Gardening with Shady Perennials

Look at shade gardening as a challenge instead of an obstacle. Shady areas can limit your plant selection somewhat, but many of the most beautiful plants in the world grow in darker areas.

Sunlight, or lack-there-of, varies from garden to garden and it may differ in each area of the garden. Shade will also vary by season and by part of the day. The summer season is the most important season to judge sunlight because the weather is at its hottest. Remember morning sun is not as strong as afternoon sun. Hot afternoon sun may be too much for shade plants to handle. Morning sun is cooler and preferred by many shade loving plants.

Light Shade to Part Shade means when the sun is present for less than four hours a day. This may include light being filtered through the trees.

Shade means when the shade is constant throughout the whole day.

Designing and Installing a Shade Garden

There are many elements involved when designing any garden. In shady spots the use of leaf textures, colors, and patterns becomes more important because you can assume there will be less showy flowers in a shade garden versus a sun garden. Variegated foliage plants can play a large role in shade gardens. The use of contrasting plants such as Hostas, Heucheras, Pulmonarias, Lamiums, and grasses can make a garden come alive with color even if they never produce flowers.

After figuring out light requirements, preparing your soil before planting becomes the most essential element to long-term success in your garden. You can make things easier by preparing your soil before beginning planting. Adding organic matter to the first 6 inches of the soil will make all the difference between a healthy garden and one that struggles. Peat moss, composted manure, and/or aged compost can be worked into the ground to improve soil conditions.

It is also important to factor in the water requirements of each plant. Some soils hold moisture well, while others drain very well. Perennials can be very particular to soil moisture. To ensure success choose your plants wisely and plant ones that may be more adaptable until you get used to your garden and your watering habits. Good luck and have fun!

Some shade loving perennial options

  • Bleeding Heart
  • Hosta
  • Brunnera
  • Columbine
  • Coral Bells
  • Astilbe
  • Vinca
  • Hellebore
  • Lungwort
  • Anemone

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