Pruning in March
March 1, 2024
March in the Garden
March 1, 2024
Pruning in March
March 1, 2024
March in the Garden
March 1, 2024

Cool Plants For Shade

Shade in a mature garden of any size is as unavoidable as grey hairs sprouting on one’s head. Embrace and highlight it with pretty shade-lovers and clever shade management. Let’s take a look at some cool plants for shade!

Shady areas are often unfairly called ‘difficult’ places to garden in because of low light conditions, the competition of tree and large shrub roots and nutrient-poor, badly draining soil.

Handy Tips To Manage Full Shade

Full shade is classified as a place with no direct sunlight in any part of the day.

  1. Do tree surgery by regularly removing low overhead branches to lift the crowns of trees to a more plant- and human-friendly level. It will allow in more light and will help to dry out very wet soil.
  2. ‘Feathering’ deciduous and even evergreen trees by removing some crossing branches to allow in more light can create better growing conditions for plants around their bases. This can also rejuvenate precious old trees, but is maybe a job for a tree specialist to do.
  3. It is cool and mystical in the shade of mature trees, so before doing battle deep in their midst trying to plant beneath them, rather think about meandering natural pathways, using stepping stones and an organic mulch of coarse bark nuggets
    or fallen leaves that both the deciduous and evergreen tree would supply free of charge. You can add other elements like a garden bench to enjoy the coolness.
  4. Use the main trunks of trees as an anchoring structure for the wonderful plants known as epiphytes that will grow on a tree’s bark without damaging the tree. Two of them to use are the bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) and the common staghorn (Platycerium bifurcatum).
  5. Another way of lightning deep shade is to light up the stems and bark with well-placed garden lights which will turn your jungle into a fairyland at night.

Plant suggestions for full shade with ample moisture include Adiantum capillus-veneris (maiden hair fern), Chlorophytum comosum ‘Vitattus’ (Hen-with-chickens), Plectranthus verticillatus (moneyplant) and Cyrtomium falcatum (Japanese holly fern).

Semi Or Half Shade

These shady conditions are much easier to deal with as it will receive soft morning sun and will be shaded in the afternoon – luckily the type of conditions most plants love!

If it is the other way around, for instance if the shade is caused by buildings or high walls, the vegetation may be exposed in the hottest part of the day and you will have to concentrate on rather picking sun-loving plants.

Thoughts Before Planting

• Play around with leaf forms and texture.
• Keep it simple. Plant in bold groups with a limited variety of species rather than creating a fruit salad effect with one or two of every plant you have fallen in love with.
• Plan for the seasons by using pockets of seasonal annuals which you can replace throughout the year to create a shade garden that is always an eye-catcher.
• Add vertical interest by using large focal containers elevated on bricks between groundcovers. Paint them in light hues to stand out.

Superb Foliage – Perennial

Heuchera micrantha varieties, also known as coral bells, are available in a mind-blowing selection of leaf patterns and leaf colours with the bonus of dainty flower stems in summer.

Hosta varieties (plantain lily) have striking summer foliage and is often used for mass planting in shade. This hardy perennial you can expect to perform every summer and it is deciduous in winter.

Superb Foliage – Annual

Coleus (syn. Solenostemon scuttelariodes), is technically a perennial, but treated in cold climates as an annual which are replaced every spring. Every year we see new hybrids in more explosive colour patterns being introduced. It is easy to grow large stocks of coleus by rooting healthy cuttings in water.

Hypoestes phyllostachya (polka dot plant) is an eye-catching annual to use as bordering in a shady bed. Shade actually enhances the gaudily ‘painted’ or colour-splashed foliage available in pink, red and white.

Always Reliable – Perennial

Zantedeschia aethiopica (Arum lily) is described as an evergreen perennial if watered regularly. The elegant white blooms start appearing in late winter until January.

Acorus gramineus ‘Golden Edge’ (Japanese sweet flag) is a clump-forming grass-like plant with yellow and green striped foliage. Very tolerant of wet conditions.

Rumohra adiantiformis (Leatherleaf fern) has huge, dark green leaves with a lacy appearance and loves growing in moist shade where it will soon populate large areas.

Flower Power – Annual And Bi-Annual

Begonia semperflorens hybrids is available in many shapes and shades and is truly the solution for bordering shady beds. The classic favourite ‘Dragon Wing’ in white, pink and red, can reach a height of about 40cm with a pendulous, arching habit. All flower for months on end.

Impatiens walleriana is probably the queen of summer shade with masses of brightly coloured flowers in many shades. New ranges are disease-free and easy to grow for little effort.

Source: The Gardener | To read more gardening tips and tricks, visit The Gardener website here.