Some plants are made for the shade

By Dawn Pettinelli - UConn Home & Garden Education Center
Home & Garden - posted Wed., Apr. 11, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Shaded areas evoke mixed feelings among homeowners. While cool and comfortable during summer’s heat, getting plants to grow in the shade can be a bit challenging. Many of our most beloved garden plants, as well as turf grasses, require a good deal of sun to flourish.

To figure out what to grow, you first need to understand what kind of shade you have. Some areas receive a few hours of early morning or late afternoon sun, while other spots on the north side of the house or under evergreen trees get no direct sunlight at all. Plants are often listed in gardening books as requiring or tolerant of full sun, part shade or deep shade, and you would do well to peruse a few books or websites before going to the garden center to purchase plants.

Another factor you need to consider is whether you have dry or moist shaded areas. Dry shade is found where you have a lot of shallow tree roots competing for moisture. A typical example of such an area would be under maples. Moist shade is likely in low-lying areas, where water often sits after heavy rains, or sometimes on the north side of buildings, where it takes longer to dry out.

A good option for heavily- to moderately-shaded sites is to use plants that can tolerate low light conditions. In its simplest form, this could be a shade-tolerant groundcover. On the other extreme, you can fill the area with bright annuals or even create a woodland garden.

There are quite a few annuals that tolerate light to medium shade, but flowers will be sparse under deeply-shaded conditions. It’s better to concentrate on foliage plants like coleus, polka dot plant, caladiums and ferns. Annuals that will bloom in moderate shade include both the wax-leaved and tuberous begonias, impatiens, browallia, balsam, mimulus, torenia, pansy, lobelia and black-eyed Susan vine.

A number of perennials do well in light to moderate shade. Do check their moisture requirements, as many will do poorly in dry shade unless irrigated. Among your options are columbine, bleeding heart, astilbes, bergenia, primroses, foamflower, monkshood, lily of the valley, Virginia bluebells, foxgloves, epimediums, geraniums, sweet woodruff and hostas.

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