Friday, November 19

Finding shade tolerant plants is easy; you probably already have somein your sun garden



You can buy all the books you want and still have to spend more dimes, dollars and pounds of cash to grow a terrific shade garden?  Perhaps you have shade tolerant or shade loving plants already.

While many plants enjoy time in sun -a minimum of a few (3-5) hours per day- there are many sun-loving plants that can not only tolerate shade but also perform better in a shady location. The easiest way to determine if you have plants to start a shade-garden is to test each of your sun-garden plants by doing a job you do in the garden already - annual division of plants that have grown too large for their location. When a plant is ready to divide, simply take one division including roots and plant it in your prepared shade garden. Another way is to test the plant beforehand by planting it in dappled shade near a tree line or similar light of your planned shade garden location.

If you are eager, ready your site, plan your design and divide your perennials to share in your shade garden. The worst that can happen is that the plant simply will not grow if you choose to create your shade garden quickly.

Perennials that might be growing your garden already:
Botanical Flower Print: Bleeding Heart - Dicentra spectabilis
White and pink bleeding hearts have hollow stems and bloom early in the spring. Dicentra can generally tolerate sun but perform much better in the shade and give the gardener a tall plant in the backdrop. When you lower their soil ph by using pine needles in the mulch, the Dicentra will grow much more vigorously in height. Protect from wind and early frost.

Sun-loving hostas are able to tolerate shade regardless of their genetic penchant for sun. Shade loving hostas perform their best in shade. They offer small and large, front and back-border plant specimens. Hosta comes in a variety of greens from limelight to the darkest green of grass-colors and all sizes from the very tiny specimen plant to curly, twisted or smooth vase-like displays. Plant a few varieties rather than lining your border with one variety. Grow your hosta in rich soil with low ph and they will multiply prolifically. Divide your hosta after a few years and you will have multiple display plants or you can start another shade garden elsewhere.



The Ferns tend to grow prolifically in the shade and dry out in the sun, so it is a natural choice for the shade due to their very nature. Ferns are similar to hosta in the number of varieties and heights available for using in your shade garden. Tall dark green fronds make a beautiful backdrop to any colored flower and the small statured ferns add interest to the mixture of other perennials.


As you are dreaming about the future looks to your garden, don't forget to add a few edible plants as well.



Goats beard loves the early morning sun and can tolerate the sun if given a half day of afternoon shade during mid-summer. Due to their natural tendencies in the wild, Goat’s beard is a terrific backdrop or large specimen plant for the shade garden. Give it room to grow by root and cut off the blooms, as they turn brown if you need a pristine look in the shade.
Astilbe White (White False Spirea, Goats Beard, Goatsbeard) {50 Bare Root plants, $2.37 each plant}
Astilbe or false goats beard are versatile and can tolerate the sun all day in many northern locations of New England. In the south, this plant desires the shade to prevent the soil from drying out and keeping nutrients accessible via moisture. The boon to this plant is that it performs better in shade by retaining its bloom under a tall canopy.

Coral-bells, heuchera, or alumroot is also tolerant of the sun but perform better in moist shade by making their foliage glow in the dark. Even the darkest and heaviest veined leaves are noticeable on a heuchera in the shade. Electric lime, Midnight Bayou, and Georgia peach are the best to start with and since they are so prolific in producing themselves, you'll have a bunch in a couple years with the correct low ph soil: Water deeply when planting and water during hot summers with little rain. Other maintenance is not necessary with the exception of dividing every few years.

Primrose (not evening primrose) and Pulmonaria are both one of the first blooms in the New England spring garden. Both bloom earlier than the bleeding hearts, are deer-proof, and give a burst of bright color in the shade or sun. They also multiply yearly especially when planted in low ph soils with added wood chips or bark mulch.

Hydrangea has many varieties, height, and different colored flowers. With the new types of hydrangea the colors range from the standard white, blue, pink, red, and of course the newest off-pinks, mauves and purples. The off-pinks and whites especially glow in the shade but the blue offer a burst of color at a different time of the summer season as well. Choose at least one for your shade color-palate.

Liriope has been named Lily turf, border-grass or monkey grass. It offers a nice vase-like shape, purple-blue colored blooms in mid-summer and is another deer resistant plant where shade might attract those long tailed beauties. In wet or bone-dry, loamy to clay soils this lovely little plant of the lily family is disguised as grass with long tendrils of grass-like leaves with a penchant for clinging to soil to prevent soil erosion in the most difficult areas. One of the best attributes to this plant is that it can tolerate salt so it is a natural choice for the edge of your shade garden where you may have a footpath that needs to be salted. Mow off the tops in early spring to encourage a new flush of growth and bloom. The pest that loves this plant is slugs and snails due to the taste of the leaves being very attractive to the soft-skinned destroyer of all in your garden. Iron pellets help destroy the slug population but copper wire or tubing can also help. Weave the copper tubing throughout your shade garden to prevent the destroyers from having bon-app├ętit!

Some daylily’s can survive in the shade as long as they have 3-5 hours of afternoon sun. Of course, the common roadside orange daylilies named ‘Fulva’ can survive quite a bit of shade and some newer varieties can as well. The key is making sure that the strong sun of summer bears down on them during the afternoon. Many websites give the specific names of shade tolerant daylilies. A spider daylily with bright yellow flower petals named ‘Orangeman’ is just one of them. Keep in mind that morning sun and afternoon shade will decrease or eliminate flower production and weaken the plant regardless of soil nutrients so be sure the plant location includes afternoon sun and dry in mid-summer.

