The Random House Book of Plants for Shade


Plants for Shade is designed to help you choose and grow a selection of the best shrubs and flowers that will thrive in shady areas. Over 250 plants, varying from shrubs such as camellias, to perennials and small bulbs, are described and illustrated here.
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Plants for Shade is designed to help you choose and grow a selection of the best shrubs and flowers that will thrive in shady areas. Over 250 plants, varying from shrubs such as camellias, to perennials and small bulbs, are described and illustrated here.
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There are many different types of shade and an immense diversity of possible plants for individual requirements. This book is arranged roughly in flowering order, ending with examples of autumn colour, although we have kept groups of bulbs, shrubs and perennials together.

Many shrubs and spring-flowering bulbs grow well under deciduous trees before the leaves appear; early-flowering bulbs, which provide a reliable and intense display of colour, are happy grown in places that are covered by perennials in summer. Patches of vivid colour can be produced by shade-tolerant annuals and earlier by spring-flowering perennials. Foliage variety is important in any garden and certainly cannot be ignored in a shade garden where variegation creates stunning results.

It is important to define the limitations of the shaded area in question: is it dry or boggy; is it shaded only at certain times of the year; what is the soil like? Even the most hopelessly shaded area can be transformed, if one is aware of its restrictions and chooses plants accordingly.

The Text

We have kept the language of the text simple, explaining any complicated terms as we go along. Common names are given in Roman print, Latin names in italics; synonyms (syn(s).) - other names for the same plant are given in brackets. Plants are categorized as either evergreen or deciduous, the overall size is noted, together with dimensions of flowers and leaves. Hardiness, in farenheit, centigrade and US zones is given, and we have specified the origin of the plant, sometimes describing the native habitat in more detail.

Planting Help

Each individualplant or group of plants is further illuminated by a section called Planting Help which gives hints on planting, propagation, pests and diseases.


Soil can be either heavy with a high proportion of clay, or light with a high proportion of sand or fine gravel. Soil can be either humus-rich, comprising peat and dark soils, or humus-poor comprising sand, chalk or clay derived from subsoil; most soils benefit from the addition of humus. Another important factor is whether the soil is acid, neutral or alkaline; neutral or slightly alkaline soils may be made more acid by the addition of sulphur.


When planting shrubs and perennials, prepare the soil in advance by digging in organic matter, preferably leaf mould or rotted garden compost. After planting and watering, mulch with I-2in (2-5-5cm) of weed-free, organic matter. Leaf mould, leaves, bracken, coarse peat, bark chippings or even old newspapers covered with soil will help to prevent weeds and retain moisture. Liberal feeding with liquid fertilizer in spring after planting will ensure strong plants. Nowadays, shrubs are usually bought in pots and it is essential to soak them in water for an hour before planting if in loam, or overnight if in soil or peat.

As a general rule, bulbs should be planted when dormant. Plant in early autumn for spring-flowering bulbs, or in early spring for summer-flowering ones; to their own depth in heavy soil and twice or more than their own depth in light or dry soil. Soil fertility is unimportant if bulbs are planted for bedding and then discarded. However, if they are planted permanently or retained for future use, it is essential that the soil is fertile. Apply bone meal, chrysanthemum or rose fertilizer before planting or sprinkle on the surface immediately after planting.


Seed Some seeds require a cold period to induce germination; some do not germinate in the first or even the second year after planting. Seedlings are best potted as soon as possible, so they make good growth before their first winter.

Cuttings Hardwood cuttings should be about 1ft (30cm) long and a small part of the bark should be scratched away at the base, or have a heel of the old wood. Place in sand or compost outdoors or in a shady frame in autumn - both shoots and roots should begin to grow in spring.

Take softwood cuttings as soon as the wood has begun to harden; too soon and the shoot will collapse, too late and the shoot is woody and will not form roots easily. Mist propagation has proved the greatest help in rooting softwood cuttings, and mist combined with bottom heat and the right degree of shading will induce many of the most difficult subjects, such as deciduous azaleas, to root.

Division Most perennials are easily propagated by division of the clumps; in spring in wet climates or in autumn in climates where spring and summer are rather dry. Dig up the clumps and either break apart by hand, or force apart by inserting two forks back to back and lever the clump apart.

A daffodil, hyacinth or allium can be induced to form bulblets by making a cross in the base of the bulb and inserting a small stone to keep the sides apart. Few-scaled bulbs, such as fritillaries, can easily be increased by breaking scales apart and planting each separately. In many-scaled bulbs, such as lilies, single scales can be broken off and planted in loose peaty soil with the tip just above the surface. Corms are more difficult; crocuses can be induced to make more than one shoot by cutting out the single main shoot, stimulating production of buds on the edge of the corm. Tubers and rhizomes can sometimes be increased by cutting them into pieces, depending on the number of growing points. Tuberous roots will often make new plants if divided at their point of attachment.

Pests & Diseases

The healthier the plant, the less likely it is to suffer from pests and diseases3- a balanced supply of humus will usually ensure trouble-free gardening. Snails and slugs may be kept at bay by surrounding plants with a layer of grit, and a jar of old beer will also reduce their numbers. Surround bulbs with a layer of coarse sand when planting to keep small mammals from eating the bulbs.
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