Dry Shade Plants

It's important to first assess the type of shade you are dealing with - not all shade is equal!  There are varying degrees of shade; partial, dappled, bright indirect light, and full to deep shade.  Typically plants preferring partial sun/shade conditions want morning sun and afternoon shade, especially in our hot/dry climate.  A select few can tolerate the opposite - morning shade and late afternoon sun, or shade throughout the day with a few blasting hours in the middle.   Part sun/shade loving plants placed in too much shade will grow thinner, leggier and will bloom less.  Also consider other constraints like excessive needle/leaf drop that can smother daintier plants, rain shadows, drying winds and reflected heat.  As with all drought tolerant plants, getting them established is crucial to longterm success.  Just because they tolerate drier conditions doesn't mean you don't need to water them!  Deep but infrequent soaks are the way to establish deep root systems that will hold up better in hot/dry weather.  Some plants inherently have shallow root systems which, to our benefit, helps them adapt to areas with heavy root competition.  These plants may require more frequent watering in the warmer months until they are well established.  And remember - dry shade is one of the toughest conditions to garden in, so if your plants are less than vigorous it's par for the course!

**Notes plants that are tolerant of full shade  (otherwise figure a few hours of morning sun would be preferable for better growth/bloom)

Ferns | Grasses and Grass-like Plants | Perennials | Shrubs | Trees | Vines
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  Botanical Name

