Five Perennials For (Edible!) Shade Gardens



Fuchsia splendens (Franz Xaver via Wikipedia)
Alpine strawberry (Ranko Tomić via Wikipedia)

April 2, 2013

Since I had such a great response to the update of my shade gardens page last week, I decided to write about some perennials which really love shade.

Almost everyone loves hostas: these attractive plants have very nice structure and are wonderful as ground cover, in borders and around the base of trees. They like shade, and yes, the leaves are edible! (Mine taste just like lettuce.)

There is a wide variation in taste depending on species and variety of hosta, so taste a leaf first if you can before buying to make sure you like it.

The downside of hostas is that everything else likes to eat them too, so if you can, plant them in an area which is well-lit at night, which will deter rabbits and other four-legged pests.

Hostas are not recommended for wet areas (US Pacific Northwest and UK, I'm looking at you) as they are very prone to slug damage.

There are so many kinds of mint that you're certain to find a kind that you like -- as far as I know, all plants in the mint family are edible, although some taste better than others.

You can distinguish a plant in the mint family by its stem: all mints have a "square" stem that is quite distinctive. If you read about mint, everyone will tell you "mint can be invasive!" but mints are wonderful for a shady area where nothing else will grow.

Fuchsia is one of the most gorgeous shade plants I have ever seen, and would be perfect as a deep shade shrub or small understory tree.

All fuchsias have beautiful brightly colored flowers and edible fruit. The fruit taste varies depending on the species (and the fruit of some species are said to have an aftertaste that some people don't like), so try some fruit if you can before buying the plant. Fuchsia splendens and Fuchsia coccinea are said to taste the best.

The alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca 'Semperflorens') is a great shade groundcover to plant where nothing else will grow. If you want a lot of berries, put it in partial or dappled shade.

Alpine strawberries, as the name suggest, are very good for forested areas and planting under trees.

Blackberries (and other brambles such as raspberries, loganberries, and so on) will pretty much grow anywhere, but prefer shade and can become invasive if left unmanaged.

These plants are perfect for growing along walls, fences, and anywhere else with deep or partial shade. They have delicate white flowers in the spring which are quite attractive.

So what are your favorite edible shade perennials?

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