[Skip to Content]
University of Illinois Extension
Beyond Impatiens and Petunias

Perennials for Dry Shade

Dry shade usually refers to areas found under the canopy of large deciduous trees. Plants here compete for moisture with the trees and soils tend to be droughty. Areas such as this are difficult to successfully grow perennials. While the plants listed will grow under these conditions, they will do so only once established. This means they will need to be irrigated regularly to establish a good root system that is then able to compete for moisture successfully.


Siberian Forget-Me-Not

Siberian Forget-Me-Not - Brunnera macrophylla

Height: 12-18 inches.

Width: 12-18 inches.

Bloom: Blue, May-June.

Cultivars: 'Jack Frost', 'Variegata'.

Notes: Forget-me-not like flower clusters. Attractive foliage often with good fall color.


Big Root Geranium

Big Root Geranium - Geranium macrorrhizum

Height: 12-18 inches.

Width: 18-36 Inches.

Bloom: White, pink, magenta, May-June.

Cultivars: 'Bevan's Variety', 'Ingwersen's Variety', 'Spessart'.

Notes: Useful as a groundcover spreading by underground rhizomes.


Barrenwort

Barrenwort - Epimedium x rubrum

Height: 6-12 inches.

Width: 18-24 inches.

Bloom: red, white, lavender, May-June.

Cultivars: 'Lilafee', 'Frohnleiten', 'Rose Queen'.

Notes: Early spring bloom, attractive foliage and good fall color. Good as a slow growing groundcover.


Solomon's Seal

Solomon's Seal - Polygonatum sp.

Height: 2-3 feet.

Width: 18-24 inches.

Bloom: White, May-June.

Cultivars: 'Variegatum'.

Notes: Gracefull plant, good naturalizer.


Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel - Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Florentinum'

Height: 12-18 inches.

Width: 2-5 feet.

Bloom: yellow, Apr-May.

Notes: Attractive foliage, very useful groundcover under trees.


Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose - Helleborus hybridus

Height: 12-18 inches.

Width: 12-18 inches.

Bloom: Assorted colors, Mar-May.

Cultivars: 'Pink Frost', 'Ivory Prince'.

Notes: Long lived perennial, semi evergreen foliage, very early flowering, newer double flowered cultivars available.


Dixie Wood Fern

Dixie Wood Fern - Dryopteris x australis

Height: 3-5 feet.

Width: 2-3 feet.

Bloom: none.

Notes: Big, bold fern, spreads slowly.


Christmas Fern

Christmas Fern - Polystichuym acrostichoides

Height: 18-24 inches.

Width: 18-24 inches.

Bloom: none.

Notes: Semi evergreen fronds, attractive fiddle heads in spring.


Interrupted Fern

Interrupted Fern - Osmunda claytoniana

Height: 3-4 feet.

Width: 6-12 inches.

Bloom: none.

Notes: Tall upright fern. Also good for shaded rain garden.