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