they do appreciate some extra water. If you want some colour in between the flowers, then some great foliage plants for the shade are the Heuchera (coral bells) and Tiarella (foam flower). They come in a rainbow of leaf colours and patterns. They are about 30 cm (1 ft) tall, and some of them also have wands of pretty flowers. I have these at the edge of my front beds, in a site very much like yours. I particularly love them right now, as their leaves are evergreen, so they are showing up as the snow melts. If you search for Heuchera on my site, you can see lots of pictures of different ones I grow, and choose your favourite. Another nice edger for the shade is Asarum (wild ginger).

      One of my favourite medium perennials for the shade is Brunnera macrophylla. I also have these in my front bed, as they have great leaves, and pretty blue flowers in the spring. ‘Jack Frost’, ‘Looking Glass’ and ‘Mr. Morse’ are especially good looking Brunnera.

      Good luck with your front bed. I have a site very similar to yours on the north side of my house, as well as some extra tall evergreens that shade the area, and I’ve found many of the above to work well. You could also tuck some bulb groups in between the perennials to give you some early spring flowers. They work well in between the later rising perennials. I use Chionodoxa (glory of the snow), Scilla (squills) and Puschkinia (striped squills) to get the garden flowering first thing. Then they die back and the perennials take over.

  59. Thanks for all the plant info..we live in Zone 3 and seem to have a problem growing any type of there one you can recommend for our Northern Climate..we even tried the Clematis but it only worked for the one season..Thanks Jean

    1. Jean, I haven’t found a really good vine yet, although some gardeners have been very successful with clematis. Some clematis are more hardy than others, but I haven’t experimented with the different ones.

  60. hello I konw the name of your yellow iris.
    the name is iris ‘Gajus’ (1906 Gos e Koenemann) is a beautifull ibrid made in a gernany nurseries.

    it is my favourite variety of iris.

    1. Emilio, thank you for the information on the iris ID. This was one of the few perennials in my garden when I moved in. There is a large planting of this iris all around my deck, and they are so bright and sunny when they bloom as a large group. I’ve got more pictures of this iris in this post.

  61. I want to grow some nice looking plants and colorful flowers in Cochrane, Alberta. The locations is very windy and the soil is dry and hard…do you have any suggestion?
    I tried Potentillas last year and only 2 out of 5 survived…but they were not big when planted.
    Any idea what would survive?

    1. Lecabel, you have a windier and drier site than mine. One shorter perennial that has done well in shady, dry sites for me is Epimedium (Bishop’s cap). They grow around 20 to 40 cm (1 to 1.5 feet), have nice leaves, and get pretty flowers in spring. In fall the leaves turn red. Aruncus aethusifolius (Korean goat’sbeard) is another one for dry shade. Mine grow right under a pine tree and a willow. They grow about 30 cm (1 ft) tall and get white plumes in summer.

      Here are some I’ve grown in sunny and dry sites. Perovskia (Russian sage) grows about 1 m (3 to 4 feet). They handle dry areas very well, and are covered in many small, misty looking purple flowers, a bit like lavender, through summer and into fall. Another one for a sunny dry site is Stachys (lamb’s ear). They have silvery grey, thick leaves that are fuzzy with pinky purple flowers. Dianthus (pinks) can handle some dryness too. Armeria (thrift) is a bit like pinks, and drought tolerant.

      Two perennials that I haven’t grown myself, but that handle adverse and dry conditions are sempervivum (hens and chicks) and Sedum.

      Good luck with your site.

  62. This is my first year growing a flower garden in Edmonton. I have two areas in front of my home, this area is sunny. One area under my window is 11.5 feet by 3 feet and the other area under the window is 19.5 feet by 3.5 feet. I have no clue what so ever how many plants I will need or what plants will be best to plant. I have bought some flowers so far.. I have 2 rose bushes, wave petunias, geranium, white pixie, sedums, lupins. I like gardens that are layered but still have space between plants. Any suggestions on how to fill this huge space for a first time gardener would be much appreciated…

    Thank you so very much, your flowers are amazing :)

    1. Darlene, sometimes bare garden beds next to the house can look very large, until you start planting, and see the recommended spacing on the tags. The plants look so little in their first year, and then can be surprising when they reach their full size. Depending on the type, the roses might grow to 3 foot wide or more. You could plant the perennials to their recommended distance on the tags, and then use the annuals, like the petunias, to fill the spacing in between for the first year. Next year you might need less annuals for filler.

      It’s fun to plan out the garden to scale on graph paper, or you can use a free online program, like the BBC Virtual Garden Design. You could start with the larger shrubs, place groups of perennials around, using the tag size as an estimate. I like to put clumps of the same ones together for a nice display. You could also place the pots on the ground and rearrange them before you dig. I do end up rearranging some perennials at the end of the season, or in spring, each year as needed, too.

      Good luck with your garden.

  63. Thank you so much for this! I live in the exact same climate, I’m new to gardening and I need to plant some shrubs in the front of my house–one side of which almost never gets any sun and the other only some in the morning. (It gets less and less, too, as the summer wears on and the sun travels further south in its rising!) I think I’ll try and track down some Mock Orange “Blizzard” and maybe the Hydrangea panicula “grandiflora” I have a large well-established Spirea, fortunately, so I’m thinking these may go well together? Anyway, quit excited to find your site.

    1. Alana, The mock orange and Hydrangea paniculata are both good for part shade. Another one that would work is dogwood. Some have nicely coloured twigs a for winter interest, too.

  64. I am new to the colder zones and we have removed a very large juniper like shrub tree (it towered to the roof and took a big part of our walkway up to front door). We did grind the stump & roots as best we could and now want to plant either a shrub that can be pruned tree form or one that can be pruned to like 3 main trunks & tree shape (like crape myrtles & hollys are done in south). I have also been looking at maybe the pom pon juniper (second choice). I would love some advice and am so glad to find this site.

    1. Belinda S, one shrub that I’ve seen pruned to tree form around here is Hydrangea paniculata. I have a dwarf lilac, Syringa vulgaris ‘Wedgewood Blue’ that only grows about 2 metres (6 feet tall). Mine naturally has a very narrow base, and it is easy to underplant with small perennials right up to the trunk, so it would be easy to prune it to a small tree form.

      Mary T., the Brunnera are in flower right now and looking great. They are very hardy, and I only lost my first one this winter out of about 25. I haven’t tried a columnar apple tree, but they would be great to fit into the yard.

  65. Hello Northern:

    I was looking through you site for the name of a plant I have in the yard that I really enjoy and discovered it is brunnera. Love the brunnera leaf on your comment panel. I live near Lethbridge, which has a somewhat tricky climate because of the chinook winds. However this winter was our third without major chinooks so the temperature was more evenly cold and the snow cover stayed from November into April. That’s Edmonton weather! Have you ever tried a columnar apple? I saw one at the nursery and thought it would be a good space-saver in an overcrowded yard.

  66. Hello Northern Gardener,

    I noticed in some of your pictures, you have a mulch that looks similar to cocoa beans. I love this mulch but cannot find it anymore. I like in Fort McMurray AB. I am just wondering if you have been able to find any this year.

