Get to know your garden intimately-part 4-Moist soil with shade

Dicksonia antarctica

Palm house Kew gardens
Palm house Kew gardens | Source

The importance of soil.

" Did you ever ponder over the great vital importance of soil ?. Take it away from this planet we are living on and what would happen? All vegetation would disappear within a season, the streams would cease to carry any fertility into the ocean. In time the fish of the sea would be no more. When the store houses were exhausted of their supplies, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air depleted, man would surely perish."

" So it can be truthfully be said that soil is the source of wealth and life and that all values,even our existence depends on soil"

James E Randell, Indianapolis 1922.


In part one of this series we ascertained which aspect our garden was facing,we found out by doing tests which type of soil we had,ie, Clay,sandy,peaty etc. We tested our soil to see if the soil was acidic ,neutral or alkaline. by doing a pH test. In part two we looked at plants that would thrive in acidic and clay soils. In part three we looked at the plants that would survive well in sandy soils and here in part four we look at plants well suited for moist ground with shade.

This combination requires a good choice of plants for such situations. The wrong choice will result in a failure and often it can be an expensive mistake.

Osmunda claytonia

Taken in Quebec Canada.
Taken in Quebec Canada. | Source

Looking at ferns.

Osmunda is a genus of ferns which are deciduous and fully hardy and many of this genus require moist shade so are perfect for our situation..

Osmunda claytonia {pictured above} is a grand subject for such conditions. It grows to the height of two feet { 60 cm } and has a spread of one foot {30 cm} so is a quite compact fern. It produces pale green fronds,divided into oblong,blunt pinnae. The outer sterile fronds are larger than the inner fertile fronds. It is sometimes referred to as the interrupted fern.

Osmundia regalis the Royal fern will tolerate partial shade but requires moist soil. It is another deciduous fern with elegant, broadly oval to oblong, divided bright green fronds, pinkish when young. Mature plants produce rust brown fertile flower spikes at the ends of the taller fronds. They attain the height of two metres { six feet} with a spread of one meter { 3feet} they make a prominent display.

Other ferns in this genus are Athyrium japponicum which needs full shade and Ploypodium vulgare varieties which also need full shade. Cryptogramma crispa needs moist acidic soil, but will tolerate partial shade. { Pictured below}

The much more lavish and architectural plants, for this situation, include the Tree fern Dicksonia arnarctica {see lead photograph above} these are very large and very expensive and great care is required to maintain them.

Cryptogramma crispa

Taken in France.
Taken in France. | Source

Actaea pachypoda

uploaded to commons by MPF
uploaded to commons by MPF | Source

Perennials Biennials and Annuals.

Actaea pachypoda also referred to as Actaea alba, is known by the common names of Dolls eyes and White Baneberry. It is a compact,clump forming perennial with spikes of small white . The flowers appear in summer and are followed by clusters of white berries in the autumn. The berries are borne on stiff,fleshy stalks.

The plants can reach the height of one meter {three feet+} with a spread of twenty inches {50 cm }. This species tolerates full shade and thrives in moist soil. It is fully hardy up to -15C.

Begonia is a genus of evergreen or deciduous shrubs and small tree-like plants ,perennials and annuals grown for their colourful flowers or/and their ornamental leaves. Begonia Rex {Most of them} are a group of evergreen rhizomatous begonias though some have a tuberous character. Begonia Rex begonias are grown for their attractive foliage. Some will tolerate partial shade and moist but well drained soils.

Begonia Rex variety Imperator. Illustration.


Calathea zebrina is grown for its ornamental foliage.

Taken at the Botanical Gardens in Heildelburg.
Taken at the Botanical Gardens in Heildelburg. | Source

Cardamine pentaphyllos 'habitus'



Calathea is a genus of evergreen perennials with brightly coloured and patterned leaves.However,they are frost tender. They prefer a shaded humid situation without fluctuations in temperature.

Calthea zebrina often referred to as the Zebra plant is a robust,evergreen,clump forming perennial. they produce long stalked, velvety, dark green leaves, up to two feet {60 cm} long,when planted in open ground they tend to grow less in length if put into containers, with paler veins and margins. It bears short spikes of white to pale purple flowers.

They attain the height of three feet {90 cm } as is the spread.

Cardamine is a genus of plants which includes the wild cuckoo flower.cresses and other familiar wild flowers. Some are weeds but others are suitabl;e for informal gardens and woodland gardens. they are fully frost hardy and will tolerate semi-shade and moist soils.

Cardamine pentaphyllos { some times referred to as Dentaria pentaphylla.} is an upright perennial spreading by fleshy,horizontal rootstock. They produce clusters of large,white or pale purple flowers in spring. Twelve to twenty four inches {30 -60 cm } with a spread of eighteen to twenty four inches { 45 -60 cm }.

They tolerate partial shade and moist soil and they are frost hardy.

Trillium genus.

