Gardening in Shade

Kelly Jackson
Christian County Extension Office

Gardening in Shade

Gardening in shaded areas may be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating. Most complaints concerning shade gardening can be solved through proper plant selection.  Either gardeners don’t know which plants to purchase for shade or they purchase a “shade-loving” plant only to watch it die shortly thereafter. These two problems are related and to solve both dilemmas you must first answer two questions.  How much light and how much water will your garden receive?

Light: You will notice on plant tags the terms part shade, light shade and full shade, but what do these mean? Part shade is an area that alternates between full sun and full shade during the day; preferably the full shade occurs at midday and lasts through the afternoon while the full sun is in the morning. Light shade areas receive sun most of the day, but the light is dappled by the leaves of overhead deciduous trees, so no direct sunlight occurs.  Full shade areas are nearly always in heavy shade; these areas may be under a heavy tree canopy or man-made structures.

Water: Established trees offer much competition to your new plants for available water. But even without competition, plants under man-made structures like decks and roof overhangs may have trouble getting sufficient water. Plants may need additional water even in times of sufficient rainfall. Applying mulch can help retain more moisture for your plants. Do some research on individual plants before you buy them to see if they prefer damp shade or dry shade.

     Even if you know the answers to these questions and select plants accordingly, you still may encounter some problems.  Summer heat and soil types will often affect your results.  Experimenting with different plants will help you determine which ones grow best and is part of the fun of gardening. Some suggestions for plants and their maximum shade tolerance are listed below:
 
Trees
Ironwood (Full); Carolina silverbell (Light); Flowering dogwood (Light); Kousa dogwood (Light); Serviceberry (Light)
 
Deciduous shrubs
Viburnum (Part); Bottlebrush buckeye (Part); Common witchhazel (Full); Japanese kerria (Full); Large fothergilla (Light); Oakleaf hydrangea (Part); Smooth hydrangea (Full); Sweet pepperbush (Full); Winterberry (Part)
 
Evergreen shrubs
Drooping leucothoe (Full); Japanese holly (Part); Leatherleaf viburnum (Part); Rhododendron (Part); Yew (Full)
 
Annuals
Impatiens (Full); Browallias (Part); Torenia (Part); Coleus (Part); Wax begonias (Full); Lobelia (Part)
 
Perennials
Alumroot (Part); Coral bells (Part); Astilbe (Part); Balloon flower (Part); Bellflower (Part); Pigsqueak (Full); Bleedingheart (Part); Heartleaf brunnera (Part); Cardinal flower (Part); Christmas fern (Full); Daylily (Part); Lady’s mantle (Part); Ostrich fern (Full); Toad lily (Part); Turtlehead (Part)
 
Groundcovers
Ajuga (Part); Lungwort (Full); Boston ivy (Full); Common periwinkle (Part); Epimedium (Full); Hosta (Full); Lily-of-the-valley (Full); Lilyturf (Light); Plumbago (Part); Sweet woodruff (Full); Wild ginger (Full)

 
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Topics : Human Interest
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