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Plants To Grow In The Shade by P. Allen Smith

Whenever I talk to people about their gardens, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “What can I grow in the shade?” Many homeowners view these areas of reduced light as “problem spots” and “no-grow” zones.

The good news is that although you may be more familiar with plants that flourish in full sun, there is also a beautiful selection of shade-loving plants that can add color and interest to those darker areas of your garden. So, the next time you’re selecting plants for your garden, step over to the dark side… and by dark side, I mean the shade-loving plants.

The word shade by definition means absence of light. However, in an outdoor setting there are many different kinds of shade including dappled, partial, deep, and even wet or dry. It is important to take the time to determine what type of shade you have in your yard so you can select the plants that will thrive in your conditions. Happy, healthy plants require a lot less work and worry. Whether you use annuals, perennials, or shrubs, you can brighten the shady areas of your garden with any of these vibrant varieties.

Coral Bells
Oh, coral bells! I like to use native plants, also known as Heuchera, when possible, so these beauties make an appearance all over Moss Mountain Farm, in the gardens and containers. Coral bells are easy to grow and blend easily with most other perennials in the landscape. One of my favorites for the edges of paths and in containers. The chartreuse foliage brightens low light areas.

‘Wild Rose’ Coral Bells

‘Wild Rose’ Coral Bell forms a full, rounded clump of attractive foliage with a remarkable iridescent purple color. The black veining and amethyst purple undersides add to the allure! As the leaves mature, they develop a softly luminescent pewter overlay. In midsummer, reddish-purple scapes that are proportional to the foliage carry wands of cream flowers. I like to use ‘Wild Rose’ near the front of flower borders and in containers. No matter where you put it, you’re going to love it!

Hosta
Fragrance anyone? I’m planting lots of Hosta this year at Moss Mountain Farm and into the fragrant ones. ‘Royal Crest’ is highly scented and a vigorous plant. This is one of those Hosta that’s worth growing for its staggering blooms. Beautiful when grouped with ‘August Lights’ Astilbe and ferns….especially ‘New York’ Fern!! And columbines! ‘Empress Wu’ Hosta – The largest known hosta available! This massive plant forms a gigantic upright mound of huge, thick, dark green leaves topped with pale reddish-violet flowers. It will make a fantastic statement in your shade garden!

EMPRESS WU – GIANT HOSTA

 

 

Ferns
My, what satisfying additions they, too, make! Royal, Cinnamon, Hayscented, New York, and Toothed Wood ferns are just a few of the old friends that, when sited properly, perform for years, and with ease. Certainly, it’s worth noting, that these mentioned are all American native plants.

Container Garden at Moss Mountain Farm – ‘Southern Comfort’ Coral Bells, ‘T-Rex’ Hosta, Creeping Jenny, ‘All Gold Hakone’ Grass, ‘New York’ Fern

This combination of perennials will bring a warm glow to shady areas of your garden. Designed with a play of color and texture for visual interest through the growing season and into the fall.

 

‘AUGUST LIGHT’ ASTILBE

Astilbe
One of my favorite shade perennials is Astible. Astilbes provide vivid color and texture to shady areas with their feathery blooms and fern-like foliage. ‘Maggie Daley’, ‘Mojito’, and ‘Color Flash’ Astilbe are a few of my go-to favorites.

So there really is no reason your garden couldn’t be as lush in the shade as it is in the sun. Play with your colors and textures; have fun with it. There are so many interesting options for full or partial shade; you may just find yourself drawn to the dark side.

GOOD TO KNOW: PLANTING UNDER TREES
There are many plants that thrive under trees, but if you garden in these spaces you know that tree roots can present a challenge. A solution for this is container gardens placed under the tree. Just remember that shady doesn’t equate moist. Don’t forget to water the containers when the top inch of the soil is dry.

So there really is no reason your garden couldn’t be as lush in the shade as it is in the sun. Play with your colors and textures; have fun with it. There are so many interesting options for full or partial shade; you may just find yourself drawn to the dark side.

The list of shade-loving plants, of course, could go on and on. Recently  I’ve been keener than ever to find easy,  yet stylish combinations of shade perennials for the emerging shade gardens at Moss Mountain Farm. With lots of space to fill, it’s a big, and I must say, an exciting canvas on which to ‘paint’.