Skip to main content

Shade Gardens Come Alive with Gold Foliage

I used to shy away from gold-foliaged plants because I felt that they looked anemic. But, once I tried Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ in a shade garden, I was hooked. The plant is vigorous and its golden leaves brighten the dark area of its shaded corner. The garden now has a glow that I've played up with white impatiens. They draw the eye in and make the space feel soothing and inviting, especially in the evening.

Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

Many shade-tolerant plants offer gold foliage, including certain cultivars of coleus, bleeding heart and hosta. These are great options that many of us already know. I'm excited to try these lesser-known gold-tinged perennials in the shade:

'All Gold' Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' is a great choice for part shade. It needs a couple of hours of sun to make its leaves really shine gold. With less sun, it will look a bit lime green instead of lemon. Still, that's a nice bright color in the shadows! 'All Gold' grows 18 inches tall and wide with a mounding habit. USDA Zones 4–9.

'All Gold' forest grass

'All Gold' forest grass

Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is often thought of as a sun plant, but it can actually take a good deal of shade. As a bonus, this position makes lady's mantle less likely to scorch or wilt. Its rounded leaves are a lemon-lime green and the yellow factor increases with its long bloom of tiny golden flowers. This perennial grows about a foot tall and twice as wide. Zones 3–8.

Lady's mantle

Lady's mantle

'Everillo' sedge (Carex oshimensis 'Everillo') is a grasslike perennial with long, thin leaves that start out green at the base and turn golden as they arch out. An hour or two of gentle morning sun will prompt the best gold coloration from this easy-care plant. It grows about 18 inches tall and wide. Zones 5–9.

'Everillo' sedge

'Everillo' sedge

Read about the best garden-design uses for gold-hued plants in sun or shade here. 

All images courtesy of Walters Gardens