  Common Name


Blechnum spicant Deer Fern **Native 
Cyrtomium fortunei Hardy Holly Fern **Bold, glossy foliage 
Dryopteris erythrosora Autumn Fern **Coppery new growth 
Polystichum munitum Western Sword Fern  **Native 
Polystichum polyblepharum Tassle Fern ** 
Polystichum setiferum Alaska Fern  **Native 
Carex glauca 'Blue Zinger'  Blue Sedge   Ever-blue colonizer 
Carex pensylvanica Pennsylvania Sedge  No-mow woodland meadow 
Deschampsia caespitosa Tufted Hair Grass Native, showy inflorescence
Festuca californica California Fescue  CA Native, blue toned foliage, great under oaks
Liriope spp. Lily Turf **Purple blooms in fall.  L. spicata is a creeping/colonizing species that would be most aggressive
Ophiopogon japonica  Japanese Mondo Grass  **Great en-masse, 'Dwarf' selection forms a carpet 
Reineckia carnea Chinese Reineckia **Unique pink blooms in fall
Acanthus mollis/spinosus Bears Breech Impressively tall flower spikes, bold foliage 
Ajuga reptans Bugleweed Purple/blue flowers, many colorful foliage selections 
Asarum spp. Wild Ginger **A few native species, plus others
Aspidistra elatior Cast Iron Plant **Bold foliage, tough disposition 
Bergenia spp. Heartleaf Bergenia/Pigsqeak Bold, glossy foliage 
Brunnera macrophylla Siberian Bugloss/Heartleaf Brunnera **Early spring electric blue flowers 
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides Leadwort/Hardy Plumbago Blue flowers in fall + burgundy fall color 
Convallaria majalis Lily of the Valley **Toxic, there is a variegated form too! 
Cyclamen coum, hederifolium Hardy Cyclamen **Blooms late winter/spring, beautiful foliage 
Dicentra formosa  Fringed Bleeding Heart   **Native     
Epimedium spp. Bishop's Hat **Exquisite foliage flowers, so many species and cultivars  
Erigeron pulchellus  Robin's Plantain/Fleabane 'Lynhaven Carpet', mat forming Eastern Native, cute daisies
Euphorbia amygdaloides Wood Spurge 'Purpurea' and E. v. robbiae - chartreuse flowers
Fragaria vesca Wild Strawberry (Alpine) **Alpine woodland native 
Galium odoratum  Sweet Woodruff  Classic cottagey groundcover 
Geranium spp.  (like G. cantabrigiense and G. macrorrhizum) Hardy Geranium Scented species are usually deer resistant  
Helleborus spp. Lenten/ Christmas/Niger Rose **Late winter blooming, evergreen 
Hernaria glabra Rupturewort Great alternative to Irish/Scotch Moss 
Heuchera spp. and hybrids Coral Bells Too many colorful options to count, hummers love red flowers 
Hosta hybrids Hosta Stick w/green or blue leaf forms, get well established 
Hypericum calycinum St. John's Wort Yellow flowers, aggressive groundcover
Iris chrysophylla, bracteata Yellowleaf and Siskiyou Iris Native, lovely spring ephemerals
Lamium maculatum Dead nettle  
Lamiastrum g. 'Herman's Pride' Yellow Archangel/Dead Nettle Great frosted foliage 
Lysimachia nummularia Creeping Jenny   
Pachysandra terminalis Japanese Pachysandra **Evergreen ground cover 
Polygonatum odoratum Fragrant Solomon's Seal **Beautiful foliage 
Pulmonaria spp. and hybrids Lungwort Papery pink/blue flowers, spreading habit 
Rubus calcynoides Creeping Bramble/Raspberry Tough! 
Sedum s. 'Cape Blanco' Stonecrop  Selection of native species, evergreen, great color 
Stachys coccinea Coral Hedgenettle Fragrant foliage, attracts hummers 
Vinca minor Periwinkle **Aggressive 
Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' Compact Strawberry Tree **Blooms and fruit ripens in fall 
Arctostaphylos ssp.  Manzanita  Many coastal species/selections tolerate part shade 
Aucuba japonica Japanese Aucuba  **
Berberis darwinii  Darwin's Evergreen Barberry Great for wildlife 
Buxus spp. Boxwood ** 
Carpenteria californica  Bush Anemone Endemic to CA Sierra foothills, fragrant white blooms 
Ceanothus gloriosus  Pt. Reyes Blue Blossom/Wild Lilac Attracts pollinators/birds 
Cephalotaxus harringtonia Japanese Plum Yew ** 
Choisya ternata Mexican Orange Fragrant flowers 
Cotoneaster dammeri Bearberry  
Daphne spp.  Daphne Fragrant flowers 
Elaeagnus ebbingei 'Gilt Edge' Variegated Silverberry **Fragrant flowers in fall, good wildlife plant 
Elaeagnus pungens 'Clemson's Variegated' and 'Hosoba Fukurin' Variegated Silverberry Fragrant flowers in fall, good wildlife plant
Euonymous fortunei Winter creeper Many different variegated selections 
Fatshedera lizei Tree Ivy **Unique hybrid, upright, trainable in tough spots 
Fatsia japonica Japanese Aralia **Late fall blooms attract pollinators, tropical foliage 
Garrya elliptica, fremontii Silk-Tassel Native, winter blooming
Hebe spp.  Hebe  Be sure to select only hardy species (Z 7 )
Holodiscus discolor Ocean Spray Native, excellent for wildlife 
Hydrangea quersifolia Oakleaf Hydrangea Toughest Hydrangea, Eastern native. Many seasons of interest - long lasting late summer blooms, fall color, peeling bark
Ilex crenata  Japanese Holly **Attracts pollinators 
Ilex spp. Holly  
Juniperus conferta Shore Juniper Great color/texture, A-typical for the genus
Kerria japonica Kerria **Golden yellow blooms, green stems 
Mahonia spp.  (M. aquifolium, M. nervosa, M. repens) Oregon Grape **Native, great for wildlife 
Mahonia hybrids Mahonia (like 'Charity' & 'Soft Caress')  
Myrica californica Pacific Wax Myrtle Coastal native, nitrogen fixing, wildlife 
Nandina domestica  Heavenly Bamboo ** 
Osmanthus heterophyllus Hollyleaf Osmanthus (great cultivars) **Fragrant flowers fall/winter, many cultivars 
Osmerea burkwoodii Burkwood False Holly Fragrant flowers 
 Rhamnus californica CA Coffeeberry Coastal native, great for wildlife 
Rhamnus tomentella  Hoary Coffeeberry  Native to higher elevations, larger w/bluer foliage
Ribes aureum  Golden Currant Native, nice fall color
Ribes nevadense Sierra Flowering Currant Native 
Ribes roezlii Sierra Gooseberry Native, thorny, cutest mini-fuchsia like flowers
Ribes sanguineum Red Flowering Currant Native, super showy, hummers love
Sarcococca spp. Sweetbox **Fragrant flowers in winter.  S. hookeriana v. humilis colonizes and will be more vigorous
Sorbaria sorbifolia Ural False Spirea Colonizer, great foliage
Spirea betulifolia Birch Leaf Spirea Clay tolerant, white flowers, colorful foliage spring/fall.  'Tor' and 'Glow Girl' are great cultivars
Symphoricarpos alba  Snow Berry  **Native, colonizer, good for wildlife 
Taxus x media Yew **Evergreen, many cultivars/shapes/sizes
Viburnum davidii Viburnum davidii  
Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree  
Acer circinatum/glabrum Vine/Rocky Mountain Maple Native 
Lonicera ciliosa Orange/Trumpet Honeysuckle Native, great for wildlife
Trachelospermum asiaticum Asiatic  Jasmine Ground cover vine