Plants that perform well in a shade garden—adding texture and color.

Selecting plants for a shade garden is tricky. I have found that there are many variations of light and shade in such an environment and sometimes it just takes a lot of trial and error to get the plants in the right places. There is ‘bright shade,’ ‘moderate shade,’ and ‘total shade.’ All plants need at least some light to grow. I suppose that the shadiest garden would call for a planting of moss and mushrooms—given enough humidity.

As the shade garden articles will be an on-going series, I have started gathering pictures of plants that have fared will in such a location. Other articles on shade gardening may be found if you CLICK HERE.

I think that my number one favorite shade plant is the Lenten rose (helleborus). This plant offers a soft evergreen beauty and puts forth a wonderful burst of color in the late winter to early spring. It is best planted in clumps and will naturalize itself into a colony as time goes by.

Lenten rose (helleborus)--The perfect plant for the shade garden
Lenten rose (helleborus)–The perfect plant for the shade garden

I want to show you pictures of the same area of one garden. We planted some ferns years ago and then planted helleborus to the front of the ferns to fill in. I have watched this part of the shade garden over the years and it is rather interesting. Here is a picture of the spot in March. The ferns are dormant.

lenten roses will multiply over the years by seed, forming a colony
lenten roses will multiply over the years by seed, forming a colony

As the spring and summer progresses, the ferns come up through the Lenten roses and in July, the planting looks like this.

deciduous ferns and lenten roses in the summertime.
deciduous ferns and lenten roses in the summertime.

Around where I live they call the next plant ‘plum yew.’ The botanical name is ‘cephalotaxus harringtonia prostrada.’ I really like this plant. It is rather slow growing until it takes hold after a few years, but it is very hardy and sturdy. As the plum yew grows, it provides a nice soft, evergreen with a fern-like texture.

Cephalotaxus, or 'plum yew'--excellent in the shady border, but give it room
Cephalotaxus, or ‘plum yew’–excellent in the shady border, but give it room

One of the most popular shade plants is the hosta. I read somewhere that there are so many varieties of hosta that a lot of them don’t even have names. One should try several different locations in the shade garden to find just the right place for the hostas. Too much sun will scald the leaves and they won’t grow to their best in too much shade.

hosta is a natural for the shade garden
hosta is a natural for the shade garden

There are a number of varieties of variegated acuba. I think the one pictured here is called ‘gold dust.’ Acubas may grow into rather large bushes and add a spot of yellow here or there. A small problem is that acubas are sometimes attacked by a black looking leaf spot–this is a fungus and is easily treated. Refer to THIS Article for information on controlling the problem.

Acuba offers a bright spot of yellow in the shade garden.
Acuba offers a bright spot of yellow in the shade garden.

A shade plant that is growing in popularity is the heuchera or ‘coral bells.’ There are several varieties with different and interesting leaf colors. The coral bell flowers are produced in clusters on long stems. I would say that the plant would be used mostly for the foliage. It is a reliable perennial

heuchera, 'coral bells'--don't worry, nobody else knows how to pronounce it, either.
heuchera, ‘coral bells’–don’t worry, nobody else knows how to pronounce it, either.

My favorite flower for summer color in a shady area would be the impatiens. They come in a wide variety of colors and enjoy a shady location. They will need a little bit of dappled sunlight, though, to perform at their best.

Spots of color are easy with impatiens
Spots of color are easy with impatiens

A number of spring flowering bulbs will perform well in a shade garden, also. Daffodils and woods hyacinths are among them. These bulbs may be planted in November and will return year after year to delight you with their pretty, fragrant flowers.

hyacinths, daffodils, and a number of other spring blooming bulbs will enjoy the shade garden
hyacinths, daffodils, and a number of other spring blooming bulbs will enjoy the shade garden

The shade garden articles will be an on going project. You may subscribe by signing up in the box at the top right of this article and receive an article a week to your email.

I would appreciate any comments or suggestions on choosing plants for shade gardens. Leave a comment.

And a Word from Our Sponsor:

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

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Published by John P.Schulz

I lost my vocal cords a while back due to throat cancer. The laryngectomy sent me on a quest to find and learn to use my new, altered voice. I am able to talk now with a really small and neat new prosthesis. My writing reflects what I have learned in my search for a voice. My site johnschulzauthor.com publishes a daily motivational quote and a personal comment. I write an article a week for my blog, johntheplantman.com which deals with a lot of the things that I do in the garden. I am also the author of Requiem for a Redneck and the new Redemption for a Redneck--novels portraying the lives and doings of folks around the north Georgia hills. I have an English Education degree from the University of Georgia and very happily married to the lovely Dekie Hicks. You may enjoy my daily Quotes and Notes at http://johnschulzauthor.com/

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3 Comments

  1. John, I thoroughly enjoyed this edition of Shade Gardens. I am grateful for the information about the spray for Acuba leaf spot. We suffer from that problem and I hope to use your suggestion for its cure.

    1. Thanks, Bob
      I love the way the acuba looks in the back of the garden. The only problem is that black spot

  2. Thank you for your article dealing with shady gardens. I found it very interesting. A couple of years ago I was dealing with a front yard that had varying degrees of shade. Thanks again, and I always love reading your posts. Keep up the good work!

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