Solomon’s seal and false Solomon’s seal loves the shade, spreads by creeping root, and offers a graceful hanging arch over other shorter flowers. It is a polygonatum meaning many-angled with respect to the roots. If the roots are in shade and heavily composted soils, the roots will spread eagerly which in the end, will provide more arching tall sprays of strong stems and dangling flowers.
Cameo Blue & White Columbine - 4 Plants - Aquilegia
Columbine, wild or domesticated, blooms forever in the shade and has a graceful and delicate lacy bloom with multiple colors available. This little plant with self propagate through seed dispersal and you will find it coming up where the roots will have shade and the leaves have sun. Although this plant is said to have needs of moist soils with rich and fertile nutrients, in New England, the seeds burst forth from sand.
Organic Lamb's Ear 150 Seed -Heirloom-Stachys-Perennial
Lamb’s ears have a soft fuzzy feel and a look that softens the rough-edges of any garden in sun or shade. Seeds propagate prolifically in well-drained sand and the plant prefers that condition as well. Mulching under the soft leaves will prevent fungus, mold, and rot that heavy rains or moist ground can bring. Lamb’s ear is a low maintenance plant in zones 4, 5, 6 but in higher zones, the plant can become too prolific and difficult to remove. Easy to grow and care for, the lamb’s ears can also spread by root: This helps the low or no-flowering varieties create new plants. De-heading is important for pristine look in the shade garden but allowing the flowers to remain on the plant will attract bees to your garden in thousands. Plant in your shade garden but share some in your vegetable garden to attract those necessary pollinators. This plant is often used as an edging plant if kept neat and trim with maintenance but can also handle being in the midst of ferns and Solomon’s Seal to offer more texture in the mid-level area of the garden.
Edulis Superba Peony - Pink Blooms - Paeonia
Paeonia (peony) needs some sun to produce its best but truly enjoys morning sun and the coolness of the late afternoon shade. Plant in an opposite sun location to the daylilies to make sure the blooms last a long as possible. Similar to Lamb’s ears, Peonies prefer well-drained sandy fertile soil. The many varieties of this plant include many colors via heirloom (paeonia lactiflora) and more recently developed deep pink varieties offset the true whites of old fashioned and heirloom varieties. ‘Bowl of Beauty’ is a favorite because of its large pink outer-petals and creamy inner-bowl with tufts of yellow on the stamens. The paeonia suffruiticosa (tree peony) is also an option for height with its tree form.

Annuals are easier to use than perennials in the shade. Choosing annuals to provide the backbone of your garden: texture, foliage, and backdrop are the challenge. After that, it is simply choosing your favorite color to add in the minimal light of shade. If you like glowing colors for an eye attracting view or subdued colors that add a bit of relaxation: most blooms are easy to choose as long as your garden center offers a good selection.  Another benefit of annuals is that the ambitious gardener can decrease their annual plant cost by planting annuals from seed early in the spring and avoid the garden center altogether.
Heirloom Lobelia Cascade of Color Seeds 350 Seeds
Lobelia has lovely miniature blue, pink, or white flowers en masse that offer a bright color in the shade. Although the lobelia can tolerate full sun in cooler climates, the lobelia struggles in dry ground. Gardeners here in New England have found the trick to make lobelia perform better by planting it in part to full shade in neutral ph moist soil. The ‘Rosamond’ variety is particularly known for glowing in shade gardens.

Impatience flowers come in a wide variety of colors of peach, reds, pinks, whites, and Fuchsia. If your garden center offers that kind of variety, take advantage of the offerings by choosing one or all. Keep in mind that some of the best will lose their color if provided too much light.
Wizard Sun Sunset Coleus Seeds - Solenostemon scutellarioides - 0.03 Grams - Approx 30 Gardening Seeds - Flower Garden Seed
Coleus, with its nature of ruffle-edged leaves and multiple colors in foliage, this plant just doesn’t stop displaying its best in shade. This plant can get quite tall if left to its own. To keep it short, trim throughout the summer or plant it in the back where height won’t be a problem. Some of the light colored varieties tend to droop in dry hot soils. The darker the leaves, the better this plant can tolerate more sun. Keep watering down to weekly once established.

Caladium is another beautifully foliaged plant that just keeps going in shade. Plant the bulbs in early spring or plant them in your greenhouse for a head start on the season. (Bulbs need to be pulled out in fall here in zone 4,5,6) Pots of caladium can be planted with the pot in your garden to provide an easy lift in the fall when the bulbs need to be protected for winter.
Calgary Narcissus Bulbs 100 Pk
Speaking of bulbs, flowering bulbs that are planted in the fall directly before the ground freezes are another alternative to add color to your shade garden in the spring. Bulbs will bloom later in the shade because the ground takes longer to warm up in the shade. As a result, the same bulbs planted in your sun garden will bloom later and longer in the shade garden. Narcissus is a favorite for a spot of white in the early spring and is the harbinger of clearing the spring garden leaves to make room for the leaves and beauty of burgeoning perennials.

For those who have little or no money, shade gardening can be inexpensive due to the plants that are already in your sun garden. Try transferring a few and watch the different behavior that shade and a cooler environment bring to your beloved perennials.

Need to choose and plan a site for your shade garden? Check back for the next article.