    I would really appreciate your help.
    Thanks you in advance.
    Nicole M.

    1. Nicole M, I really like the look of cocoa shell mulch (and the smell too), but I haven’t seen any around for the last three years. I inquired at a number of local sources, and could not find a supplier. I still have a bag and a half in my garage, so I might put that on a section this year. I find the cocoa shells have a great texture that soon blends in and looks very natural.

  67. Thank you Northern Shade for your advise back on April 21, 2011!! I am very excited to see how my front gardens do! You are a wonderful source of information to people like me!

    Thanks again,

    1. Claire, enjoy watching your garden develop. You can always fine tune it and rearrange a few plants in the fall as you see how they grow. Some perennials will take a few years to get to their mature size.

  68. Hello,

    Thank you for getting back to me on the cocoa mulch. Oh well it was worth a try. I have only been using cocoa bean mulch since I started gardening, and have run out of my stock (I bought a bunch of bags a few years ago). Have you found a favorite kind of mulch besides the cocoa bean?

    Thanks for your help.
    Nicole M.

    1. Nicole M, I’ve tried different types and don’t have a particular favourite, other than the cocoa shell. I’ve used coconut shell mulch (coir), mainly behind shrubs, and it’s not bad. I’ve also used shredded bark, as well as bark chunks. I like the shredded better than the large pieces. In my front garden under the evergreens, I use the natural pine and spruce needles, and they make a nice mulch, plus it’s free and falls there. In my side garden and by the raspberries, I use the spruce and pine cones, but they wouldn’t look great on a regular perennial garden. I also use shredded up leaves as a mulch, as I have lots from my trees. Mostly now, I use the organic matter from my garden, like pine straw and leaves. Some parts of my garden are fairly thickly planted, or have groundcovers, so they don’t need much in the way of mulch now.

  69. Hey! Finally i googled for plants to grow in the shady area the whole spring. Finally i got here. Thanks so much! I have been sticking with Pansies and Geraniums. I have a huge space in the front yard facing the East that gets only 2 hours of morning light. Pansies are doing good but i have space for so much more.I haven’t grown to like Fern yet.I grew up in Nepal(kathmandu) and Singapore that had both tropical weather.I am in Calgary and this is my first time gardening. Thankss for your help!!!!!!! My mum used to be a great gardener and every flower reminds me of my childhood and my patio time with her. There are only few that i can seem to grow in Calgary :( Thanks to your help i have now more ideas. It’s a decade ago and i wish how i could have been more interested in gardening then. Sorry to sound so emotional but every different flower i am able to grow here makes my memories of my mum closer. Thanks a bunch. I was feeling quite hopeless with no guidence. :)

    1. Gina, many of these plants should work well for you. It sounds like you are looking for some plants with showy flowers for a site with morning sun. Some perennials with good flowers would be the Campanula (belflowers) which have pretty blue and purple blooms, If you search my site for Campanula, you should see lots of different types that will do well in that site. Tiarella (foam flower) have pretty pink spokes of fluffy flowers right now, Brunnera (Siberian bugloss) have lots of blue starry flowers, and Geranium ‘Rozanne’ has long blooming blue flowers. ‘Rozanne’ has very showy blooms that last for months.

      Some long flowering annuals that would work with that site are the double tuberous begonia. They get large, very showy flowers in pink, yellow or white and bloom all summer, until the frost. They would have the more tropical look you are thinking of. Lobelia are short, but get lots of pretty white or blue flowers, and make a good edging. The double impatiens are short, but have little rose like blooms all summer. If you have room for plants to cascade over a low wall or hang from a planter, then fuchsia would also give a more tropical look.

      Those are some of the plants that might give the appearance you are looking for. If you click on the perennial category link on the right hand side, you can see lots of the perennials I grow in the shade, and look for ones with the types of flowers that remind you of your mom’s garden. Gardening really does have a lot of memories attached to it.

      Good luck with your garden.

  70. I’m so glad I found this web site. I just purchased a home with a lot of shaded area and was losing hope of finding the right plants and having them survive in the north country. Your photos and names of plants are wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  71. I’m hoping you can help me identify a plant that appeared in my flower garden 3 or 4 years ago. I live in northern MN. For the first couple of years I thought it was a daylily, but it never got any flowers. It is an attractive plant, very full, and looks like the leaves on a giant daylily, but now it has grown to be 3 to 4 feet wide and about 2 3/4 feet high and is taking up too much room, plus shading the daylilies that are now under its leaves. I’m going to transplant it, but would like to know what it is. Any ideas?

    1. Donnie, in our zone, there are a few plants plant that have similar foliage to the daylily. One is the Eremuras (foxtail lily), which gets tall yellow flowers spikes in a sunny area. They might not bloom if it is too shady. Do the leaves look like iris leaves? Iris will produce strap-like foliage, but no blooms if they are planted too deep. If the leaves are narrower than a daylily, it could be a type of decorative grass.

  72. Found your website when googled plants for full shade. I have recently moved from zone 3 Calgary to zone 5 at the Shuswap. So many more plants to choose from…I feel I am in heaven. Thank you for your wonderful site with all it’s information. You have given me some wonderful ideas for my shady area behind my cedar hedge.

    1. Sandi, you’ll definitely have many more plants to choose from in zone 5. I’ve grown some zone 4 plants here in a protected backyard, but in zone 5 you wouldn’t be worried about those borderline perennials, and it opens up so many possibilities. You might even be able to grow some of the Japanese maples that are so attractive.

  73. Dear Sir/Madam,
    I am about to develop a 50 ft X 15 ft spruce tree area.I also just found your site on the net but I can’t find a phone number or catalogue.
    Could you supply both please.

    Thanks Bob

    1. Bob, I don’t actually sell the shade plants; I grow them and write about them for other gardeners. It is more to see the photos and read about how they perform in the garden, and to help you make your list of what you want to grow, and how you can combine them.

      If you are looking for more photos and information about the perennials I grow specifically under spruce, here is a post showing a before and after look under some spruce, some more perennial plantings under the spruce, another look at plants under the conifers, and one more from last summer under the evergreens. Also, the Tiarella do well under pine and spruce.

  74. Hi Northern Gardener

    Like most people, I found your website while searching for shade loving perennials and shrubs. I live in the real ‘Northern Ontario’, Timmins, to be exact and we are classified as a 2b zone. I am currently redoing a stretch of soil about 15′ x 1.5′ and it is mostly shade with mid to late afternoon sun. No real questions, as your website has answered most of them for me. Just wanted to say hi and that I really like your site and all the pics. It was very helpful.

    I have some of the plants that you have in my garden, and enjoy all of them. Here is a list of some of the plants and shrubs that I have: purple leaf sandcherry, dwarf korean lilac, fragrant sumac, snow mound spirea, all season japanese garden juniper, diablo ninebark, burning bush, gold flame spirea, lilac, mckay’s white potentilla, minuet weigela, delphiniums, snow in summer (a favourite), edelweiss, goodness grow alpine speedwell, spiked speedwell, lady’s mantle, peony, monkshood, astilbe, bleeding heart (regular and fern leaf), hostas, ferns, blue clip campanula (another favourite), coral bells, bee balm, a tea rose bush and lavender, I figure I should probably stop here, as the list will go on. As you can guess, I am very proud of my garden and try to be out there as often as possible, as the summer here is quite short.

