Rainy days can be melancholy, but when you have plants that shine in the rain, the melancholy turns to charm. It’s as if certain plants are waiting for the moisture, ready for it, so that when they get it, they put on their best show, boasting deep color and interesting texture. I was strolling the garden during a shower the other day and found myself admiring certain plants. Plants whose leaves are usually thick, sometimes fat, always able to somehow catch and keep rain drops. They were mostly shade plants, rich with the chlorophyll that makes their food, all fond of our Northwest weather. Here are my top ten plants that look prettier when it rains.
This is the latest plant I’m in love with. It’s a low, evergreen perennial whose heart-shaped leaves and tight form make for a beautiful, easy-care plant in a shady border. It reminds me of plants in the Asarum (or Wild Ginger) family but I’m spotlighting it instead as slugs don’t seem to chew it as much.
Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’
Evergreen shrub that makes an unusual statement with its tall, spiky form. It’s got long, jagged leaf arrangements that are either enticing or ugly. Bright sprays of yellow flowers bloom in winter. Hummingbirds love them. I think it’s a cool, unique plant to have. Super low maintenance.
Heuchera ‘Forever Purple’
This heuchera has strong, purple color that holds well all summer long. It’s gorgeous paired with a Juniperus ‘Blue Star’ or Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow.’ So pretty. But the truth is almost any heuchera looks alluring in the rain, especially the darker, more lustrous ones, because they have those palmate leaves that almost serve as cups for the rain.
Magnolia ‘Baby Grand’
A small, evergreen tree with stiff, deep green leaves. ‘Baby Grand’ is similar to Magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’ but I prefer ‘Baby Grand’ as the form is more oval and the leaves are darker. Blooms in large, white, lemony-scented flowers that are heavenly. A great tree for a small yard. Plant it where you will walk by often.
This big-leafed beauty is an old plant whose leaf image was used in ancient times to decorate facades. It’s a bold plant that, when happy, covers a lot of ground and blooms in tall, two-foot spikes of flowers. Makes a big statement. It needs a fair amount of water though and is susceptible to slugs. Can take some sun though it’s color is best in shade. I like to pair it with light-colored hostas.
Soleirolia soleirolii (Baby’s Tears)
I love love love the groundcover, Soleirolia soleirolii, or ‘Baby’s Tears.’ It’s all over the shady parts of my yard. It grows in a thick mat of tiny, round leaves that shine in wet weather. I can see them shimmer from several feet away. The other great thing about this groundcover is it grows so tightly that weeds rarely break through. It’s evergreen and when spreading at the foot of a stump or rock, it creates a soft, soothing, fairy tale-like scene.
Aucuba japonica ‘Gold Dust’
It’s as if this lovely, medium-sized shrub were sprayed by nature with speckles of gold. It produces its deepest colors in the shade, and also loves water. Can be contrasted well with fuchsias. The lavender of a hydrangea blossom beside it is stunning. Evergreen.
I prefer this larger viburnum to its similar-looking cousin Viburnum davidii. This evergreen shrub grows in a V-shape and in a flattish form, so it’s great for a small yard or corner. The flowers aren’t much but the textured leaves are. It always makes me smile in summer to see the fresh, lighter green leaves even after I’ve ignored it in summer. Can take sun or shade.
One of my faves. A large shrub offering a tropical look. We’re lucky to grow this big-leafed daddy in our area. The problem I often see is people plant this in too much sun (like half-day) or under a tree. It loves shade and water, but a nearby tree will suck up too much water, so plant it on the North or East side of your house and it will thank you by blooming in round, alien-like flower balls in fall.
I almost always use hellebores in my clients’ yards because they’re evergreen, easy to grow, bloom in early spring, and need only once-a-year trimming. They come in white or often shades of purple that fade to dusky pink or brown. The color is almost antique looking. Hellebores love our cloudy light, mild temperatures, and abundant rain.