5 Plants for the Late Summer Shade Garden

Sunny borders can be wonderfully colorful, but when the heat of summer settles in, it is the comfort of the shade garden that I am drawn to. Hosta is now excluded from so many gardens due to its “appetizer for deer” reputation, so you might want to consider this short list of shade-tolerant plants that shine in August.

Hydrangea  arborescens ‘Haas Halo’... This lace cap selection of Smooth Aster boasts sturdy stems that can bear the weight of the large white blossoms.  This native shrub is a favorite of pollinators and grows 3-5′ tall and wide. Hardy in zones 3-9.

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’.…. It’s hard not to be impressed by a glowing golden specimen of Sun King Spikenard. This Aralia grows 4-6′ tall and we have 6-year-old clumps that are easily 6′ across.  (It might take a few years, but be ready…). In late summer white “Sputnik” flowers top the tall stems, followed by showy black fruit. Pollinators love this plant and the deer don’t. Hardy in zones 4-9.

Kirengeshoma palmata… I remember the first time I saw  Korean waxbells, looking very shrub-like in front of an antique farmhouse, fresh and in flower in August. Bold Maple like leaves are its main feature, but it does have soft yellow somewhat bell shaped flowers.  Slow growing at first,  but in about 4-5 years you will have a clump 4′ tall and 5′ wide. Oh, and yes, it is deer resistant. Hardy in zones  5-9.

Tricyrtis ‘Autumn Glow’ Toad lilies tend to get resentful if the soil isn’t evenly moist, but I have found ‘Autumn Glow’ more forgiving than most. The extra-large foliage has a wider band of gold than the other variegated forms, and the purplish orchid-like flowers are produced in profusion during August and September. Hardy in zones  5-9.

Hakonechloa macra aureola Japanese Forest Grass is simply rewarding. It clumps up, not too quickly, to healthy expanses  2-4′ across and its yellow and green variegated leaves brightens up shady corners and adds contrast to other bold foliage plants. The deer are not fond of Hakonechloa, but we are learning that the bunnies like to nibble its young shoots in the spring, so an application of repellent is in order by those who are being pestered. Hardy in zones 5-10.

Do you have a favorite late-summer plant that tolerates some shade? I’d love to hear your comments.


























































8 thoughts on “5 Plants for the Late Summer Shade Garden”

  1. Clethra alnifolia. In hot weather, I like to see white flowers. In my eastern MA garden, this shrub has abundant, very fragrant white blossoms in late July, in partial to full shade. It seems to tolerate anything, and its foliage looks fresh all summer. My plant suckers (it’s taken over a big part of the garden), so this year I got the smaller-format ‘Sixteen Candles.” It blossomed this year and looks great.

  2. Clethra alnifolia aka Summersweet is a great native shrub that offers pollinators including honeybees a great source of pollen and nectar! The seldom seen Japanese Tree Clethra is in bloom in my garden now and the honey and native bees are all over it, too!

  3. I like the various variegated Zingiber mioga (Silver arrow, white feather, dancing crane). My favorite “ground covers” are the Saxifraga stolonifera, and there are varieties with different leaf patterns. Similarly, I like the leaf patterns (and flowers) of the various perennial impatiens (pritzelii, omeiana, rothii).

  4. Looking at the details about Aralia Sun King, I see that it only works in partial shade, not total shade. I wonder if the amount of sun it gets affects the brightness of the leaf color. Does the foliage change in the fall?

  5. Kay, Aralia Sun King will not have the beautiful golden yellow color in deep shade, but more of a pale lime color, and the habit will be less dense. Still I am growing it in a spot that gets 2-3 hours of mid-late afternoon sun and it is stunning.

  6. I try to plant deer and rabbit resistant plants, but to say hosta’s are appetizers for deer is a little extreme. There are products that do a great job in keeping the deer away. My garden is surrounded by woods and the deer abound, the garden is overwhelmingly hosta, with a little preparation and the right products, the garden has remained deer free for several years.

  7. All 3 Clethra (alnifolia, acuminata and barbinervis) flowered at the same time this year in my shade garden and fragrance surrounded me everywhere since they are scattered throughout the garden. What a delight! I especially appreciate C. barbinervis because its season is extended to the whole year with that magnificent bark when grown as a small tree.
    But this time of the year (August in Asheville NC) the highlight is Begonia grandis both pink and white forms. I love the foliage with its red backs and the fresh apple green fronts as well. It has now seeded into a large mass, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

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