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Friday - April 17, 2015

From: Kansas City, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Native Plants for a Shaded Patio Container in Missouri
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


What kind of native plants would grow well in a pot on a fully shaded patio? I live in Kansas City, Missouri. The patio faces north and doesn't get any direct sunlight, but it gets lots of indirect light from its surroundings.


The first place to start in making a list of native plants for your shaded area is the Native Plant Database on the website. Put in the following search criteria: State = Missouri, habit = herb (for herbaceous), duration = perennial, light requirement = shade, soil moisture = dry, height = 1-3 feet. This search will reveal several plants to consider (not all are suitable).

Some of the ones that are better suited for a shaded container are:

Polygonatum biflorum (Smooth Solomon’s seal) The zig-zag arching stalks are from 1-5 ft. long. Nodding, greenish-white, tubular flowers hang in pairs from the axils of the oval, conspicuously veined leaves. Hanging from the leaf axils on an arching stem are a few (often 2) greenish-white, bell-like flowers. Blue berries follow the flowers of this perennial. The root is rhizomatous but non-colonizing.

The graceful arching stems and pendulous flowers (often hidden) characterize this common plant. Another, almost identical species, Hairy Solomon’s Seal (P. pubescens), is distinguished by minute hairs along veins on undersides of leaves. A much larger variety of this species, Great Solomon’s Seal (P. biflorum var. commutatum), has larger flowers, 2-10 per cluster, and may be 7 (2.1 m) tall. The rootstalk, or rhizome, of the Solomon’s Seal is jointed; the leaf stalk breaks away from it, leaving a distinctive scar said to resemble the official seal of King Solomon. Native Americans and colonists used the starchy rhizomes as food.

Pteridium aquilinum (Western bracken fern)  A very aggressive fern of worldwide distribution for dry woodlands. The only fern for most dry shade situations. Ideal for dry Post Oak (Quercus stellata) forests and pine forests. The tripartite, furry, silvery fiddleheads emerge in early spring. The roots colonize aggressively and extend deep in search of moisture, as far as 10 feet deep in some locations.

Scutellaria incana (Hoary Skullcap) Can grow at light levels from deep shade to full sun.

Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf sage) Lyreleaf sage is a strictly upright, hairy perennial, 1-2 ft. tall with a rosette of leaves at the base. The leaves are deeply 3-lobed, with a few simple leaves higher up on the stem. Large basal leaves are purple-tinged in the winter. This species has the typical square stem and 2-lipped blossom of the mints. Its pale-blue to violet, tubular flowers are arranged in whorls around the stem forming an interrupted, terminal spike. Each blossom is about 1 inch long. The 2-lobed lower lip is much longer than the upper, which has 3 lobes, the middle one forming a sort of hood. The sepals are purplish-brown.

Lyreleaf sage makes a great evergreen groundcover, with somewhat ajuga-like foliage and showy blue flowers in spring. It will reseed easily in loose, sandy soils and can form a solid cover with regular watering. It even takes mowing and can be walked on. The exposed lower lip of this and other salvias provides an excellent landing platform for bees. When a bee lands, the two stamens are tipped, and the insect is doused with pollen.

Lobelia spicata (Palespike lobelia) A single, slender stem rises 1-2 ft. from pale-spike lobelia’s small rosette of basal foliage. The stem bears a delicate spike of pale-blue, two-lipped flowers. Small, bilaterally symmetrical, lavender to purplish-blue to bluish-white flowers in an elongated, slender, spike-like cluster; stem leafy, often reddish and hairy at base, smooth above. Pale-spike lobelia is a perennial. This is a highly variable species with several varieties recognized by botanists.


From the Image Gallery

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Western bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum

Western bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum

Hoary skullcap
Scutellaria incana

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

Pale-spike lobelia
Lobelia spicata

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