    Well, I should get back out there, times ticking away!

    Thanks for allowing me into your backyard, I truly enjoyed the visit!!!


    1. Laura, we grow some similar plants, and Campanula are one of my favourites, too. It is fun to get a chance to peek over the fence at another gardener’s site. Like you, I try to get out and enjoy gardening as much as possible during our short season. I’ve added many plants over the last few years to extend the gardening season as early as possible in the spring, and as late as possible in the fall.

  75. Sir, thank-you for your prompt reply.

    it is my intension to dig ‘pot’ holes in my wooded area as i’m sure the Ph is less than 4 or 5.

    I will,of course,adjust the Ph to suit the plants but digging pot holes/as opposed to total topsoil you think it’s the way to go ?


    ps I informed Vanderwees garden centre of your existance !~

    1. Digging individual holes instead of covering the area in top soil is a good plan. You don’t want to cover the whole area in new soil, as it wouldn’t be healthy for the trees. Their roots are close to the surface, and you don’t want to change the surface level too much. I dig holes for individual plants, and find that I have to adjust their positions a bit, since I avoid digging into large roots. Instead, they get planted in pockets between the roots, and I adjust the groupings as needed. Also, instead of digging up the whole bed at one time, I planted a section at a time, so the tree roots wouldn’t be disturbed all at once. Even though the garden under the conifers is full of decomposing needles and cones, I didn’t adjust the pH, I just added a bit more organic matter. The perennials I planted seemed to have adjusted well.

      Some of the perennials I used were: Hosta ‘Francee’, Hosta Patriot’, Hosta ‘Ginko Craig (these Hosta have white on them so they light up the area under the trees)’, Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (this is a silvery fern which reflects light too, and will need extra water), Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (green and silver foliage plant with pretty blue flowers), Asarum europaeum, Asarum canadense, Asarum arifolium (the Asarum are a very nice ground cover with attractive leaves), Epimedium ‘Lilafee’ (ground cover with purple flowers), Hepatica nobilis (rounded leaf ground cover with blue flowers), Tiarella ‘Sugar and Spice’ (beautifully marked leaves with short spikes of light pinky white flowers), Tiarella ‘Jeepers Creepers’ (really decorative dark markings on green leaves), Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’ (super purplish leaves with bright red spikes of flowers), Heuchera ‘Dayglow Pink’ (green and purple leaves with bright pink flower spikes), Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ (terrific leaves with green and purplish red marks), Cornus canadensis (a modest native groundcover with red leaves in fall). At the brighter part shade edges I have some Campanula carpatica which has long blooming white or blue flowers.

      You can use the search box on the upper right to see more photos of these plants, and read more about them. The links in the last comment also lead to articles about my garden under the conifers.

      Good luck with your garden under the spruce. The area can look great and be healthy when you pick plants that don’t mind the shade. I give mine some supplemental water.

  76. Northern Shade,

    I’ve enjoyed browsing through your site. You are a true gardener as well as an excellent photographer.

    If I’m not mistaken that unidentified Iris, yellow with streaked maroon falls, is I. ‘Gracchus.’ It was one of my favorite irises during my years at Wave Hill.

    The unknown red petaled hemerocallis might be H.’Sammy Russell’ although I can’t be sure since there are so many daylilies. But it was hybridized in the early 50s which might work since it was in your garden when you arrived.

    Thanks you for the pleasure. I will return.

    The Gardener from NotesFromTheMargin

    1. The Gardener from NotesFromTheMargin, thanks for the info about the yellow iris. I have grown to like this iris more and more, since it is so versatile as to placement. I’ve sited it in many different light exposures and it always does well. A large group of them look great when they are covered in blooms, making a good splash when there are a few hundred of them in bloom in late May to early June.

  77. I am so happy I found your blog, I live in Mt and have a dry shady bed that I am over hauling. And I got some really nice ideas from you Thanks again Kerry

    1. Kerry, one of the perennials that I’ve found to do well in dry shade is Epimedium. They are about 30 cm (a foot) tall and get pretty flowers in spring, while providing nice foliage for a groundcover all season. The Asarum europaeum (European wild ginger) are a short groundcover with pretty, shiny heart shaped leaves that tolerate a fair amount of dryness once established, and don’t mind almost complete shade. It makes a lovely edging. My Aruncus (goatsbeard) have done well competing with tree roots, too, both the extra tall A. Dioicus for the back of the border and the short A. aethudifolius (Korean dwarf goatsbeard) for an edging. The goatsbeards tolerate fairly low light. Hepatica nobilis (liverleaf) is another groundcover for a dry, shady spot, and it has blue flowers in spring.

      The next group of perennials tolerate shade well, but need a bit more water than the previous group. In the shade, Brunnera doesn’t need as much water once it is established. Also, my Heuchera (coral bells) and Tiarella (foam flower) have done very well under the trees, in very shady sites, with a bit of supplemental water. Both the Heuchera and Tiarella have fantastic leaves and some have showy flowers.

      Good luck with your dry shade site.

  78. Hi, thank you very much for this information. Could you please advise me what flower to sow directly into the soil now, in September? What will survive the cold winter and bloom earlier next year? I have put columbine, what else can I grow this way?
    By the way, do you grow delphinium? Can it stand cold winters?

    1. Eden, were you looking to sow annuals or perennials? I haven’t seeded many annuals in the fall, but I have in the past successfully directly sown bachelor buttons, cosmos, larkspur and sweet pea. These have self-seeded for me, coming up the next year, so they should be fine to be sown in the fall, although many gardeners give them a head start by sowing inside in the spring.

      I haven’t sown any perennials in the fall, but there are probably some that would work well. One new type of hardy perennial Dianthus that I grew this year is Dianthus ‘Sweetness’, which blooms the first year from seed, and comes in some very pretty pink colour combinations. It might work for you. Poppies would lend themselves to sowing, too.

      I’ve grown delphiniums in my last garden, and they are very hardy. Those tall spires of blooms are gorgeous, especially in all of the blue shades..

  79. I’ve grown perennial gailardia and geum chiloense in August, now they are 4″. If they come back to life next year, I’ll inform you. Thanks again.

  80. Hi there! During a search for shade plants I came across your website! The “mockoranges” are essentially a full sun perennial shrub. They grow about ten feet tall and six to seven feet wide. They have beautiful white flowers which are guaranteed abundance when grown in full shade! We had a wet summer that required that the plant be fed very little! In other words, it can be used in a low watering xeriscape garden! The flowers are fragrant but not overbearing!

    1. Ferrol, I like mockorange for the shade, also. One that I grow, ‘Blizzard’, is a more compact version, and does exceptionally well in the shade and in a cold climate. ‘Blizzard’ has been very reliable at consistent flowering, too.

    1. Thanks, #153. I’ve moved and divided my blue Campanula carpatica around so many times now, that they got mixed together. The same thing happened to my white C. carpatica now. I appreciate the long flowering time on these bellflowers, and how adaptable they are to different conditions and light levels.