Trillium is a genus of plants in the Lily family indeed they are often referred to as the Wood Lily or trinity flower. They are perennial with petals,sepals and foliage that are borne in whorls of three.they are excellent plants for woodland gardens and shady areas. They enjoy fertile moist,preferably neutral to acidic soils. they may be propagated in late summer by division after the foliage has died down or by seed in autumn.

Trillium grandiflorum is also referred to as the Wake robin and is a clump forming perennial. It produces pure white flowers that turn pink with age and are borne singly in spring just above large three parted, dark green leaves.

They attain the height of fifteen inches { 38 cm }and have a spread of twelve inches {30 cm }.they are frost hardy and tolerate full shade and moist soil.

Trillium grandiflorum { Pink form}


Many species of Primula grow well in moist shady ground and are good companion plants to Vancouveria

originally posted on Flickr uploaded to Commons by Paul { talk}.
originally posted on Flickr uploaded to Commons by Paul { talk}. | Source

Vancouveria genus.

Vancouveria is a genus of perennials in the Beberidaceae family of plants. Some of them are evergreen suitable for ground cover and prefer partially shaded positions and moist peaty soils. They are fully frost hardy. they are propagated by division in spring.

Vancouveria hexandra, is often thought of as a large rockery plant. It is vigorous spreading perennial with open sprays of many tiny white flowers in late spring and early summer. The leaves are leathery and divided into almost hexagonal leaflets. They make excellent woodland ground cover.

They attain the height of eight inches { 20 cm }with a spread of indefinate length. It prefers partial shade and moist ground and goes well with species like Primula which are also great plants for moist shaded situations.

Flower of Vancouveria hexandra

Taken at Discovery Park Seattle USA.
Taken at Discovery Park Seattle USA. | Source


Hosta's are a genus of plants grown mainly for their decorative foliage. They form large ,often impressive clumps which ,when planted together, can form a good ground cover. they are fully hardy and most species prefer moist but well drained neutral soil and shade. They are propagated by division in spring.

They are sometimes referred to as Plantain Lilies and are popular garden plants. Hosta's can be from a few centimetres high to a height of three feet or more and some will produce clumps which will have spread of 1.5 metres { 5 feet} across within a few years. They are native to the east and add an exotic touch to waterside locations and to moist shady ground.

The foliage of Hosta species varies both in form and they are suitable for moist,but well drained soils {not wet or boggy} they are subject to attack by slugs and snails so some protection will be needed.

Hosta undulata and its varieties are good examples.

Hosta undulata

Uploaded to Commons via MPF.
Uploaded to Commons via MPF. | Source

Galanthus nivalis-the common snowdrop

Taken Jonava District Lithuania.
Taken Jonava District Lithuania. | Source

Bulb species for moist and shady ground

Shade and moist soil does not prevent us from having some colourful and beautiful flowers to enjoy. Here we look at a few selected examples. Galanthus {Snowdrops} have representatives which will suit are situation.

Galanthus elwesii is a late winter and early spring flowering bulb with semi erect,basal,grey-green leaves that widen gradually towards the tip. Each inner petal of the white flowers bears green marks at the apex and base which often are seen to merge.

The grow to the height of four to twelve inches {10-30 cm } with a spread of two to three inches {5-8 cm}. This lovely plant tolerates shade and requires moist soil. They are frost hardy.

Leucojum aestivum-the Summer Snowflake,is another flowering bulb with long strapped shaped, semi erect foliage which are basal by nature. The bulb produces long staked bell-shaped white flowers on leafless stems.

They will tolerate shade and moist soil and they are frost hardy.

Galanthus elwesii. Close up of flower.



As we can see having a moist shady garden { or moist shady area} does not prevent colourful displays of flowers and foliage to enjoy throughout the year. Moist ground, however, must not be mistaken for wet or boggy ground,for this would lead to the death or poor performance from most of the plants listed above and the latter situations need species ideally suited to them.

I hope the species above have inspired those with moist shady areas to grow plants. These are only species I have selected and they are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more species that will suit the situation including trees and shrubs. You can get advise from your Nursery or Garden centre.

The shrub-Viburnum x pragense will suit moist and shady areas.


More by this Author


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 19 months ago from Lancashire north west England Author


Hi Deb a little knowledge of the soil and the plants that will thrive in it will give the gardener a great chance to produce some great displays. Best wishes to you.

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

It is amazing what one can grow in all the different soils. You can still have a magnificent garden, and I am truly impressed.

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 20 months ago from Lancashire north west England Author


Hi Mary thank you for your kind comments and your votes. Both are truly appreciated. Best wishes to you.


Hello Devika, I hope your plans for your garden go well and I know we shall see some photographs later in the season as your garden develops. Thank you too, for the votes and kind comments .Best wishes to you.

DDE profile image

DDE 20 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Beautiful photos! I have prepared the garden for the new season and as yet not sure what to do. Sometimes the soil is dry. I have a different choice of planting this year. An excellent hub on such issues. Voted up, interesting and useful.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 20 months ago from New York

Very informative hub. I don't have the pleasure of having moist soil since it is totally sandy around here but I can grow Hosta! Ferns are so beautiful in their airy greenery.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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