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2006 Top Ten Perennials for Shade & Sun

"The Georgia Perennial Plant Association has a membership of nearly 400 who range from first time gardeners to professionals. Their combined experience was solicited in a poll of the membership and resulted in Top Ten selections for sun and for shade. The chosen plants have shown their ability to thrive in the rigorous weather conditions of our Georgia climate.

The first poll taken, in 2002, resulted in many of the same winners! 2002 winners, repeating here, are noted by (2002) after their names."

Check out the AJC article "Top Perennials for Georgia" by Danny C. Flanders!


Click here to see the 20 SHADE Runner-ups chosen by the GPPA Members!

1 Helleborus x hybridus - Lenten Rose (2002)

Helleborus, also known as Helleborus orientalis, was the hands-down favorite for shade. Hellebores have become so popular that Piccadilly Farm in Bishop holds its own Hellebore Days festival each February. That’s when these low-growing evergreens with white, pink, mauve and deep rose blossoms come to life, blooming until late spring. Their evergreen foliage then graces the garden for the remainder of the year.

2 Hosta (2002)

Tied for second place again were the families of hostas and ferns, often grown together in shade gardens for their contrasting leaf forms. Both families of plants offer a diversity of forms, sizes and colors to please any gardener and fit any site.

3 Dryopteris erythrosora - Autumn Fern (2002)

The best of the fern group in GA gardens, Autumn Fern stands up to anything our climate throws at it. The erect, evergreen fronds remain attractive year-round and provide a graceful contrast to the bolder foliage in the garden. New, coppery fronds unfurl each spring and are responsible for its common name. Don’t be fooled by the small plants that are often available. This winner matures to a statuesque 2’.

4 Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' - Var. Solomon's Seal (2002)

Polygonatum, or Solomon's Seal, was chosen in its variegated form P. odoratum 'Variegatum' which displays wide ivory stripes on the edges of soft green leaves. It looks best mixed with solid green foliage of other shade lovers so that its distinctive variegation is not lost among other variegated hosta or other shade lovers.

5 Athyrium nipponicum - Japanese Painted Fern (2002)

Iridescent silver fronds with burgundy centers give this fern a very distinctive and colorful style. It is the perfect companion to blue leaved hosta and plants with purple foliage. While tolerant of heavy shade, the colors are more pronounced with a dose of morning sun.

6 Adiantum pedatum - Northern Maidenhair Fern (2002)

This fern is so delicate looking that you expect it to need coddling under glass but the truth is that this native fern is tough and forgiving. Given a woodland setting with filtered light it will spread slowly to make an elegant colony.

7 Tricyrtis - Toadlily

One-inch, orchid like flowers in shades of pink, lavender and plum cover cascading branches into late autumn. This perennial prefers morning light, so place it at the edge of shady areas instead of in deep shade to produce more flowers.

8 Epimedium 'Lilafee' etc - Barrenwort (2002)

Interest in Epimediums has been on the increase. The mostly evergreen perennials form well- controlled clumps. Given a shearing in late winter, the flowers pop up quickly, before the new foliage arrives, looking like beautiful small orchids on the wiry stems. New foliage, much of it marked with burgundy edges, takes over when the flowers fade and forms a reliable ground cover until time comes for its annual haircut. Varieties most often noted were 'Frohnleiten' with yellow blooms, 'Lilafee' with lavendar blooms, and ‘Niveum’ a white variety.”

9 Begonia grandis - Hardy Begonia

Looking just like its more tropical cousins, hardy begonia will easily withstand our winters and grow into a lovely colony. Colorful all season, the red-backed foliage is outstanding when backlit and the pink flowers appear in late summer and continue until frost. Provide morning sun if you want the best bloom and leaf color.

10 Phlox divaricata - Woodland Phlox (2002)

Spreading slowly in the woodland this native phlox creates an attractive deep green carpet that is covered each spring with a cloud of lightly fragrant blue or lavender flowers. Watching the butterflies visit the flowers is a great way to pass a spring day. Give it high light or morning sun to encourage the heaviest bloom.