  81. Hi, if the base of the foliage on that yellow purple/blue unnamed iris is purple. It may be Loreley. Google and see.
    Regards Tom

    1. Tom, thanks for the info for the possible ID on the yellow and purple iris. Now that our first frosts have hit, I’m going to be cutting back the foliage on the iris this week. I have 9 to 12 m (30 to 40 ft) of iris around my deck, as well as a few other groupings.

  82. It is only Jan. here but I am already looking forward to spring (in Minnesota). Thanks for the site! I enjoy all gardens and love to get ideas for adding to my own. We have been in our home now only a short time, and every spring my plants get bigger and better. Good luck and happy gardening.


    1. Heather, I’m looking forward to springtime and new blooms too. I especially enjoy those first little bulbs that flower just as the snow is melting, when you’re most appreciative of the bright petals after the monotony of winter.

      It’s very satisfying to watch the perennials grow from year to year, and see how everything fills in. As the first perennial shoots start rising, it’s great fun to check them every day, and see what made it through the winter. Then checking how everything looks together, and planning what you’re going to move. or add. Your comment has me anticipating the new gardening season.

  83. Hi. Love your plant list. Thanks for posting it.
    We bought a new acreage home last fall near Sundre, AB. It has a smallish yard area carved out of the forest, with lots of very tall spruce trees right up to the house.
    I have a good idea which areas of the yard will be full shade and partial shade, that will be most of it. The south end of my house has an open area, that through the winter has missed out on the morning sun, and late afternoon sun. It will be interesting to see how much sun gets past the trees as the sun gets higher in the sky.
    I’m spending my time these days researching shade lovers trying to picture what I might grow here. It’s been interesting reading what another Albertan has had success with. Thanks again for posting your results.

    1. Marilyn, it sounds like you have a very scenic property that will make a great site for a woodland garden. There are some very attractive plants that will grow in the shade in Alberta. If you check under the perennials category on the right hand side of this site, you can see some photos and read some information about more plants that would be suitable for your property.
      I’ve planted quite a few interesting perennials under the evergreens in my front garden bed, and you can see how they look together.

    1. Hi Shadeless, this is a list of my garden plants as of a few years back. Since my garden is mostly shade, the majority are shade plants, and for the ones that are not, I’ve described the degree of light required. It’s hard to form an exact boundary between those that thrive in shade and those that require more light. Some plants are very adjustable, and will thrive in a wide variety of sites, while some actually prefer a certain amount of shade, and others will tolerate some shade, while some plants will continue to live in a shady location, but will not do their best. It is not an exact science, because it also depends on when they get a bit of light, is it the weaker light of very early in the day, or a brief exposure between houses of the stronger light of midday. I’ve experimented a great deal with different species or individual cultivars in different locations to see how much shade they will take, and what time of day they get some light.

      If you want to see more details of light exposure for the different plants, you can search the sight for specific plants, or check through the categories, where I’ve specified in the articles more exactly the amount and type of light that they have grown in.

      If you have any questions about the plants, or their light exposure, you can leave a question, and I can tell you more about them.

  84. Hello Northern Shade,

    Your pictures are beautiful. I just moved the Lethbridge AB and was hoping you could give me a few suggestions. I have 2 large pine trees in the not-so-large front yard. This leaves a nicely sized shadey, acid spot where the previous owners have out down cloth and mulch. I am considering potted plants so acidity is not an issue. Do you have any suggestions?


    1. Dezirae, I’ve planted some perennials directly into the ground below my tall evergreens in front, in the pockets between the roots. Some plants that have done well there are Heuchera (coral bells), Tiarella (foam flower), Asarum (wild ginger), Hepatica, and Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss). The Hosta and Athyrium ‘Ghost’ (ghost fern) need some extra water, but have done very well, too. You can see some of the different Heuchera and Tiarella under the sprucein this article, and more perennials in this article about the garden under my evergreens. There are links in each of those articles to more posts from this site about gardening under conifers. Many of these have very decorative leaves, so they look good for an extended time.

      The above perennials would work in pots, too, but you would have to dig them in for the winter, or protect them from the cold if they are above ground. Good luck with your planting under the pines.

  85. this is great! other then what you have here do you have any suggestions for cut flowers for zone 3? (i live in Manitoba). Also I’m looking for a rose bush for cutting as well. I bought a Rosa ‘Jelroganor'(CHARISMA)but have now realized it’s only hardy in zone 6! so not helpful right! any suggestions please let me know! please email me or come to my blog and leave a comment!

    1. Amanda, the Dianthus caryophylus ‘Grenadin’ (hardy carnations) make terrific cut flowers, and their foliage stays a nice fresh green when the colder temperatures arrive. The Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’ (a taller bellflower) have showy silvery blue bells, and usually have lots of flower, too. You can see how the Dianthus and Campanula look together in the garden in this article, while they look good in a bouquet, too. Another taller bellflower with pretty blue flowers on long stems is Campanula lactiflora.

      In spring, I like to make mini bouquets from Convallaria (lily of the valley), since they can scent a whole room. OF course, Paeonia lactiflora have a winning combination of puffy flowers and beautiful perfume that make terrific arrangements as well. Sometimes I just float the peony blooms in short, square glass vases on the dining table. Here is a more detailed article about my Sarah Bernhardt peony. My next favourite for beautiful scent in the house are lilac blooms.

  86. Hello!
    I am not sure where I could contact you directly so I hope you don’t mind I ask you this in your comments. I was wondering if I would be able to use some of your flower images for a school project that I am doing? I am in a document production class and we are making a book on a subject of our choice. I decided to do mine on gardening in Calgary. The book will not be published and I would only need about 9 images.

    Thank-you so much! I hope to hear from you soon.

  87. I have a 20 inch by 20 ft very moist northern exposure bed.. What will grow there? I have tried various hosta and they never come back the second year. This bed is wide open to the winds with no protection. I have tried jacoba lambs tongue. spira and others I don’t recall the names of. I am not an experienced gardener in Airdrie
    Any advice is greatly appreciated

  88. Hello and thank you for the great photos and advice. I live in St Albert and have a 20′ long fence line separating a neighbor that I need to cover up to 8′ tall when full grown. The fence is on the west side of my yard and runs north -south. I have sunlight most of the day with direct sunlight from 10am to 3 pm each day. Homes are 6′ from either side of fence.
    I need a vine that provides a barrier year round if possible. I want it to look good for as long in the year as possible. Something that flowers would be great. I have heard some types attract bugs or small flies that you can not get rid of.

    Any advice for this application? Thanks in advance.

  89. Hi-skipped thru your info then click I was gone-then I realized what I had done and came back searched out this comment box- To say Thank You for the time you’ve taken to inform us, who do not have said knowedge-We’re Zone 3 in Airdrie and pointing east-so again THANKS–also I get visitors on my blog yet not a comment!I wrote down some names let you know in fall how we did-fingers crossed-Thks Again-Patti

  90. Thank you for publishing this list. It is very helpful. I am looking to fill a north-facing garden over a septic bed and around a propane tank. This will help!

    1. Ariel, you’re welcome. If you browse through the other articles, you can find more pictures and information about other plants that do well in shade, too.

