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Q: Which plants are good for shady yards?

A: If you have shady areas in your yard where nothing seems to grow, you don’t have to give up those dreams of vibrant blossoms. Shade gardens can be every bit as beautiful as those in sunny areas, and they have some advantages.

A cool and colorful hideaway out of the sun is a perfect spot for a tall ice tea and a good book, or a lazy nap in the hammock.

A variety of plants thrive in the shade. Ferns and hostas do well in shady spots, as do trees and shrubs such as dogwoods, flowering maples, boxwoods, myrtles, bush honeysuckles and St. John’s wort.

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Many creepers and vines are also shade lovers. English ivy, Boston ivy, and fox grape are just a few. There are some annuals that you can plant in the shade, as well. Wax begonias, impatients and periwinkle all like the shade. Bulbs that don’t like too much bright light include lilies, hyacinth, daffodils, bluebells and trillium.

You can also try perennials such as the marsh marigold, Lily of the valley, astilbe, clematis, primrose, pansy and lamb’s ear. The astilbe’s feathery plumes may look fragile, but this hardy perennial is the perfect choice for areas that don’t drain well because it thrives in consistently moist soil.

The bigroot geranium does well in shady areas, and it is unappealing to rabbits and deer. Another deer- and rabbit-resistant shade plant is the epimedium. The ground cover blooms in the spring in shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple or white, and it tolerates dry shade.

Hostas are among the showiest and easiest-to-grow of shade-loving plants. There are miniatures that remain only a couple of inches wide, or giants that can sprawl to 6 feet across. They have leaves in shades of green, blue, white, chartreuse and gold.

A great choice to plant near your hostas and astilbe is the dainty-yet-hardy bleeding heart. It will give you pink or white heart-shape flowers in late spring and early summer. Then, when it goes dormant and loses its foliage, the hostas and astilbe will provide cover so you don’t have bare spots in the garden.

Toad lilies put on a great fall show, and their unique flowers are often compared to orchids. They are easy to grow and would look great behind a clump of medium-size hostas or fern-leafed bleeding hearts.

Consider adding a water feature to your shade garden. A bubbling fountain, trickling waterfall or small pond will help make the area a special place to spend time. You can make it a little oasis for the birds that visit by adding a birdhouse, bird feeder or birdbath — all of which are good for the birds and good for your garden.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to

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