Shade gardening can be a challenge, especially considering that most shady areas are the result of trees growing nearby, which produce acidic soil. The soil's acidity or alkalinity, also known as pH, dictates what types of plants will work best in your garden. If the pH is below 7.0, your soil is acidic. Fortunately, many shade-loving plants appreciate this type of soil.
Hostas and Ferns
Hostas are hardy perennials known for broad, striking foliage. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from several inches to as much as 8 feet in diameter. The Baby Bunting is an example of a miniature hosta, according to Ohio State University Extension, while the Blue Angel is one of the largest varieties, or cultivars. Hosta colors include blue, green, gold or yellow. Some cultivars have variegated leaves in shades of white, gold, yellow or light green. Hostas are a flowering plant, producing showy spikes of lavender or white flowers.
The fern is often associated with woodland areas, but not all types of ferns require the same conditions. Some varieties prefer tropical climates or alkaline soil. A few types of ferns that prefer full to partial shade and acidic soil include Christmas or sword ferns, lady ferns and shield ferns, according to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
The rhododendron is an evergreen shrub that thrives in shady conditions and acidic soil. The plant features large, thick green leaves and flowers that bloom in red, pink, yellow, white or purple. Azalea is in the same genus as rhododendron but is deciduous, meaning it tends to lose its leaves each year. Azalea flowers bloom in red, pink, purple, white, orange and gold.
Mountain laurel, the state flower of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, is an evergreen shrub known for clusters of star-shaped blooms in pink, red or white. It thrives in rocky or wooded areas.
The holly bush, famous for the dark green leaves and red berries often associated with Christmas wreaths, is an evergreen shrub that can thrive in acidic soil and moderate shade. Holly berries are mildly toxic and can produce nausea if ingested. The leaves of the mountain laurel and all parts of the rhododendron and azalea are toxic as well, according to TheFlowerExpert.com.
Ground covers can beautify a section of lawn in heavily shaded areas where grass simply cannot thrive. Examples include wintergreen and heath, both low-growing, evergreen plants, according to GardenListings.com. Wintergreen produces bright red autumn berries, while heath features red or white spring flowers.
Other plant options for slightly acidic soil include columbine, foxglove, Virginia bluebells, lily-of the-valley, pachysandra, trillium and periwinkle.
Melissa Moran has been writing professionally since 1989 in the radio, television, and newspaper industries. She owns a photography, web, and graphic design business and regularly contributes articles to the Scranton edition of examiner.com. Moran holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Gannon University in Erie, Pa.