  91. Hello i just have one question! Can I plant lily of the valley in big container and leave it in my back yard in the winter?
    Thank you!

    1. New to gardening, although I haven’t tried to overwinter lily of the valley in pots, I think they would have a good chance. They are extremely hardy, and stand a much better chance than most perennials. What zone do you garden in?

  92. I live in Edmonton and usualy just plant annuals but I love lily of the valley so I’ll give it a try!
    Thank you so much!!!

    1. New to gardening, I would try the lily of the valley. If the pot isn’t too large, you could try moving it to a sheltered spot on your patio, or near alcove outside your house for the winter to shelter it. I adore the scent of this plant, and it is perfuming my garden right now.

  93. This is a great website it has given me lots of ideas for my garden. I was wondering if there are any yuccas that could grow in Winnipeg. I heard that they can be grown here but I was wondering if anyone had any experience growing them in zone 3

    1. Dawson, although I haven’t grown them in my garden, both Yucca glauca and Yucca filamentosa can be grown in zone 3. They would like it in a sunny and dry area of your garden.

  94. I do like your post. Now I need some flowers detail that can plan in my country(CAMBODIA)zone 3a to design as garden city because in my country there is no largely website to find it well.One more thing,I need to plant others kind of flowers to make more interesting in my city.Unfortunately,I cannot find beautiful, long life,colorful flowers to design in city garden I do need it. Thanks!

  95. I stumbled upon your site today and am very excited by what I’ve seen. I currently reside in a brand-new subdivision with an entire yard as a blank slate!! Very excited! I have the main areas planned already – they’ve been planned before I even knew what direction our yard would face. But I have one strip of our yard that between houses and fencing will only receive morning sun. I know the look I want, but this is the first site I’ve found that clearly shows what I’m looking for – and that grows in my neck of the woods! Thanks for this! Just a few more things to cross-reference and I’ll be able to write my short list down, then NEXT year (sigh, can’t do it all at once) I’ll be able to purchase and plant! If you don’t mind my asking – do you have a preferred greenhouse in the area? So far I’ve liked what I’ve picked up from Holes the best, but it’s a bit out of my way now that we’ve moved.

    1. Sarah, have fun with your garden planning and planting. I know what you mean about not doing it all at once. I keep changing the beds a bit every year, and I’m still expanding some garden beds as I get some new ideas.

      I don’t have just one favourite greenhouse, and actually have purchased from a number of local greenhouses. If you are in the Northeast, there is Kuhlmann’s, which has an especially large collection of annuals. Greenland Garden Centre north of Sherwood Park is very good, with a great selection of perennials for the shade, including lots of Heuchera and often large Hosta. Salisbury Greenhouses in Sherwood Park has a good variety of plants, including a nice assortment of shade plants. They also get a terrific assortment of bulbs in the fall. In the southeast I like Millcreek Nursery, which has a good variety of trees and shrubs. In the south, I like Ellerslie Gift and Gardens. In the far west, I like both Dunvegan and Cannor Nurseries. Those two are out of town, west of the Anthony Henday. Centrally, Wellington greenhouse on 137 Ave has a good selection, plus they have really nice display gardens. I make the rounds of all of these greenhouses, and have purchased plants from pretty much all of them this year.

  96. Thank you so much for posting pictures of the different plants you grow. I live in Edmonton and have dug up my front garden from all of my shaddy aggressive (round up doesnt totally kill it) “weed” plant. I tried to plant some bulbs last year, and they grew fairly well, aside from the fact that the rotten neighbourhood kids would pick my flowers, and if the bulb went with it then the kids took that too! So once the condo is done replacing the fence, then I will move all the pretty flowers away from the rotten kids. I’m thinking a variety of the ferns might grow well. Its a north facing garden with only a little sun in the early morning and late evening around June 21. Please keep up the amazing work! You’ve done such a wonderful job!

    1. I,
      The plant you are trying to get rid of sounds like goutweed, which still pops up occasionally in my garden as a legacy from the previous owners, even though I removed it years ago. Is it green with white variegation and white lacy flowers?

      Ferns can look terrific in the garden. I especially like them paired with Hosta, as the contrast between the lacy fronds and large broad leaves is very appealing.

  97. Hi there. I just came across your site, and am happy I did. We just moved into a new home in Sherwood Park and am basically starting from scratch. The landscapers have put in the basic trees and shrubs, and now I am trying to decide what I need to add and what should go where. I am having a hard time taking it easy, but I know that once the trees grow and the shrubs bush out, I am going to have a totally different environment to work with. For now I will plant what I can that will help enhance my somewhat naked yard and I am going to keep your site handy as I can tell that I will have a big area of shade in the future. Its also great to see what works for other people. I am not above being a copycat :) And yes, love Salisbury Green House and Greenland Garden Centre. My favorite haunts in the spring!

    1. Lore, it’s exhilarating to plan a new garden, and you are already thinking about how the trees and shade will affect the site, so you are well ahead on your plans. Sometimes it’s hard for people to picture how the garden will develop over time, from season to season and year to year. When I moved into my house, the previous owners had planted a Viburnum that was over 5 m (15 ft) both tall and wide just 10 cm (less than a foot) from the house foundation. I tried pruning for a couple of years, but it had to go.

  98. Colleen :
    April 6, 2010 at 9:12 pm wrote asking about Japanese maple hardy to zone 3…I have heard that Black Lace Elderberry can have a similar appearance in terms of foliage and are being used in containers, or planted to assume a similar role to the Japanese maple.

    1. Sherry, I’ve seen thee Black Lace Elderberry for sale around here, and they are supposed to be hardy from zone 4, so they would be worth a try. They do have dramatic foliage.

  99. Thank you so much for designing such a wonderful website. Your information has halped me so much in my garden here in Alberta. I am used to Nova Scotia plants and find everything is very different. I was able to get quite a few plants in this year but am already planning for next year. Because I am so late in the summer many plant nurseries have already sold out of many varieties. Thanks to your site I will be able to plan much better for next year as well as the fall planting of bulbs.

    1. Winnie, you might pick up some good deals on perennials, but you’re right, the selection is thinning out. It is a good time to plan your fall bulbs right now, as they will be available in a month. It’s best to get the bulbs planted in September if you can, so they can settle in before the winter, but I’ve had good success with later planting, too.

  100. I have 3 Hydrangea bushes in my back yard. In the corner of the yard planted in shade is a hydrangea bush that has large white balls of flowers. The other 2 have flowers that look like large cones and in full sun. All three have white blooms. The large white balls will turn to a pinkish color later in the season, My question is—does any one know how these plants are to be pruned back in the fall or if they should be pruned at all? I have tried to find this information on the internet but it is confusing. I can’t tell you the name of each one as I think the tags were disposed of after they were planted. My husband cut the large white ball hydrangea back to the ground last fall. This spring they came back but the flower balls were much smaller as they use to be almost dinner plate size before. I would appreciate any information.

  101. Hi Northern Shade…I am so glad I found this. I live in Fort Saskatchewan and have a whole length of fence that gives shade. This will be totally new to me, and I know it’s going to take some time to fill it in, but I’m really excited about the variety. I thought the only thing I would be able to grow is hostas and lily of the valley.

