One of the most common questions I get asked is this.

‘...what can I plant in my border – it is in the shade for most of the day and the soil is very dry...?’

It’s a good question. Plants require sunlight and water to grow, and by heavily restricting access to these vital elements most plants will just give up the ghost. However, this is not a very helpful answer and of course, there are always a few exceptions to every rule. Below is a list of evergreen plants that – with a little help – will cope in shady, dry conditions.

Just remember that although these plants will tolerate dry conditions, they are not cacti and as such will appreciate being watered every now and again!

A popular hardy perennial with evergreen, glossy leaves. Commonly known as ‘Elephant Ears’ this architectural plant is available in a wide range of colourful hybrids available. They can also make a great ground cover plant.

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Native to Eastern North America the Christmas Fern is a non-flowering, evergreen perennial. It will reach a height of 2 feet tall and the rhizomatous clumps will slowly grow to over 2’. It is very low maintenance and highly attractive with upright, evergreen foliage frond.

Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum)
An herb, long used medicinally, this perennial will tolerate dry shade once established. Growing about 12” with handsome, semi-evergreen foliage, comfrey does well under shrubs or small trees. Use comfrey in the shade garden and ways to use this early spring-flowering perennial plant.

Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium
Although not strictly evergreen, they will hold their leaves over winter. These popular cyclamen species will produce exquisite blooms from late winter to early spring. The leaves, which have silver patterning over dark green, and the flowers appear at the same time from tubers underground. Flower colour can vary from white to deep red. Mulch annually with leaf mould to help prevent the tubers from drying out during the heat of the summer and from the cold of winter. Both species have been given an Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Epimedium grandiflorum
A wide range of plants are available in this species from low-growing ground covers only 6” tall to much larger plants up to 2’ in height. Also known as Barrenwort, this perennial plant has foliage which can turn red or orange in the autumn and remain over winter providing winter interest.

Galanthus 'S. Arnott'
Another 'almost evergreen' choice.Whilst almost all snowdrops require a moist soil in order to thrive, Galanthus ‘S.Arnott does not. It produces flowers with a subtle fragrance, that are almost twice the size of common snowdrops, on stems that can reach 25cm (10in) tall.

Hypericum calycinum
This vigorous and spreading semi-evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves. It produces golden –yellow flowers up to 3 inches across through the summer and early autumn.is a fast-growing, spreading, semi-evergreen to evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves and yellow flowers throughout summer into early autumn is a fast-growing, spreading, semi-evergreen to evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves and yellow flowers throughout summer into early autumn. .

Liriope muscari 'Big Blue'
Predictably large with blue flowers. One of the best of the good flowering forms, to 40 cm tall and wide, evergreen.

Mahonia aquifolium
This is a suckering shrub with glossy, dark green, leathery foliage. Fragrant rich yellow flowers are produced in numerous dense clusters in March and April followed by blue/black berries. The variety ‘Atropurpurea’ has leaves which turn a rich-red-purple in winter.

Species from this family are well known for being hardy evergreens. They have unusual stemless leaves and while the flowers are inconspicuous they do display handsome, large red berries in the autumn on the female varieties.

Tellima grandiflora
This hardy evergreen is chiefly grown for its leaves which make good ground cover throughout the year. The variety ‘Forest frost ‘produces heavily mottled leaves which are to a burgundy colour, pink flowers in Spring.

Two species from this family of hardy evergreens are of particular interest – T. trifoliate and T. polyphylla. Happy in the shade they need a free-draining soil but these plants will die back if the soil dries out completely so enrich the soil before planting with plenty of organic matter.

Vinca major and Vinca minor
These popular ground cover evergreens are happy in any ordinary free draining soil. There are a number of varieties available flowering anytime from March until July.

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