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Fastest Growing Shade Plants

Updated on August 30, 2012

Fast shade plants

Plants that grow quickly in shady areas are a boon for ground cover in places that are sloped, muddy in rain, or located in hard-to-reach spots for the lawn mower. If you have a shady bare place to cover, consider some of these. Be careful with "fast" plants, though, because unless you have time to weed them out and cut them back frequently, they will quickly spread out of your planned area and suffocate less vigorous plants.

Establish the foundation of your shade bed with a mix of perennials like hostas, astilbe, and ferns, and add colourful annuals like impatiens and begonias. Add some self-seeders like aquilegia, and experiment with the others mentioned below to develop a garden you will enjoy for years.

1. Hostas come in many varieties, and are perennials. They are easy to divide in subsequent years, and can soon create a mass planting. Buy six or seven different varieties, and plant them in groups in the area you need to cover. they are herbaceous perennials, so they die back in fall and disappear under the ground. The varieties with white or golden highlights in the leaves need more sun to keep their brightness. In deep shade they will grow green.


Hosta

Hosta
Hosta | Source

2. Vinca Major, or Periwinkle, is a beautiful ground cover for shade, with glossy green leaves and purple star-shaped flowers in spring. Its stems spread along the ground rooting as they grow, so it covers ground quickly and needs to be kept in check.

Vinca's purple flowers with red-leaved Heuchera, tulip and Forsythia stems

Heuchera "Coral Bells" and Vinca in early spring.
Heuchera "Coral Bells" and Vinca in early spring. | Source

3. Piggy-back plant is a woodland plant native to coastal rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, and is often grown as a houseplant. It is a wonderful plant for a child's garden, because mature leaves sprout a baby leaf at the base where the leaf joins the petiole. If pressed to the ground and anchored with a stick or toothpick, the baby leaf will grow roots and become a new plant. It's a back-yard example of vegetative reproduction and cloning.

Piggy-back Plant

Piggy-back Plant
Piggy-back Plant | Source
Piggy-back plant, Aquilegia, and Lady-ferns
Piggy-back plant, Aquilegia, and Lady-ferns | Source
Heuchera "Coral Bells" in spring paired with Aquilegia, or Columbine
Heuchera "Coral Bells" in spring paired with Aquilegia, or Columbine | Source

4. Sweet Woodruff is fragrant, like sweet clover or sweet grass, and spreads easily from roots and seeds. It can become invasive, but is also easy to weed out.

5. Goutweed or Bishop's weed grows quickly even in deep shade, and has yellow, unremarkable racemes of flowers. Keep weeding it and cutting it back to the area where you want it. It unchecked, it becomes rampant, and is hard to get rid of, for every small piece of root left in the ground grows into a plant.

6. English Ivy spreads easily, and can climb stumps, fences, and trees. It can become invasive if not thinned and cut back. If left to climb trees, it will strangle the tree after years, and shorten the life of the tree, so keep it in check. Having said that, though, this plant is a great ground cover for wild areas of the yard, or to hold slopes. It doesn't need mowed, and looks green and neat.

7. Colourful impatiens is a bright annual with prolific flowers that needs a lot of water, and thrives in shade. It is beautiful in massed plantings, especially in shaped beds.

8. Dorinicum is a yellow flower in the daisy family which blooms year after year, and spreads slowly into clumps from the roots.


Dorinicum along a shady sidewalk
Dorinicum along a shady sidewalk | Source

9. Astillbe grows in part shade/part sun, and flowers well in open or dappled shade. It is also a perennial, and will emerge in spring year after year.

10. There are many varieties of ferns. They don't flower, but all have interesting foliage and look great massed with a group of astilbe or impatiens. Look into easy-to-grow varieties like Japanese painted ferns, lady ferns, sword ferns, deer ferns, and oak ferns, which spread by underground runners.


Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese painted fern, trillium and forget-me-nots in a shaded woodland garden.
Japanese painted fern, trillium and forget-me-nots in a shaded woodland garden. | Source

11. Aquilegia thrives in part shade/part sun, and self seeds, to come back year after year.

Aquilegia, or Columbine

Aquilegia flowers in pink, blue, white, yellow and orange, as well as bi-coloured varieties.
Aquilegia flowers in pink, blue, white, yellow and orange, as well as bi-coloured varieties. | Source

12. Bleeding heart is a perennial that spreads by underground runners and by divisions. It flowers earlier in sun or part sun, but will thrive in full shade too, flowering later in the season.

13. Tuberous begonias are gorgeous plants, with large bright flowers. They need lots of water and prefer a couple of hours of early morning or late afternoon sun. They need to be lifted before frost, then overwintered and replanted, and they are expensive to buy if you need a lot of them.



Tuberous Begonias for shade

Tuberous begonias thrive in shady, moist soil with some early morning or late afternoon sun.
Tuberous begonias thrive in shady, moist soil with some early morning or late afternoon sun. | Source
Tuberous begonias' large, showy flowers come in an array of colours--white, orange, yellow, red and magenta.
Tuberous begonias' large, showy flowers come in an array of colours--white, orange, yellow, red and magenta. | Source

Comments

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    • Janis Goad profile imageAUTHOR

      Janis Goad 

      6 years ago

      You are right--"fast growing" is not always a desirable characteristic!! In the lower mainland or British Columbia English Ivy is a native plant, and is good ground cover for slopes under forest transitioning to lawn. When it gets too dense, we run the lawn mower over it on a regular basis.

    • profile image

      Bob Deveny 

      6 years ago

      English Ivy? Are you insane? I've spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to eradicate this noxious invasive species from my certified backyard habitat.

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