    1. Marguerite, there is a surprising number of lovely plants that grow in the shade in the Edmonton area. If you go to the homepage and look through the most recent posts, there are articles about even more plants than are on this page. You can also search this site for Heuchera and Tiarella, and see more about these two wonderful perennials that come in a wide variety of looks.

  102. Hello Again,
    Was wondering if you know anything about Santa Barbara daisy?
    I want to use it as a ground cover in Dama Point,Ca.
    It would have a sunnylocation.
    Thanks again for your help, and a very informative website.

  103. Hello Again,
    First of all thank you for such a informative website.
    I want to plant Santa Barbara Daisy as a ground cover, with a sunny location.
    I live in Dana Point, Ca. so our climate get warm in tne summer, but not too hot.
    thank you again,

  104. Hi again Northern Shade,
    I have a 12ft long by 12inch deep bed right along a southern fenceline. It currently has periwinkle providing groundcover and emerald cedars planted but I am in the process of removing them. There is also something else growing in the bed but I have no clue what it is!
    I was hoping to plant lilacs there but I don’t think it will be sunny enough. Do you think bleeding hearts would work?
    Thanks for your help!

    1. Scheherazade, you’re right the lilacs probably would prefer a sunnier spot, although I do have a lilac in a part shade location that does okay. It’s a smaller type, but even so it is about 2 m (6 ft) across, so you would need a larger bed, too.

      Bleeding hearts would do great in the shady spot. I have some white ones that only get a bit of sun in the early morning, and they do fine. They only flower for about 6 weeks in spring, so you might want to also add some perennials that bloom in mid to late summer to extend the flowering time.

  105. I live in Rocky Mountain House and have decided to plant and design a shade garden. I have a space that nothing but moss will grow. So I have decided “if you cant beat it join it”. But I had NO idea what kind of plants would grow. You have given me insperation

  106. Love the pictures, and thanks for a great list. I am wondering if any of these plants will survive in hanging baskets or do I have to bury the containers during winter?

    1. Sunny, most of these would not survive a zone 3 winter in a hanging pot. They need to be insulated in the ground, and the snow cover helps, too. However, I have had a few survive in pots on the ground over winter. My Hosta ‘Ginko Craig’ did very well overwintering in a pot, and some Pulmonaria (lungwort) overwintered in a box on the patio, too.

  107. I lucked into the last ghost fern at our local nursery, clearance priced, and it actually looks really good for being the last guy on the shelf. The tag says zone 4, but I thought it would be ok for zone 3….. Im going to mulch him up really good before snow flies and hope for the best. I’m so excited, this lil guy was on my clearance section wishlist and I was not expecting to find one! Wish me luck.

    1. Donna, that was a great find. The ghost ferns have performed well in my zone 3 garden, and look especially good next to broader leafed plants like Hosta, Brunnera, Tiarella or Heuchera. I have one combined with a silvery Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and a Helleborus, and really like that combination. In the front garden I have some ghost ferns next to a Hosta ‘Francee’ with white edges and they work well, too.

  108. I love how you reply to each and every person who posts on your blog. You are so thoughtful and generous with your time and knowledge.

  109. Thank-you so much for this post. I live in Saskatchewan and so it was nice to finally find a post that includes shade plants that should survive in my zone. I have a brand new flower bed that is in the corner of my house that faces north and east. It gets a couple hours of sun in the morning and so I thought I was going to be limited to ferns and other non-flowering plants. It’s great to see that I have so many other options!

    1. Donna, it’s fun to talk gardening with others.

      Crystal, there are some great options available for the shady areas in zone 3. Although I don’t have any photos of Tiarrella and Heucherella on this page, if you search for them on my site, you can find some more great flowering plants for the shadowy areas, and other Heuchera as well.

  110. Hello !
    It was nice going through your blog. Gardening is one of my passions too, so it was nice reading all the comments…very useful.
    I also have had success with many of the plants you mentioned, and would love to add Lupines,Delpheniums, Coral bells to the list…these are all my favourites too !
    We are just in the process of developing our front and back yard in our new home and I have been dreaming and planning all along.
    Thanks for the tips all!

    1. Green Thumb, you’re welcome. I’ve added quite a few coral bells to my garden over the last few years, and am always pleased with how well they do in a cold climate, even retaining their leaves after the other perennials have lost theirs, so they keep the garden interesting.

  111. I am very excited to have found such comprehensive, helful information, complete with photographs, tailored for my exact zone. I reside in an older part of Sherwood Park and have many shady corners, nooks and crannies to my large lot. The previous home-owners had filled them with decorative rocks but I prefer something that will at least feed the bees and butterflies. I was sure I’d never be able to make them pop and had resigned myself to the idea of ferns and bleeding hearts, but now I have an excellent place to plan from with confidence, knowing that even pretty plants and flowers will thrive in the shade and survive our Alberta cold. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together.

    1. PermiFresh, despite our snow today, it won’t be long before we’ll be doing our spring planting. There are lots of hardy shade plants that survive an Alberta winter, and provide flowers for the wildlife, too. As things were melting this past week, some of my evergreen perennials were already providing some green for the garden. The Helleborus (Hellebores), Heuchera (coral bells), and Tiarella (foamflowers) were showing good looking leaves, despite the cold. All 3 thrive in the shade and provide some pretty flowers for you as well as the bees.

  112. Hi NS: I just want to thank you for this blog site. I am new to Airdrie on an awkward lot in a brand new SE neighbourhood. My front window faces NW, a breezy full shaded area. With the back yard facing SE. A fenced yard with detached garage creating more shade, lol. Not sure where to start. I am open to pretty much anything and am getting itchy fingers to plant something. Would you have any insight on where to start? I have been planting lots of petunias & alysum in containers for last 2 summers and getting bored of these hardy plants. Of course always on a budget, joined a hort society here in town with no luck. So anything you may have to offer would be greatly appreciated. As is, your wealth of information compiled here. I am looking forward to referring to your blog along my new journey. Thank you again, as I watch the flakes fall, hmmn, maybe it’s time to plant some nasturtium seeds for something to get my hands busy, lol! (PS: I’ve drawn out my lot to take to the nurseries, with photos of the sun time, to look for native local plants)

  113. Awesome article and great pictures!!! I am a visual person, so the photos are wonderful for me. I am going to use this article for ideas here in my Idaho flower beds and garden. Thanks so much for spending the time and effort to produce such a great article!!!!! :)

  114. Hi,

    What a great site. I live in Calgary Alberta and am starting a new garden from scratch as no landscaping done with my new house. I have a couple of questions if you have a few minutes.

    1. I have a section of garden (well, more like a path) that runs in between mine and the next door neighbors house. There will be very little sun (thinking perhaps a little when directly overhead in the middle of summer but generally very little / none). Are there any plants that you could recommend for a really shady area?

    2. In terms of combinations, are there any that you can suggest for both shady areas and for full sun areas? I have quite an extensive list of plants that I am considering but not really got too much thought on what would work best with each plant. See list at end. Thanks for any help you can offer and a great site!

