Shady areas are some of the toughest spots for gardeners. Partly, I expect, it’s because some gardeners have unrealistic expectations. I suggest that anyone who is unhappy with their shady garden change their perspective and work with what they got!
I consider a spot shady if it receives about three to four hours of sun or less, often facing east or north-east. Since most of us live on small residential lots there are many shady spots against house and garage walls, fences, in between buildings and under larger plants like trees and hedges.
First thing to realize about a shady garden is that you’ll never be able to grow saucer-sized blooms like dahlias! Plants like roses, lavender and other sun-lovers need at least 6 - 8 hours of sun. Flowering shrubs that do well in part-shade and have showy blooms include Hydrangea, Camellia and Rhododendron.
Also, instead of just focusing on big, colorful flowers, think of getting color and interest through the leaves of the plant. For instance, look for plants that have variegated leaves like Variegated Lily Turf (Liriope muscari ‘Variegata) or colorful leaves as in Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense cultivars.)
Although this may seem obvious, nurseries organize plants by shade and sun. If you are looking for shade-loving plants, go to the areas of the nursery that are covered by an awning or other shade structure. This is where you should be selecting plants.
Regular irrigation is also a must for shade. Most shade plants originate in areas next to waterways like creeks with overhead vegetation. But you can find shade plants that need less water, a little research has to be done by asking your nursery-person or looking it up online.
A shady garden is a delight to be in when it is embraced for what it is and cared for...shade is good!
Here are some of my favorite plants for shade or part-shade:
- Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’ (Oak-leaf Hydrangea) - This shrub gets large, about 4-5’ tall and 5-6’ wide. Large, off-white blooms with great red fall color.
- Lamium ‘White Nancy’ - A groundcover with lovely silver and green leaves.
- Heuchera ‘Ameythst Mist’ (Coral Bells) - pretty plum leaves with silver
- Campanula species (Bellflower) - Another groundcover; there are many types out there but most have lovely blue-purple flowers.
- Dicksonia antarctica (Tasmanian Tree Fern) - If you need some soft height in a garden this is the plant for you.
- Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass) - For the more adventurous gardener, this a fun plant; it looks like thick black grass. Try it with Lamium and enjoy the contrast!