Plants for Very Dry Soil and Shade

E = evergreen; N = native to Maine

Celtis occidentalis Common Hackberry
Nyssa sylvatica N Black Gum
Ostrya virginiana N American Hophornbeam
Ptelea trifoliata Common Hoptree
Cornus racemosa N Gray Dogwood
Corylus americana N American Hazel
Corylus cornuta N Beaked Hazel
Diervilla lonicera N Dwarf Bush-honeysuckle
Physocarpus opulifolius Common Ninebark
Rhus aromatica Fragrant Sumac
Sambucus pubens N Scarlet Elder
Symphoricarpos albus Snowberry
Viburnum nudum (cassinoides) N Witherod Viburnum
Viburnum dentatum N Arrowwood Viburnum
Viburnum lantana Wayfaringtree Viburnum
Asarum canadense N Canadia Wildginger
Bergenia cordifolia E Pigsqueak
Microbiota decussata E Russian Cypress
Waldsteinia fragarioides N Barren Strawberry
Celastrus scandens N American Bittersweet
Clematis virginiana N Virgin’s Bower
Parthenocissus quinquefolia N Woodbine
Herbaceous Perennials:
Alchemilla mollis Lady’s Mantle
Anemone canadensis N Canada Anemone
Aquilegia canadensis N Columbine
Aquilegia x hybrida Columbine
Aruncus dioicus Goatsbeard
Athyrium filix-femina N Lady Fern
Brunnera macrophylla Siberian bugloss
Dennstaedtia punctilobula N Hay-scented Fern
Dryopteris marginata N Marginal Wood Fern
Epimedium species Barrenwort
Eurybia (Aster) divaricatus N White Wood Aster
Galanthus nivalis Snowdrops
Geranium species Cranesbill
Lilium philadelphicum N Wood Lily
Polygonatum biflorum N Solomon’s Seal
Sanguinaria canadensis N Bloodroot
Scilla sibirica Siberian Squill*
Viola pedata Bird’s-foot Violet
Myosotis sylvatica Annual Forget-me-not
Nemophila maculata Five-spot
Nemophila menziesii Baby Blue Eyes

*Considered invasive in Minnesota; see Squill for more information.


In shady sites with dry soil, plant choices are very limited. And, because shaded sites are often under trees, root competition limits space for planting and provides competition for the limited water in the soil.

Consider alternatives to plants in these sites:

  1. Allow natural processes to proceed, especially if the site’s canopy is evergreen trees. The needles that accumulate over the years form a duff layer that is attractive, prevents loss of water, reduces weed growth, and contributes to the organic matter in the soil over time.  This organic matter allows the soil to hold more water.
  2. Plant at the sunnier edges of woodlands. Woodland edges are very productive in terms of plant growth and support of pollinators and other wildlife.

From the GardenPro Answer Book; revised and updated by Lois Berg Stack, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.