    Brunnera Macrophylla,Achillea Millefolium, Anemone Pulsatilla, Aquilegia Alpina, Aster Alpinius, Astilbe aredsii,Campanula, rotundifolia,Campanula poscharskyana,Delphinium, Hemerocallis x, Lychnis chalcedonica, Iris sibirica, Malva sylvestris, Myosotis syvantica, Papaver alpinium, Paeonia,Phlox, Rudbeckia, Viola tricolor, Cionvallaria majalis, Ligularia stenocephala, Alyssum montanum, Digitalis purpurea, Cornus sericea, Hepatica nobilis, Chionodoxa forbesii, Tiarella , Cornus sericea, Echinops ritro, Monarda didyma, Penstemon Lonicera x browntii, Clematis x, Blue Lobelia, Lavatera, Cardinal flower, Hosta Patriot, Calendula, Cosmos Aster, Sweet peas, Sunflowers, Winterberry Shrub, Monkshood, Bleeding heart, lilly of the valley, foxglove

  115. The Lilly that you have in your garden looks like a wood lily, these lilies are almost extinct (they now have made it illegal to pick them since they do not grow in the wild very often if at all)it would be interesting to find out if this is what it could be. Hopefully you haven’t removed it.

  116. Thank you so very much , for all the Great different plants that I can grow in my garden. I have tried so many different ones but they had no flowers and just plan green leaves. There is so much new flowers out now . I have a garden 4ft x 36ft , and half is SHADE , so now I can try lots of new shade flowers . Thank you again.

    1. Lynn, you’re welcome. There are many great shade plants with pretty flowers. Here’s an article I just wrote about some small blue and white bulb flowers you can plant between your shade perennials to get some early spring colour into the garden. Some perennials that are flowering next in my spring shade garden are the Tiarella, bleeding hearts, Solomon’s seal, lily of the valley, and pulmonaria. I’m also just writing an article about the beautiful blue flowers of Hepatica nobilis that are flowering now, and it should be on the home page in a day or two. Good luck with your shade garden.

  117. Your site was not only beautiful but helpful and inspiring! We bought a home with 3 large old spruce trees… Nothing seemed to grow. But I have ideas now! Thanks for putting up such an informative page.

  118. What would you suggest planting for a person who does not have a green thumb. I had Hosta planted but the deer really liked them. We are on Lake superior in Wisconsin Lot of snow and cold. The gardens on on north side so not a lot of sun. Average about 6ft wide and 20 ft long. 2 of them. We really like the Hydrangea, Would they work?, Or any suggestion. Enjoyed reading all your suggestions,

    Thank you


  119. We have a new home with quite a few ferns in the front bed. As we are new to gardening we are wondering the best time to prun or cut back our ferns for the winter season

    1. Jim, I usually cut most of them back when they start to brown, when it gets cold. However, I don’t cut back the evergreen ones, like my Dryopteris expansa, as they will provide some colour in the garden until the snow covers them, and some green in early spring. The pictures in my article on early spring bulbs show how pretty the evergreen Dryopteris fronds look with the early bulbs.

  120. I’m trying to learn more about gardening in zone 3 for my friend who has a lakehouse on leech lake in Minnesota. I am forwarding her the link to your website, but had a question regarding vines…I saw in a previous comment that you said vines don’t do well there. Do you think the yellow flowered jasmine would work? It’s evergreen – perhaps called Jasminum nudiflorum?

  121. Such lovely pictures, informative descriptions, and great ideas. My home has pretty much only shady growing areas, and as a novice gardener, I was unsure what I could plant in those areas, but I have a lot of ideas now!

    Thanks so much. :)

    1. Meliisa, you’re welcome. If you want more detailed information on the plants you can search the site for the in depth articles. There are also lots of articles on additional ideas for the shade. Have fun gardening.

  122. Hi all, I live in the Kootenays and I would recommend that NO ONE PLANT CAMPANULA!!! You have it listed as a good garden plant but this plant is banned in many places because it is the worst plant to have in your garden. It is impossible to get rid of and takes over gardens completely. I had a couple of plants and now 5x3mm years later am considering moving or bring in pigs to root up my entire 3/4 of an acre yard. Do your research people nothing kills this plant and it will destroy your garden. There is a ton of information about CAMPANULA read up on it and don’t plant it!!!

    1. #241, Campanula is a big genus with a wide variety of species, from little dwarf plants to taller perennials, many of which are garden worthy. The individual species also vary in habit from well behaved to more rampant spreaders. The Campanula that I grow are beautiful and work well in the garden. There are a few that spread too much that I would never recommend, like Campanula rapunculoides, which is indeed invasive.

  123. Thank you for your blog. I live in northern Michigan (supposed to be zone 4 but we had some 37 below nights this winter). We usually have a good snow cover from lake effect snow, so we can sometimes get away with marginal zone 4 or even the occasional 5, but 3 is pretty safe. We just lost the last of our snow cover this week, so I am not sure what winter kill we have had. I am concerned because we have had Johnson’s blue geranium for the past 10 years and I am not sure it has survived this winter. Do you know how cranesbill’s of this variety overwinter in this climate? Do they die all the way back to the ground?
    Several years ago you talked about your recently planted Annabelle Hydrangea. I have had two in my garden, planted on either side of my water pump house on the east side of my property. The one on the northern side is huge, with 12 inch white blooms and has produced a volunteer on the northeast side of the pump house. The one on the southeast side is okay but quite a bit smaller, with only 6 inch blooms. Even in northern climates, this hydrangea seems to like shade. Deer are a problem in my yard, and this plant has been untouched. Thanks again, Carol

    1. Carol, my Johnson’s Blue Geranium dies back entirely for the winter, but comes up very reliably in spring, despite our very harsh winters. However, even though we have had an earlier spring than normal, it is not up yet, as it’s not usually one of the first perennials up. My Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is very similar, but has a longer bloom time, and a more sturdy habit.

      Your Annabelle Hydrangea seem to be doing great in your site. It’s good to know that it has survived the deer, too, as gardeners are always asking about which shade plants are deer-proof, since many people have their shade gardens at the edge of the woods, and they go with the territory.

  124. DO NOT put the bellflower in your garden!!! So pretty, but just this side of evil. It chokes out everything in it’s path and I think it is now a noxious plant in Alberta. It is called the bell from hell by many horticulturists and gardeners.

    It took me 3 years to dig it out of my flower beds and grass. Argggg.

  125. WOW
    Amazing blog. So much helpful information. I am a total newby gardener and I live in Fort St John BC. Similar climate to Edmonton.
    I love all the photos and the sharing of your experiences with them all.
    Thank you so much for this and keep it up please!!

  126. for 3 years now i’ve visited your site.i found it very informative.i followed your advice and based my newly minted art of gardening from it.thank you so just dont know how you have helped only regret was i didnt express my profound gratitude then till now.a busy housewife thats why…thanks aGAIN.more power to you.

