By: Mary Ellen Ellis
Zone 8 shade gardening can be tricky, since plants need at least some sunlight to live and thrive. But, if you know which plants live in your climate and can tolerate only partial sun, you can easily create a beautiful garden.
While growing plants in the shade can be tricky, zone 8 is a temperate climate that gives you a lot of options. Stretching from parts of the Pacific Northwest, down to Texas and through the middle of the southeast up to North Carolina, this zone covers a large area of the U.S.
Make sure you know the specific needs of each plant you choose and give them the appropriate soil and watering level to help them thrive, even in the shade. Some of the common zone 8 shade plants will merely tolerate partial shade, while others will thrive with less sun. Know the difference so you can find the perfect place in your garden for each plant.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few of the more common examples of plants that will grow well both in the shade and in a zone 8 climate:
Ferns. Ferns are classic shade plants. They thrive in the forest with only dappled sunlight filtered through the trees. Some of the varieties that can grow in zone 8 include royal fern, ostrich fern, and cinnamon fern.
Hostas. This is one of the most popular shade plants for zone 8 as well as colder zones, and let’s face it – nothing quite beats a stand of hostas in the garden. These low-growing perennials come in a variety of sizes, shades and patterns of green, and are highly tolerant of shade.
Dogwood. For a shade-friendly shrub, consider dogwood. These compact, shrub-like trees produce beautiful spring flowers and several varieties thrive in zone 8. These include red dogwood, pink dogwood, and gray dogwood.
Foxglove. A pretty perennial flower, foxglove grows up to four feet tall (1 m.) and produces bell-shaped blooms in pink and white. They thrive in partial shade.
Ground covers. These are popular shade plants because they cover large areas of ground that are too shady for grass. Varieties that will grow in the zone 8 climate include:
Zone 8 shade gardening doesn’t have to be a challenge. You just need to know what to plant in partial shade, and this list should help you get started.
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This North American native plant is a tough survivor with gorgeous flowers. The leaves are lobed and heart-shaped with delicate frothy flowers, making it a wonderful addition to any garden. It is a semi-evergreen perennial that can add year-round color if you live in a mild or warm region.
Foamflowers grow best in dappled sunlight. This mimics the forest habitat it is native to. However, they can also survive in deep shade. You can plant them in rock gardens, as a groundcover, or in containers. You can also add variety by planting with other spring-blooming plants.
Foamflower grows best in zones 3-8.
For areas of your garden that aren't in full shade, these Aussie natives will work really well.
Helmholtzia glaberrima, the stream lily, is a wonderful Australian native shade plant that grows well in light and partial shade (and sunny spots). It will do well in most parts of Australia, from tropical to cool areas, though it'll only tolerate mild frosts. Despite growing from a bulb, it needs plenty of water and makes a great riverbank plant where it's useful for preventing erosion.
Liberia paniculata, grass flag, is a lovely rainforest plant that produces white flowers in spring. It's at home growing in most soil types in sub-tropical to cool areas. It prefers half or light shade with plenty of water and will tolerate mild frosts. If you want to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden, this is a great choice.
Hymenosporum flavum, native frangipani, tolerates dappled shade and prefers well-drained soil. It produces yellow, sweetly scented flowers that attract beneficial insects, butteflies, and bees during summer. It grows well in subtropical to cool parts of Australia and only tolerates very mild frosts.
Lomandra longifolias are popular Australian natives with people keen to attract local wildlife as they attract lizards and their flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects. They're pretty frost tolerant and drought resistant and will grow in partial shade or sun. They suit most parts of Australia from the subtropics down to cool areas, and are pretty happy in any kind of soil as long as it's well-drained and doesn't get too much water.