Top 10 Colorful Plants for Shady, Clay Soil

colorful hardy geraniums

When imagining a dream garden, we often think of plants growing in rich, loose soil in a sunny location. There, we envision bees happily buzzing, hummingbirds “humming,” and butterflies fluttering among the blossoms.

But what if we need to brighten up an area shading a clay soil? Do we have to give up on beauty and those pretty pollinators? Not at all. Just choose the right plants and enjoy the uniquely refreshing joys of a shade garden.

With that in mind, here is a list of 10 shade-tolerant plants for clay soil. As you will see, many of these attract pollinators and discourage damage from foraging deer.

aquilegia for clay soilAquilegia (“Columbine”) are mound-forming plants that produce small, rounded leaves and tall stalks with colorful, bell-shaped, “fairy tale” blooms high above the foliage.
-Attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinators. (Songbirds like the seeds.)
-Highly resistant to damage from deer.
-Full sun to part shade.
-Bloom time: mid-spring to early-summer.
-Hardiness Zones: 3-8.

ajuga add color to shady areasAjuga (“Bugleweed”) are an evergreen, spreading ground cover that produces colorful leaves and short, vertical spikes of flowers held above its foliage.
-Highly attractive to bees.
-Resistant to damage from deer.
-Full sun to full shade.
-Bloom time: late spring.
-Hardiness Zones: 3-9.

add color to clay soil gardensAstilbe (“False Goat’s Beard”) are clump-forming, ferny-leafed plants that produce frothy plumes of colorful flowers.
-Attractive to butterflies and bees.
-Resistant to damage from deer.
-Part to full shade.
-Bloom time: early and late summer.
-Hardiness Zones: 3-8.

crocosmia for shady areasCrocosmia (“Montbretia”) are clump-forming plants that produce narrow, sword-shaped foliage and vividly colored flowers. Tubular-shaped blooms burst forth on wiry stems.
-Attractive to hummingbirds.
-Resistant to damage from deer.
-Full sun to part shade.
-Bloom time: late summer.
-Hardiness Zones: 5-9.

colorful hardy geraniumsHardy Geranium (“Cranesbill”) are a clump-forming plant with lobed leaves and small, cupped-shaped, colorful flowers.
-Attractive to bees and butterflies.
-Resistant to damage from deer.
-Full sun to part shade.
-Bloom time: spring to fall.
-Hardiness Zones: 3-9.

spurge plants for shadeEuphorbia (“Spurge”— NOT to be confused with the Baby’s Breath-like hybrid, “Diamond Frost” Euphorbia) are stout mounding plants with leafy stems, available in a wide range of varieties.
The succulent varieties are mainly grown for their attractive foliage with insignificant small flowers.
-Highly resistant to damage from deer.
-Full sun to part shade.
-Hardiness Zones: 4-9.

helleborus flowersHelleborus (“Lenten Rose”) are plants that produce toothed, leathery leaves and downward-facing, wild rose-like flowers.
-Attractive to bees and butterflies.
-Highly resistant to damage from deer.
-Part shade.
-Bloom time: early through late spring.
-Hardiness Zones: 5-9.

hosta plants add color to shady areasHosta (“Plantation Lily”) are low-growing, clump-forming plants grown mostly for their lovely foliage. They produce tall, flower-topped spires.
-Attractive to hummingbirds and bees.
-Part shade.
-Bloom time: early summer.
-Hardiness zones: 3-8.

gorgeous hydrangea flowersHydrangea are upright shrubs that produce leaves and flowers of different sizes and colors, depending upon the variety. They primarily bloom in blue, pink, purple, or white, and the acidity of the soil determines the shade of some varieties. There are 5 main types of hydrangeas and each one has its own distinctive blossoms.
-The Oakleaf varieties are especially attractive to bees and other pollinators.
-Some varieties are resistant to damage from deer.
-Full sun to part shade.
-Bloom time: spring to mid-summer, mid-summer to fall, depending upon variety.
-Hardiness zones: 3-9.

phlox plantsPhlox are mainly known as being either of the creeping or tall variety. They produce bright, colorful, disc-like flowers.
-Attractive to butterflies and other pollinators.
-Full sun to part shade.
-Bloom time: spring or summer, depending upon the variety.
-Hardiness zones: 3-8.

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