Shade Gardening

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Gardening can be difficult if you don’t have a lot of sun in your yard. Trees and buildings or exposure on the north side only can be a problem. However, if you select shade loving plants, you can create a cool and colorful oasis in your own yard with these hardy plants.


Look at your yard closely. Is there an area that is so shady that grass won’t grow there? Stop fighting it and put plants that actually want to grow there. You can cover up the bald spot beautifully and easily with hardy, shade loving plants. I noticed an area like this in my own yard in front of the shed. The shed blocked the afternoon sun, so only morning sun had a chance to touch area. It was nearly all exposed dirt with a few weeds.. Yuck!


Dig up the grass and weeds from the desired area. Think about the shape of the garden ahead of time. I happened to have some landscaping ties in the yard that were unused, so I used them as a border around the area I cleared in front of the shed.


Go to your local nursery. I really like Lowe’s for buying plants. They have reasonable prices (compared to local nurseries) and the tags on the plants make it very clear what kinds of conditions each plant prefers.


Think about some taller plants for the center or rear of your new garden bed. If it is up against a building, you’ll want to put the taller items closer to the building. If not, you’ll want to put them in the center.


Hosta are the backbone of a shade garden (perennial). They don’t have showy flowers, but have beautiful foliage that is very colorful on its own. There are many, many varieties. Some smaller, low growing hostas would look great as a border while the larger ones would make a great “mid size” foliage plant. Most hostas send up long stalks with purple or white flowers, which are pretty, but they don’t come close to the beauty of the leaves. Some are variegated green and white, others have a bluish tinge. Hostas will be very well established within about 5 years and at that point, can be split and moved around your yard or given away to friends. Hostas can also tolerate a decent amount of sun and poor soil conditions.


ajugablackscallop_Thumb.jpg Another great shade plant (also a low growing perennial, for the border) is Black Scallop Ajuga. They have a very unique dark color with a hint of red and extremely shiny leaves.


japfern_Thumb.jpg Japanese silver painted fern Ferns are also a wonderful addition to your shade garden. They are slow growing and will grow to be a bit taller, generally than the hosta and ajuga, depending on the variety. They will live a long time and add wonderful texture to your shade garden once established. There are many varieties of ferns. See which ones can tolerate the cold in your area.


impatiens_Thumb.jpg Probably the easiest way to add some color to your shade garden is with impatiens. In hot or dry weather, you will need to water them frequently. Impatiens are annuals and come in pink, red and white and create a blanket of color with lots of blooms. I have an empty area in my shade garden reserved for them every year. Plant them scattered around whatever empty space is left and they will fill in very nicely, making mounds of color.


heart_Thumb.jpg Bleeding heart is another popular shade plant. The blooms last for a long time and they are very delicate looking. The plant can get quite tall, so they should be planted behind all the before mentioned plants. They can tolerate dry conditions.


joepye_Thumb.jpg Joe Pye Weed is a taller plant. It can tolerate very wet areas but does fine otherwise as well. It is a wild plant, so it is very hardy. I have seen them routinely on sale at Lowe’s. They have sprays of pink blossoms in the fall. Some varieties can grow over 5 feet tall!


pachy_Thumb.jpg Pachysandra makes a great shade loving, no mow ground cover. Some other interesting shade plants include: Jack in the pulpit, False Solomon’s Seat (has GOLD berries!), Mountain Laurel (a big bush), and Virginia Bluebells and Pachysandra(ground cover)


steppingstones_Thumb.jpg Try adding some strategically placed rocks and a birdbath or garden statue to your shade garden as well. Stepping stones surrounded by gravel are a nice (and useful) touch as well.


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