  127. Thanks so much for the lovely website you’ve provided. I have massive expanses of gardens but only a small portion get full sun. I came to your website for ideas specifically for my back garden which is under the shade of a 40 year old cedar hedge and a massive basswood tree. I think of textures and foliage rather than flowers when I consider what to add to my shade garden. So far I have things such as: goatsbeard, hosta, trillium, solomon’s seal, astilbe, ostrich ferns, japanese ferns, cranesbill geranium. I also have two varieties of rhododendron, and a variegaed dogwood. I imagine that your gardens, given the photos you’ve shared, are magnificent. Thank you for giving me some ideas of what I might add to my garden, which are somewhat more hardy than some of the plants I have in my gardens. Happy gardening to you, and thanks again!

  128. I would love to be able to keep this page accessible to myself as I grow my new yard! I only wish you had a Pintrest Button! THank you for all the thorough local tips! :)

  129. hi hope you can help..i live in the bush..and have a lot of wild flowers as well as flowers i plant in my flower/rock gardens..i need info on transplanting some of the wild columbine i found.
    Also i have not been able to get any info on a high bush of leaves with 3 berries right in the center of each leaf..the leaves are in a rounded shape with the berries in the center..i can send a pic..but they do not appear till late fall..thx for any help..i have included my e-mail addy ..and can be reached that way also..Gail

  130. I love your site. I used to live in Fort St. John and found it so challenging to grow
    anything there but I too used many plants like yours to liven my yard. Your site is really
    nicely done.

    Thank you

  131. Hi. This is great!
    Any advice on which of the above would do for a somewhat shady vertical garden? Trying to come up with something creative (my wife is not a fan of lattice) for a privacy screen from the neighbors junky yard.

  132. Thanks so much for the great list, especially for shade plants. I think Winnipeg has a very similar climate so your list is very helpful for me to work on my shady areas. My biggest problem is a northwest facing slope where the snow gets peeled off by wind. Grass grows on it but it is tricky to mow, so I would like to plant a ground cover. The only thing I can come up with is a creeping juniper. Any suggestions?

    1. Susan, how large is the area? You could do a creeping juniper if it is not too dry. There are also a number of low growing Campanula (bellflowers) that might spread to cover the area.

  133. Thank so much for the information, I have booked marked this page ! lol

    One question are any of these growing around Evergreens ?

    Do you know of plants that can handle the shade,acidity and minimal watering to cover the
    bottom of Evergreens ?


    1. Ellie, I do have some growing under evergreens, but I give them some supplemental water. Here are some that seem to do very well without extra water. The Brunnera macropylla handle it well, and have very beautiful blue flowers in spring. The Hepatica nobilis (liver leaf) thrive with no problem. They are low growing plants with bright blue flower in early spring, too. Another perennial under the evergreens is Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ (foamflower). This particular Tiarella does exceptionally well under the conifers, and has light pink flowers in a bottle brush shape that bloom for quite a while. Cornus canadensis (bunchberry), which has white flowers doesn’t need any special attention. The bunchberry also gets red berries and coloured leaves in fall for some added interest.

  134. Hello Northern Shade – I can’t thank you enough for this website; the time spent on it, the thought and planning behind it, is generous. I have been a “viewer” for the last 4 years and your knowledge has been most helpful. Thank you. (This year, I am researching ideas on what to plant under an Amur Cherry tree.) Happy gardening to you.

  135. Hello Northern Shade,

    I really enjoyed your informative blog and pretty pictures – I just found it today when I was searching for plants to grow in deep shade. I am a gardener from Calgary.

    I don’t have much of a garden in the back because it’s mostly occupied by the garage, but I do have a garden box that sits pretty low on the ground. Do you think that most of the plants you showed here would come back the following year if I planted them this week? I’m just concerned that the plastic garden box won’t be enough protection for them with our winters.

    I plan on visiting your website again. Thanks!

    1. Diem, I would stick with perennials that are solidly zone 3, and not try any borderline ones. Can you put it on the ground in the fall? If so, you could cover it in the fall with leaves and a branch over top, and that could help to insulate it. One thing about the smaller soil ball of a planter, is that they are more likely to dry out, so you have to watch the soil moisture. Good luck with your planting.

  136. Thank you for your detailed descriptions! I’m not an experienced gardener, so heading out to buy shade-tolerant plants for my Edmonton yard was going to be a taxing process. It’s so great to have a local voice on this topic.

  137. This is an absolutely lovely website! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and knowledge! I am new in Canada and originally from Russia. Luckely for me the climat and the weather here in Alberta is very similar with the climat in the area of Russia I am from. In Russia almost all people have countryside houses with a piece of land which we call “dacha” We grow all kind of vegetables berries fruit and of course flowers. All the flowers I saw on your webside I am familiar with but I am still learning the name of the plans and flowers and looking for a place to buy some to plant. I live in Fort McMurray and the only decent place for getting the plants and flowers is Danvegan Gardens, its pretty good but we will be heading to Edmonton soon and I thought it would be nice to go and get some plants in Edmonton I guess there are some really good nurseries there. the only problem is that I dont know where its better to go…maybe you can give me a hint, please. Thank you very much in advance

    1. Hi Elena, welcome to Canadian gardening. I hope that your house and property are safe, and weren’t damaged in the fire. The selection of perennials available will be smaller now, as we head in to August. One place that has a good variety of plants is Salisbury Greenhouse in Sherwood Park, on the east side of Edmonton. They are knowledgeable and are willing to answer your questions, too. If you are ever here in the spring, Salisbury offer a fantastic variety of bulbs. Greenland Garden Centre, which is Northeast of Edmonton on the highway, has a large variety of perennials, trees and shrubs, including a number of less commonly available shade plants. If you are visiting north east Edmonton, Kuhlman’s has many display greenhouses, with perennials, trees and shrubs. They have one of the largest collections of annuals, not that you’ll be looking for annuals this late in the season. A good place for trees and shrubs is Millcreek Nursery, which is on the far south east side of Edmonton, but they have a much smaller selection of perennials. Holes greenhouse, which is now the Enjoy Centre, has a variety of perennials, but are sometimes more expensive, and I preferred them at their old location, as the plants now seem secondary to their other businesses. It’s in St. Albert, on the northern edge of Edmonton.

      Enjoy your visit to Edmonton, and enjoy plant shopping.

  138. Thank you so much for your help :) we are very lucky that our house and area we live in is safe and not demaged at all. In Russia its very common to plant perennials in autumn but it seems like here you guys plant them even in summer time (we dont because its too hot and they usually have hard time to survive) Is the best time to buy them spring? As I noticed the spring starts in May and May can be very hot like this one thats way I decided to wait untill autumn to plant perennials :) :) but now the selection is not that great :) awayas I will learn how it works here… the sooner the better. We lived in Sherwood Park during the evacuation time and we enjoyed that place and Edmonton in general very much! I am very happy to find your website its really really helpful as well as yourself.

  139. Hi, I just found your informative page. I live 50 km south & east of Grande Prairie, similar climate to Edmonton. I have an east & south area. It gets morning sun but then the house blocks the sun in mid afternoon. I’d like so plant perennials & shrubs in the area. Maybe make a sitting space with a bench or chairs & – fountain. I have 2 rain barrels I’d like screened as well. Boundaries would be one garage wall, one part house wall & a sidewalk. Any suggestions for an attractive display of shrubs & perennials? I’m quite handicapped so it needs to be low maintenance. Thank you for any information.

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