The Best Perennials to Grow in the Shade: Short & Shady

One of the toughest plant assignments in any yard is underneath mature trees. Shade is one issue, but a bigger obstacle for any new plant is competing for moisture and nutrients with the much bigger and more established tree roots. Unless it’s a low-lying planting bed where rain drains in, this is typically a dry and shaded spot.

Depending on what kind and how big of a tree has the head start, the tree roots already could be occupying much of the physical space, too. One option is to cede to the competition and simply cover the root zone with mulch. But if you’d like some plant life covering the ground, lean toward species that are some of the best at tolerating dry shade and tree-root competition.


The glossy-leafed Japanese type (Pachysandra terminalis) is by far the most common version and is typically sold in inexpensive ground cover flats of small plants. It’s evergreen and gets small white flowers in spring. It’s hardy in Zones 4-8.


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Barrenwort (Epimedium)

This tough little mounding perennial with the heart-shaped leaves produces hanging, bell-shaped flowers of yellow or pink in spring. The leaves of some varieties add burgundy tinges in the spring and fall. Barrenworts are hardy in Zones 3-9.


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Golden star (Chrysogonum virginianum)

Another native, golden star gets its name from the star-shaped golden flowers it produces in late spring. Plants are semi-evergreen, fill in to make a 4-6 inch tall colony, and are hardy in Zones 5-9.

Golden Star

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