Shade gardening success

There’s no doubt that shade gardening can be a challenge. Growing flowers in full sun is easier, and you have many more colorful plants to choose from.

Even so, those of us with gardens that sizzle in the sun often find ourselves longing for cooling shade. A lush bed out of the heat and glare of the sun makes for an inviting garden oasis.

Meeting the shade garden challenge

The idea that a garden without much sun is a problem probably stems from experiences with treed backyards that have brick-hard soil and thin lawn struggling in the shadows.

If grass won’t even grow there, how can anything else? Rest assured that there are many attractive perennials that grow well in shade. Getting them to thrive is a matter of enriching the soil.

Shade gardening

Lush shade: Hosta ‘Sagae’ and ground cover plants

Shade perennials bloom early in the season

Remember that a flower bed under deciduous trees will be mostly spring blooming. That’s because most plants thrive in shade, including spring bulbs that naturalize, tend to bloom early before trees leaf out.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be flowers in bloom during the rest of the season, but you’ll have a more limited palette of flowering plants to choose from.

Annuals are a good bet. Impatiens will give you color in the shade all season long – the big reason that it’s such a popular annual.

When it comes to shade perennials, attractive leaf textures and colors are important because foliage is your main feature through the season. You might also consider ground cover plants for low-light conditions.

Shade gardening

Lush shade perennials and ground covers thrive under evergreens

You can grow shade plants under evergreens

My shade garden (shown in the pictures on this page) happens to be under a grove of pine and spruce trees. It not an ideal setting – it get pretty dry – but it’s the only shade I had.

When we started our garden in 1998, the area under the trees was a weedy mess, so it’s come a long way!

Adding humus – we used composted bark and leaf mold – and mulching has worked wonders. The garden looks fabulous through the season.

The key is to water during dry periods. With enriched soil and enough watering (a good soaking once a week), our shade plants – hostas, ferns, foam flowers, sweet woodruff and other woodlanders – thrive here.

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