I have been visiting many shady gardens lately, where there hasn’t really been much scope for planting anything besides ferns and their relatives. This has made me stop and think about tough, reliable shade plants, natives for ground cover, lower layer and upper layer, that can co-exist underneath the canopy of large rainforest trees such as Lilly Pillys, Figs and Eucalypts.
Below is an example of a thick carpet of Doodia aspera which is a terrestrial fern that spreads by short-creeping rhizomes and erect fronds, it has bright red new leaves adding some contrast to a shady planting. Behind that is Pteris umbrosa which has an almost shrub like habit, this fern is very hardy and will even withstand a little direct sunlight and grown to about 1.5 metres high and 2 metres wide.
These ferns grow well underneath Cyathea cooperi, shown below, this tree fern is often called the Australian Tree Fern and is one of the most popular ferns grown in home gardens. They are very quick growing and spread easily, often forming their own grove, the trunks are beautiful when clumped together, adding an interesting vertical element.
The last super hardy and stunning shady plant is Lepidozamia peroffskyana, every shady corner should have one! The specimen in the image below has had a little bit too much sun, which is where you can see the yellowing and they are VERY slow growing but worth the wait, as they make a wonderful feature.
Lepidozamia peroffskyana grows to about 2 metres across and will eventually develop a trunk, the fronds alone on this specimen would stand 2 metres tall, so make sure you leave lots of room for their weeping habit. I wouldn’t be waiting around for the trunk though….
There are of course many other tough, hardy shade loving natives but these 4 are my favourites for creating the structure and quick cover many people need when first starting out.