Foliage Plants for Dry, Shady Gardens

Last Updated on December 16, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

One of the most challenging garden situations is under the roof hanging of a house, or against a tall fence which blocks rain and sun from a garden planter.

When gardeners find themselves dealing with a shady, dry area in the landscape it can be frustrating to find suitable plants that will not only survive, but also provide color and interest in the garden.

Colored Foliage Plants for Dry Shade Gardens

Sometimes color and interest comes in the form of brightly colored foliage. Plants like caladiums, ajuga and euonymous all have unique foliage to offer the gardener working with drought-like conditions.

Caladium Bulbs for Bold, Variegated Leaves

Caladium bulbs

Caladiums (Caladium) – Similar in appearance to elephant ears, caladium bulbs are usually grown as annuals in zone 7 and north. Caladiums will tolerate relatively dry conditions and will also grow well in the sandy, poor soils often found underneath house overhangs. Thanks to busy plant breeders, caladiums are available in a wide variety of leaf shapes and color, usually featuring tons of red, white and green.

Caladium bulbs planted after the last frost in spring may seem to get a late start on the growing season, taking a few weeks to leaf out to full potential. However the colorful display will not quit until after the first hard frost, often tolerating the earlier mild chills in the fall.

Ajuga Bugleweed Plants for Attractive Ground Cover Foliage in the Shade

ajuga plants

Ajuga or Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) – Ajuga is a great ground cover plant for dry, shady gardens. The foliage ranges from fairly non-descript, to variegated and splotched, to the deepest, chocolatey brown or purple-toned foliage. The bugleweed foliage can serve as an attractive backdrop for other shade tolerant plants and flowers.

Bugleweed is a perennial ground cover and has short flower spikes about 8 inches tall. Bugleweed is known to be a vigorous grower and will spread to cover the entire shady bed through runners unless edging or containers are used to contain it.

Euonymus Shrubs for Tall Shade Plants

Euonymus Golden shrubs

The euonymus shrubs are known to be tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions, soils and situations. These ornamental shrubs are grown for their foliage as the flowers are pale and unnoticeable. Euonymus shrubs can grow anywhere from 1-8 feet tall and wide, with a creeping or vining cultivar of particular interest for use as an alternative ground cover.

Many euonymus shrubs have variegated foliage with white edges on dark, medium or even lime green leaves. Gardeners should check plant labels and descriptions carefully to make sure they are getting the plant they want. Euonymus shrubs also tend to have colorful fall foliage and ornamental berries, making them even more attractive in the landscape.

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Jason is a respected home and garden expert and a well-established figure in the digital media industry. He is the founder of, a leading online platform providing high-quality content on home improvement, DIY projects, gardening, and more. His passion for creating engaging, value-driven content has made a go-to resource for home and garden enthusiasts. In addition to his work with KKMediaGroup, Jason co-founded, a website dedicated to offering practical advice and innovative ideas on farming, food, and family. His entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to sharing knowledge and expertise have played a significant role in the success of both platforms.