Best Dry Shade Plants

Dry Shade Plants by Midwest Gardening.jpg

Finding plants that at least survive, if not thrive, in dry shade is difficult at best. Keep in mind while searching for appropriate plants and nurturing young plants in dry shade:

  • Plants that are native to your region or specific microclimate are generally best able to adapt to a variety of conditions.

  • Finding a plant suitable in region that is both dry tolerant and dense shade tolerant may not be possible but make sure it won't starve for both sun and water if it is not capable of tolerating both conditions.

  • Depending on the density of the shade and dryness of the soil, plants may remain small and blooming may be minimized.

  • Be sure to water young plants well until established.

  • Remember that soil, sun, moisture, nutrients and general climate conditions can vary greatly. A plant that thrives for a gardener friend may fail if your conditions are not similar.


Blue variegated foliage hosta perform best in dry shade. 'Gold Standard', 'Francee', 'Krossa Regal' and 'Sir Frances William' will tolerate dry shade quite well.


The best Bleeding Heart for dry shade are the species formosa ('Luxuriant') and spectabilis (the old-fashioned Bleeding Hearts).

Solomon's Seal

These woodland and meadow wildflowers do prefer some sun and moist soil but will spread slowly in dry shade.

Early Meadow Rue

A woodland native that actually thrives in dry shade. Grown primarily for foliage it does produce subtle airy blooms.


Most foxglove prefer moist rich soil but will survive but languish in dry shade. The Willow-leaf foxglove (Digitalis obscura) is the most tolerant of the foxglove.


'Stella d'Oro' is very adaptable but blooming will be minimal at best in dense shade


Lungwort are dry shade tolerant but need adequate moisture in hot summer months. Often will fare better through summers in the North and Midwest.


Native to rocky cliffs, Coral Bells do not like wet soil and prefer shade. However, to find a Coral Bell that will thrive in both dense shade and dry soil is difficult at best. The dry soil is actually a bigger obstacle than you might think, preferring at least a rich and evenly moist environment. However I have had good luck, so far, with 'Berry Smoothie'.

Big Root Geraniums

They do prefer moist soil but will do quite well in dry conditions. The best cultivars for dry shade are 'Bevan's Variety', 'Ingwersen's Variety', 'Spessart'.


'Biokovo', 'Bevin' and 'Karmina' prefer compost rich soil but will tolerate dry shade fairly well.

Tiarella Foamflower

Foamflower will thrive in a moist bed but will tolerate dry shade. Dense shade is not as much of an issue as dry soil.


Best varieties for dry shade are 'Jack Frost' and 'Variegata'


var. robbiae will thrive in the dry shade of trees.


Best cultivars are 'Pink Frost', 'Ivory Prince'

Sharon DwyerComment