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List of Perennials for Clay Soil          Persicaria virginiana 'Variegata'         
Astilbe japonica 'Red Sentinel'         

In the table below are perennials that perform very well in clay soil in our area. The table includes the basic information needed to help you site these plants properly. It also includes information on deer resistance and rabbit resistance. So far, I haven't seen deer in my garden and the deer information is from various sources that I have collected over the years. The rabbit resistance information is based on my own garden experience as I always seem to find plenty of rabbits in my garden. Here's how to interpret the information:

  • For both Deer Resistant and Rabbit Resistant headings:
    • yes - the plant is not usually eaten. It's possible, though, in some years the pest may eat the plant.
    • no info - there is no definite statement as to the plant's resistance.
    • no - the plant is eaten. Young plants may be eaten though.
    • favorite food - the plant is definitely eaten.
  • Light Requirement heading:
    • sun - 6 or more hours of direct sun each day.
    • pt sh - up to 6 hours of direct sun each day.
    • sun to pt sh - must have some direct sun each day. Flowers better in more direct sun.
    • shade - no direct sunlight.
    • pt sh to shade - less than 6 hours of direct sun to no direct sunlight.
    • sun to shade - will grow in any amount of light.
  • Soil Requirements heading:
    • moist - soil does not dry out quickly.
    • organic - soil has leaf mold or compost or other organic amendment.
    • well drained - soil does not remain soggy and rot the plant's roots.
    • infertile - opposite of organic - lacking soil amendments.

Botanical Name-Common Name Deer Resistant Rabbit Resistant Light Requirement Soil Requirements
Acanthus - Bear's Breeches no info yes sun to pt sh well drained
Anemone - Anemone yes yes pt sh moist, organic, well drained
Aquilegia 'Woodside Golden' - Columbine yes yes sun to pt sh moist, well drained
Ajuga - Bugleweed yes no info pt sh to shade infertile
Alstroemeria 'Sweet Laura' - Peruvian Lily no info yes sun to pt sh organic, well drained
Aruncus - Goat's Beard yes yes sun to pt sh well drained
Asarum - Wild Ginger no info yes pt sh to shade moist, organic, well drained
Asclepias - Butterfly Weed yes yes sun to pt sh moist
Aster - Aster yes yes sun well drained
Astilbe - False Spirea yes yes pt sh moist, organic
Baptisia - Wild Indigo yes yes sun infertile, well drained
Bergenia - Pig's Squeak yes yes sun to pt sh moist, organic
Brunnera - Dwarf Anchusa yes yes pt sh to shade well drained
Ceratostigma - Plumbago yes yes sun to pt sh well drained
Chelone - Turtlehead yes yes sun to pt sh moist, organic
Crocosmia - Monbretia yes yes sun to pt sh moist, organic, well drained
Dianthus gratianopolitanus - Cheddar Pinks yes no sun well drained
Dicentra - Bleeding Heart yes yes sun to pt sh organic, well drained
Digitalis grandiflora - Yellow Foxglove yes no sun to pt sh organic, well drained
Epimedium - Barrenwort yes yes pt sh to shade moist, organic
Eupatorium - Joe Pye Weed yes no info sun moist
Euphorbia palustris 'Wahlenburg's Glorie' - Euphorbia yes yes sun moist, well drained
Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae - Robb's Spurge yes yes pt sh to shade dry, infertile, well drained
Galium odoratum - Sweet Woodruff yes yes pt sh to shade organic, well drained
Geranium cantabrigiense - Cambridge Geranium yes yes sun to pt sh organic, well drained
Geranium macrorrhizum - Bigroot Geranium yes no sun to shade organic, well drained
Geranium sanquineum - Cranesbill yes yes sun to pt sh organic, well drained
Geranium x oxonianum - Cranesbill no info yes sun to shade organic, well drained
Geranium phaeum - Dusky Cranesbill no info yes pt sh to shade organic, well drained
Helleborus - Hellebore yes yes pt sh to shade moist, organic, well drained
Hemerocallis - daylily favorite food yes sun moist, well drained
Helenium - Helen's Flower no info yes sun most, well drained
Heuchera 'Molly Bush' - Coral Bells yes no pt sh moist, organic, well drained
Heuchera villosa - Fall Coral Bells no info yes pt sh to shade moist, organic, well drained
Heucherella tiarelloides no info yes pt sh moist, organic, well drained
Hosta - Plaintain-Lily favorite food no pt sh moist, organic
Iberis sempervirens - Candytuft yes yes sun well drained
Lamium maculatum - Spotted Deadnettle yes yes pt sh to shade moist, organic, well drained
Lamiastrum galeobdolan 'Herman's Pride' - Yellow Archangel yes yes pt sh to shade well drained
Lavandula 'Dilly Dilly' - Lavender yes yes sun very well drained
Ligularia - Ligularia yes yes sun to pt sh moist, organic
Liriope - Lilyturf yes favorite food sun to pt sh moist, organic, well drained
Lychnis - chalcedonica yes yes sun to pt sh moist
Lysimachia - Loosestrife yes yes sun to pt sh moist
Monarda - Bee Balm yes yes sun to pt sh moist
Nepeta - Catmint yes yes sun well drained
Oenothera berlanderi 'Siskiyou' - Evening Primrose yes yes sun to pt sh infertile, well drained
Ophiopogon - Dwarf Mondo Grass no info yes pt sh to shade moist, organic, well drained
Persicaria virginiana 'Variegata' - Tovara yes yes pt sh to shade moist, organic
Phlox subulata - Moss Phlox no info yes sun well drained
Phlox paniculata - Garden Phlox favorite food yes sun moist, organic
Polygonatum 'Variegatum' - Variegated Solomon's Seal no info yes pt sh to shade moist
Polystichum acrostichoides - Christmas Fern yes yes pt sh to shade moist, well drained
Pulmonaria - Lungwort yes yes pt sh to shade moist, organic
Rodgersia henrici - Roger's Flower no info yes sun to pt sh moist
Rohdea japonica no info yes pt sh to shade moist, organic
Rudbeckia - Black-eyed Susan yes yes sun any
Solidago - Goldenrod yes yes sun well drained
Spigelia marilandica - Indian Pink no info yes pt sh moist, organic
Symphytum grandiflorum - Comfrey no info yes pt sh to shade well drained
Thalictrum - Meadow Rue no info yes pt sh moist, well drained
Thermopsis caroliniana - Carolina Lupine no info yes sun to pt sh well drained
Tiarella - Foam Flower yes yes pt sh to shade moist, organic, well drained
Tradescantia - Spiderwort no info yes sun to pt sh moist
Tricyrtis formosana 'Sinonome' - Toad Lily no info yes pt sh moist, organic
Tellima 'Forest Frost' - Fringe Cup no info yes pt sh to shade moist
Persicaria virginiana 'Variegata' (Syn. Tovara - Tovara no info yes sun to pt sh medium to wet
Vernonia - Ironweed no info yes sun to pt sh moist
Veronicastrum - Culver's Root no info yes sun to pt shade moist, well drained

