There is more to shade gardening than hostas! In fact there are a number of North American native flowers for shady areas. On this Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone, I would like to share some shade wildflower successes from my zone 5 garden.
This is woodland phlox (P. divaricata). These have been blooming their heads off for a couple weeks now and they absolutely light up this shady border. They haven't spread to groundcover status as much as I would have hoped, but the flowers are so pretty I'm thinking of planting more to help connect the blobs I currently have. If you have shade that is at least sort of reliably moist, you should not miss out on these lovelies!
Heucheras are like the designer clothes of the plant world. Every season there is a new color and pattern that's all the rage. Now don't get me wrong, I like designer heucheras just as much as everyone else! I'm looking to add some 'Citronelle' or 'Lime Rickey' to this border. But I've also discovered the pleasures of native H. richardsonii.
You can see the foliage here; the words I think of are ruffly and textured. They're pure green and so mix well with everything. Their flower spikes get to about 2 feet tall with white flowers. Sorry for the blurry picture...I always struggle to photograph heuchera flower stalks. They like soil on the moist side so mine have struggled occasionally in this dry shade (nothing has stayed dry this spring so that's not a problem this year). Here they are co-mingling with columbine and lily of the valley.
Native columbines (Aquilegia canadensis) are a stalwart of the part sun/part shade garden. I cannot get enough of these plants. After they've flowered I really enjoy the bobbing seedheads and clover-like foliage too.
What are these little cloudlets of yellow? They're yellow pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima). These are some of the most underrated, unknown natives but you can see in the above photo that they play nice with spring classics like bleeding hearts...
...and with other natives like shooting starts (Dodecatheon meadia). Unlike ephemerals, taenidia keeps its foliage all year and its flowers last for months at a time. It's a member of the carrot family so I would assume it's a host plant for swallowtail butterflies (although I've never seen any on my plants). It's dealt with deep shade and extremely dry conditions and my plants have gotten better every year (in fact this year I added three more).
Since the flowers are so delicate and small I think they look best in drifts and definitely need to mixed with other more robust plants to fill in around them. The past few years my mix of taenidia and big-leaved aster (Eurybia macrophylla) has worked really well. The large aster leaves are a backdrop for the taenidia flowers, and once they're done the asters start blooming. If you have shade in zones 4 to 8 I have two words for you: grow taenidia!
Fore more wildflowers check out Clay and Limestone! This is a wonderful time to see the last of the ephemerals and early season wildflowers all around the country!