A North American native, bunchberry is a charming groundcover with multiseason interest. It starts the show in spring, when its flowers—surrounded by showy white bracts—erupt over glossy green foliage. Enjoy its rich green leaves all summer, then keep your eyes open for the bright red berries (which attract birds) that appear in late summer and early fall. The display doesn’t stop until autumn, when bunchberry’s lustrous leaves turn pleasing shades of red to purple.
Note: Some botanists have reclassified this dogwood relative to be in its own family, so you may also see it referred to under the scientific name Chamaepericlymenum canadense.
Using Bunchberry in the Garden
An ideal choice for woodland gardens, bunchberry grows beautifully in dappled shade with ferns, woodland phlox, and other native plants. Because it doesn't go dormant in summer, it's a natural partner for ephemeral perennials such as bloodroot, trillium, Dutchman's breeches, snowdrops, and crocus. You can also grow easy-care bunchberry in traditional shade gardens with non-native plants such as hellebore, bleeding heart, lungwort, and astilbe.
Don't have room in the ground for bunchberry? This small-stature and ultra-cold-hardy plant also thrives in containers, where you can enjoy it by itself or mix in shade-loving annuals such as Rex begonia, fuchsia, and torenia.
Caring For Bunchberry
Grow bunchberry in a spot with full shade, dappled shade, or afternoon shade. Avoid afternoon sun, as it can dry out the plant and cause the foliage to dry prematurely and turn brown. Because it's native to cool regions of North America and Asia, bunchberry dislikes hot-summer areas.
This woodland wildflower does best in moist, acidic, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. It benefits greatly from having compost, peat moss, or coconut coir amended in the ground at planting time. If the soil has particularly high clay content, add a top-dressing of 1 to 2 inches of organic matter over the soil after bunchberry's foliage has died back in early winter.
Keep bunchberry moist and happy by spreading an organic mulch around the plant. A 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of a light mulch, such as pine needles, shredded wood, or cocoa hulls, is best. This mulch layer prevents the soil from drying out as quickly and also reduces weeds.
Easy-care bunchberry requires no pruning. So once you plant it, all you need to do is keep it watered in hot weather to enjoy its spring-to-fall beauty.
Plant Bunchberry With:
This plant hardly grown 40 years ago is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. But hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners -- it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall.Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged -- the variations are virtually endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.
Foamflower is a plant for all seasons. In spring, the charming flowers light up even places under pines in dry shade. Its evergreen lobed leaves, in a wide assortment of shapes, patterns, and markings, form healthy clumps that look good all growing season long. Use them at the front of borders as edgings or accents, or plant them close as groundcovers in lightly shaded woodland gardens. High-humus soils are excellent, but foamflower is easy to please.
Hydrangea, a shade-loving beauty, offers huge bouquets of clustered flowers, in various arrangements from mophead to lacecap, from summer through fall. Varieties of hydrangea differ in size of plant and flower panicle, flower color, and blooming time. PeeGee hydrangeas grow into small trees; the flowers turn russet and cling into winter. Oakleaf hydrangeas have the most handsome foliage, which reddens dramatically in fall. Some of the newer hydrangeas feature huge flowers on compact plants, ideal for containers and small gardens. Hydrangeas thrive in a moist, fertile, well-drained soil in partial to full shade. If you're seeking blue hydrangea flowers, check your soil's pH level and apply aluminum sulfate in spring to lower pH to the 5.2-5.5 range. The change in hydrangea flower color results from lower pH and higher aluminum content in the soil. Get tips on pruning hydrangeas for more blooms. Learn more on how to care for hydrangeas.