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Persicaria virginiana 'Variegata' or Tovara virginiana 'Variegata'

Many years ago I purchased a perennial called Tovara virginiana. I planted it on the shady side of one of my dogwood trees, and I ignored it. For the past few years, I've been looking for tough plants for shady places. There are not a lot of them as most plants for shade require moist soil. The soil in my garden is not moist, especially on the slope in the back. It dries out very fast even after a heavy rain.

Persicaria virginiana 'Variegata'One day I was looking around my garden for interesting plants to write about and I noticed Tovara and I remembered that I don't fertilize it and I don't water it unless its leaves are really drooping but it keeps coming back each year and covering a small patch of ground in back of the dogwood. I realized then that I had a jewel of a plant for dry, shady places.

As you can see from the picture, it has variegated leaves. The leaves are also fuzzy and therefore, rabbits ignore them--another plus! Tovara makes a nice, weed-free groundcover. It self seeds very little in my dry ground. Any unwanted seedlings are easily pulled out in the early spring when they are small. If it were grown in a moister or richer soil, it might selfseed more heavily. In late summer, it always sends up narrow spikes of tiny, brilliant red flowers. It looks great planted where the late afternoon or early morning sun lights up the flowers. According to the Forest Farm catalog, Tovara grows in sun to part shade and in medium to wet soil. As I mentioned earlier, it grows for me in the shade of a dogwood in dry soil.

Combine Tovara with one of the green liriopes for leaf and color contrast. Its variegation would make a nice foil for the blue hostas such as Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans' or the smaller Hosta 'Blue Cadet'.

There are two problems or "challenges" with this plant. One is what is its real name. Sometimes it is listed as Persicaria virginiana and sometimes it's listed as Tovara virginiana. It is not well known so many local nurseries may not carry it. A cultivar named 'Painter's Palette' was available at McLeans Nursery on Satyr Hill Road during the past summer. Both Forest Farm and Roslyn Nursery catalogs have it listed.

If you need a problem solver for shady places--especially for dry shade, this is one plant that may solve your shade problems. It did for me.


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Astilbe japonica ‘Red Sentinel'

In general, astilbes are plants for moist, organic soil. They even do well when planted along a stream bank or near a boggy area. Over the years I've bought many cultivars of astilbes, hoping to find the one that would survive in the dry soil that makes up my garden. I love the soft look of their ferny leaves and delicate flowers and their bright colors. Actually, I still have the first astilbe I purchased–Astilbe japonica ‘Deutschland' and it still blooms for me. But many others were planted and then disappeared when the weather got tougher than they were. I knew I shouldn't have purchased them but I like astilbes. What's a gardener to do?

Actually, I have found an astilbe that grows well and flowers well in my garden. Its name is Astilbe japonica ‘Red Sentinel'. Now it grows in full sun and survives periods of drought. Of course, it's leaves shrivel and turn brown once the soil gets dry, but, at least, it still comes back the next year ready to put on a splendid display. ‘Red Sentinel' is advertised to take drier conditions than most astilbes and I definitely agree with that.

It grows well, perhaps up to 30 inches across and up 24 inches high. The flowers are a dark, bright red. I have not noticed the bronzy tones in the foliage that is sometimes mentioned in articles and catalogs.

Astilbes look splendid with hostas with large leaves. A nice combination would be Astilbe japonica ‘Red Sentinel' with Hosta ‘Patriot', and Dicentra formosa ‘Luxuriant' with a ground cover of Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver'. What a dream combo that would be for a part shade garden.

Besides Astilbe japonica ‘Red Sentinel', I have found Astilbe ‘Bridal Veil' to be drought tolerant as well. It's growing on the top of the hill with very little additional watering. I probably should move it where it would be growing under better conditions. It grows to 24 in high and wide. ‘Bridal Veil' would also look good in my combo.


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