Click here to see the 20 SHADE Runner-ups chosen by the GPPA Members!


SUN Top Ten

Click here to see the 20 SUN Runner-ups chosen by the GPPA Members!

1 Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus' etc - Coneflower

Long blooming and adaptable, coneflowers were the favorite choice for sun. The classic pink-purple forms are still the favorites but excellent white forms and the new sunset colors are also popular. Remember, these are prairie natives and perform best with plenty of sun and excellent drainage. Deadhead for continuous bloom.

2 Hemerocallis hybrids - Daylily (2002)

It is no surprise that daylilies of all sorts were chosen. Hemerocallis cultivars easily number in the thousands with hundreds of new introductions each year. Daylilies are among the easiest of perennials to hybridize and grow, with many recognized growers live in and around the metro area. Unable to choose among them, many respondents simply listed "hemerocallis- all of them"

3 Chrysanthemum superbum 'Becky' - Shasta Daisy (2002)

Shasta daisies are not always popular because of their tendency to flop, but this selection stands up tall and straight. A tough, reliable perennial, ‘Becky” performs best in full sun and lean conditions making this an excellent choice for tough areas. Deadheading will prolong the bloom.

4 Phlox paniculata 'David' etc - Garden Phlox (2002)

This tall phlox starts blooming in mid-summer and continues to frost with deadheading. Varieties noted included 'David', a white flowered form which has shown resistance to the mildew that often ruins the appearance of this plant in humid conditions. It is a strong stemmed plant that stands up well to wind and weather. Other varieties noted included lavender and pink 'Franz Shubert', deep pink 'Robert Poore' and 'Speed Limit 45', a selection that was found hanging around a highway sign by an attentive nursery grower.

5 Baptisia australis - Wild Blue Indigo (2002)

It is not surprising, after so many seasons of drought, that many native perennials made the list. Baptisia, with its distinctive blue-green foliage and brown seed capsules, has been a dependable performer. B. australis, with it's purplish blue spring flowers was favored, although B. alba, the white-flowered form, and the yellows, B. tinctoria and B. sphaerocarpa, are also worth trying. They all possess lupine like flowers on plants that grow better each year.”

6 Sedum 'Autumn Joy' - Autumn Joy Sedum

Popular for the soft green flower buds that are followed in fall by russet flower heads, this perennial is tough and drought tolerant. Give it plenty of sun with lean conditions and it will provide interest throughout the year.

7 Lantana 'Miss Huff' - Lantana

The hardiest of the lantanas, ‘Miss Huff’ can develop into a woody shrub covered all summer by thousands of butterfly attracting flowers. Cut it back each spring for a more compact form. It thrives in hot weather and hot sun.

8 Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' - Black Eyed Susan (2002)

This plant became ubiquitous in the rising popularity of grasses in the garden. The combination of the orange coneflowers, often called black-eyed susans, and native grasses was a low maintenance style that many municipalities found irresistible. Gardeners continue to find the coneflowers hard to pass up for big bursts of color. Professor Allan Armitage, University of Georgia horticulturist, noted in his book Herbaceous Perennial Plants, that there are likely few plants being offered that are truly the variety 'Goldsturm' which was originally introduced. Most plants offered now, he suspects, are grown from seed and have reverted to a variety which Armitage says is "fortunately,… almost as good."

9 Iris siberica - Siberian Iris

More delicate looking than the bearded iris, these iris are happy in a variety of conditions including damp sites and light shade. Full sun and good soil will suit them best and you will be rewarded with a drift of butterfly-like flowers in late spring.

10 Salvia gauranitica - Blue Anise Sage (2002)

Hardy salvias were highly ranked. These sage plants are not the annual bedding type seen standing in rows, but the diverse varieties that return year after year. Most often selected was S. guaranitica, a 36" tall plant offering violet blue fall flowers. This salvia is half hardy in the metro area which is at the edge of its climate preference, which extends south.

Click here to see the 20 SUN Runner-ups chosen by the GPPA Members!