Master Gardeners: Native plants that thrive in the shade | Master Gardener

One of the challenges many gardeners face is how to make shady spots look good. Fortunately, many beautiful, flowering native plants thrive in shade.

When you are planning your shade garden, analyze what kind of shade you’re dealing with. Is it deep, all-day shade, such as in a redwood or pine forest? Do you have full shade for part of the day from a fence or other structure, and then sun the rest of the day? Perhaps you have dappled shade from leafy trees with loose foliage or a trellis?

Different plants are appropriate for each type of shade. Also, do you have dry or moist shade? If your shady area has moist soil, you have the most choices. Even if you have dry shade, though, as many of us do, there are lovely, colorful choices.

Native plants suitable for shady areas range from low-growing ground covers to understory trees, such as dogwoods, which can grow up to 15 feet tall. Some are even deer resistant. To expand your options in dry shade areas, you can provide drip irrigation for plants needing some supplemental water. It’s also a good idea to mulch your shade garden toward the end of the rainy season to retain as much soil moisture as possible.

For ground covers for dry areas, consider coyote mint (Monardella villosa) and hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea). Coyote mint grows one to two feet tall and has a light minty fragrance with light purple globe-shaped flowers. Butterfly mint bush (Monardella subglabra) has deeper purple flowers. Hummingbird sage ranges in height from a few inches tall to those with flower spikes six feet tall. The flowers are typically red or pink.