Really northern gardener looking for a shade plant

– Posted in: Mailbag

Wyn recently commented elsewhere:

I live in zone 2 and am looking for a shade plant that is non-poisonous to pets for the north side of my fence. When I entered that info in google it sent me to this site. Lovely pictures and great info, unfortunately not really my zone. LOL.

Judging by my commenter’s email address, I’d say this gardener lived in Saskatchewan, and it’s not clear whether that’s Zone 2 on the Canadian map or the US one. Either way, it’s definitely colder than my neck of the woods. I told Wyn that even though I was in the balmy climate of USDA zone 4/5, many of my readers were in colder climates.

I also suggested visiting Northscaping, which has a lot of good plant info and an active discussion forum, and Blotanical, which has a map-based garden blog directory, where Wyn can find bloggers dealing with similar conditions.

But I hope you really cold climate gardeners will make suggestions in the comments. Probably some of the plants growing in my shady border are tough enough to take it, and I don’t even know it.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

greg draiss July 3, 2008, 9:19 am

I hear rocks grow well there!
Good luck finding something that fits your needs.

Gina June 26, 2008, 9:38 pm

I live in Zone 2 (Fairbanks, AK) and I had a lovely surprise this spring. I have a patch of ground at the front of our lot as you pull into the driveway that I have been trying to get stuff to grow for years. It is north facing and only gets direct sun briefly in the evening in the summer. I planted several ferns last year…and concidering my record, I didn’t expect them to make it. But they did! And multiplied! I love how they look too. The ‘fiddleheads’ are a delicacy to eat…so I am thinking they would probably be safe for pets.

Jane June 26, 2008, 11:07 am

Well, I’m in zone 3 (central Alberta) but I suggest asking Gardenista from La Ronge, Sask., who has a blog called Northern Exposure Gardening ( , or try the previously recommended Northscaping web site’s searchable plant database.

Sara Williams has written some good books on vines, perennials, groundcovers, etc. for the prairies.

I would suggest Hostas – they’re tough, shade-tolerant, attractive and AFAIK non-toxic.