In the table below are perennials that perform well in clay soil in our area. The table includes the basic information needed to help you site these plants properly. It also includes information on deer resistance and rabbit resistance. So far, I haven't seen deer in my garden and the deer information is from various sources that I have collected over the years. The rabbit resistance information is based on my own garden experience as I always seem to find plenty of rabbits in my garden. Here's how to interpret the information:
|Botanical Name-Common Name||Deer Resistant||Rabbit Resistant||Light Requirement||Soil Requirements|
|Acanthus - Bear's Breeches||no info||yes||sun to pt sh||well drained|
|Anemone - Anemone||yes||yes||pt sh||moist, organic, well drained|
|Ajuga - Bugleweed||yes||no info||pt sh to shade||infertile|
|Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura' - Peruvian Lily||no info||yes||sun to pt sh||organic, well drained|
|Aruncus - Goat's Beard||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||well drained|
|Asarum - Wild Ginger||no info||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic, well drained|
|Asclepias - Butterfly Weed||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist|
|Aster - Aster||yes||yes||sun||well drained|
|Baptisia - Wild Indigo||yes||yes||sun||infertile, well drained|
|Bergenia - Pig's Squeak||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist, organic|
|Brunnera - Dwarf Anchusa||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||well drained|
|Ceratostigma - Plumbago||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||well drained|
|Chelone - Turtlehead||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist, organic|
|Crocosmia - Monbretia||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist, organic, well drained|
|Dianthus gratianopolitanus - Cheddar Pinks||yes||no||sun||well drained|
|Dicentra - Bleeding Heart||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||organic, well drained|
|Digitalis grandiflora - Yellow Foxglove||yes||no||sun to pt sh||organic, well drained|
|Epimedium - Barrenwort||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic|
|Eupatorium - Joe Pye Weed||yes||no info||sun||moist|
|Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae - Robb's Spurge||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||dry, infertile, well drained|
|Galium odoratum - Sweet Woodruff||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||organic, well drained|
|Geranium cantabrigiense - Cambridge Geranium||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||organic, well drained|
|Geranium macrorrhizum - Bigroot Geranium||yes||no||sun to shade||organic, well drained|
|Geranium sanquineum - Cranesbill||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||organic, well drained|
|Geranium x oxonianum - Cranesbill||no info||yes||sun to shade||organic, well drained|
|Geranium phaeum - Dusky Cranesbill||no info||yes||pt sh to shade||organic, well drained|
|Helleborus - Hellebore||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic, well drained|
|Hemerocallis - daylily||favorite food||yes||sun||moist, well drained|
|Heuchera villosa - Fall Coral Bells||no info||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic, well drained|
|Heucherella tiarelloides||no info||yes||pt sh||moist, organic, well drained|
|Hosta - Plaintain-Lily||favorite food||no||pt sh||moist, organic|
|Iberis sempervirens - Candytuft||yes||yes||sun||well drained|
|Lamium maculatum - Spotted Deadnettle||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic, well drained|
|Lamiastrum galeobdolan 'Herman's Pride' - Yellow Archangel||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||well drained|
|Lavandula 'Dilly Dilly' - Lavender||yes||yes||sun||very well drained|
|Ligularia - Ligularia||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist, organic|
|Liriope - Lilyturf||yes||favorite food||sun to pt sh||moist, organic, well drained|
|Lychnis - chalcedonica||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist|
|Lysimachia - Loosestrife||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist|
|Monarda - Bee Balm||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||moist|
|Nepeta - Catmint||yes||yes||sun||well drained|
|Oenothera berlanderi 'Siskiyou' - Evening Primrose||yes||yes||sun to pt sh||infertile, well drained|
|Ophiopogon - Dwarf Mondo Grass||no info||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic, well drained|
|Persicaria virginiana 'Variegata' - Tovara||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic|
|Phlox subulata - Moss Phlox||no info||yes||sun||well drained|
|Phlox paniculata - Garden Phlox||favorite food||yes||sun||moist, organic|
|Polygonatum 'Variegatum' - Variegated Solomon's Seal||no info||yes||pt sh to shade||moist|
|Pulmonaria - Lungwort||yes||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic|
|Rodgersia henrici - Roger's Flower||no info||yes||sun to pt sh||moist|
|Rohdea japonica||no info||yes||pt sh to shade||moist, organic|
|Rudbeckia - Black-eyed Susan||yes||yes||sun||any|
|Solidago - Goldenrod||yes||yes||sun||well drained|
|Spigelia marilandica - Indian Pink||no info||yes||pt sh||moist, organic|
|Symphytum grandiflorum - Comfrey||no info||yes||pt sh to shade||well drained|
|Thalictrum - Meadow Rue||no info||yes||pt sh||moist, well drained|
|Thermopsis caroliniana - Carolina Lupine||no info||yes||sun to pt sh||well drained|
|Tradescantia - Spiderwort||no info||yes||sun to pt sh||moist|
|Tricyrtis formosana 'Sinonome' - Toad Lily||no info||yes||pt sh||moist, organic||Persicaria virginiana 'Variegata' (Syn. Tovara - Tovara||no info||yes||sun to pt sh||medium to wet|
|Vernonia - Ironweed||no info||yes||sun to pt sh||moist|
|Veronicastrum - Culver's Root||no info||yes||sun to pt shade||moist, well drained|
Many years ago I purchased a perennial called Tovara virginiana. I planted it on the shady side of one of my dogwood trees, and I ignored it. For the past few years, I've been looking for tough plants for shady places. There are not a lot of them as most plants for shade require moist soil. The soil in my garden is not moist, especially on the slope in the back. It dries out very fast even after a heavy rain.
One day I was looking around my garden for interesting plants to write about and I noticed Tovara and I remembered that I don't fertilize it and I don't water it unless its leaves are really drooping but it keeps coming back each year and covering a small patch of ground in back of the dogwood. I realized then that I had a jewel of a plant for dry, shady places.
As you can see from the picture, it has variegated leaves. The leaves are also fuzzy and therefore, rabbits ignore them--another plus! Tovara makes a nice, weed-free groundcover. It self seeds very little in my dry ground. Any unwanted seedlings are easily pulled out in the early spring when they are small. If it were grown in a moister or richer soil, it might selfseed more heavily. In late summer, narrow spikes of tiny, brilliant red flowers appear. It looks great planted where the late afternoon or early morning sun lights up the flowers. According to the Forest Farm catalog, Tovara grows in sun to part shade and in medium to wet soil. As I mentioned earlier, it grows for me in the shade of a dogwood in dry soil.
Combine Tovara with one of the green liriopes for leaf and color contrast. Its variegation would make a nice foil for the blue hostas such as Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' or the smaller Hosta 'Blue Cadet'.
There are two problems or "challenges" with this plant. One is what is its real name. Sometimes it is listed as Persicaria virginiana and sometimes it's listed as Tovara virginiana. It is not well known so many local nurseries may not carry it. A cultivar named 'Painter's Palette' was available at McLeans Nursery on Satyr Hill Road during the past summer. Both Forest Farm and Roslyn Nursery catalogs have it listed.
If you need a problem solver for shady places--especially for dry shade, this is one plant that may solve your shade problems. It did for me.
In general, astilbes are plants for moist, organic soil. They even do well when planted along a stream bank or near a boggy area. Over the years I've bought many cultivars of astilbes, hoping to find the one that would survive in the dry soil that makes up my garden. I love the soft look of their ferny leaves and delicate flowers and their bright colors. Actually, I still have the first astilbe I purchased–Astilbe japonica 'Deutschland' and it still blooms for me. But many others were planted and then disappeared when the weather got tougher than they were. I knew I shouldn't have purchased them but I like astilbes. What's a gardener to do?
Actually, I have found an astilbe that grows well and flowers well in my garden. Its name is Astilbe japonica 'Red Sentinel'. Now it grows in full sun and survives periods of drought. Of course, it's leaves shrivel and turn brown once the soil gets dry, but it still comes back the next year ready to put on a splendid display. 'Red Sentinel' is advertised to take drier conditions than most astilbes and I definitely agree with that.
It grows well, perhaps up to 30 inches across and up 24 inches high. The flowers are a dark, bright red. I have not noticed the bronzy tones in the foliage that is sometimes mentioned in articles and catalogs.
Astilbes look splendid with hostas with large leaves. A nice combination would be Astilbe japonica 'Red Sentinel' with Hosta 'Patriot', and Dicentra formosa 'Luxuriant' with a ground cover of Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver'. What a dream combo that would be for a part shade garden.
Besides Astilbe japonica 'Red Sentinel', I have found Astilbe 'Bridal Veil' to be drought tolerant as well. It's growing on the top of the hill with very little additional watering. I probably should move it where it would be growing under better conditions. It grows to 24 in. high and wide. 'Bridal Veil' would also look good in my combo.