Shade is Cool
by Monrovia
July 29, 2013

We get a lot of questions from gardeners who wonder what to plant in the shade. We have plenty of suggestions…but much depends on what type of shade you’re talking about.

There’s deep shade, like under a covered patio or dense tree. Then there is partial shade, where the plants may be in sunlight a few hours, like early morning or late afternoon. You might be blessed with dappled shade, created by airy tree branches that allow in little spots of sunlight that moves as the sun moves across the sky. Sometimes, just when you’ve figured out your type of shade, the season changes and plants that were once basking in the shade are now frying in the full sun!

What type of soil do you have in your shady spot? If you’re lucky, it’s rich, damp soil, thanks to the foliage of the trees above that decompose. A more challenging situation is dry shade with large tree roots dominating the space. The good news is there are plenty of great plants for all these conditions. So embrace your cool shady spot, add a chaise or hammock, and breeze through the heat of summer.

Deep shade

Aucuba makes a colorful accent in shady spots. Picturata has foliage of deep green with bright yellow centers; and Mr. Goldstrike has variegated lime and yellow foliage. It’s hard to go wrong with Clivia or Bush Lily. Their huge orange or yellow flower clusters are stunning against deep green strappy leaves. Ferns are fantastic shade dwellers. Brilliance Autumn Fern is a nice bright coppery-red. Bleeding Hearts are a spring delight in the shady woodland garden, though some may fade in the heat of summer. Gold Heart has bright golden foliage and pretty pink heart-shaped flowers…providing great contrast to darker foliage. Black Negligee Snakeroot holds its burgundy color throughout summer, is deer resistant and unbelievably fragrant. Best of all, it blooms in July when everything else has gone to the beach!

Fun in the partial sun

Partial sun and partial shade are similar, generally meaning fewer than four to six hours of sun per day. Emerald Spreader® Japanese Yew keeps its bright green foliage all year. Winterglow Bergenia is a standout with its deep magenta flower clusters all spring. Three great choices from our Dan Hinkley Plant Collection are our new Golden Angel Japanese Shrub Mint with vibrant golden foliage; Windcliff Fragrant Pachysandra makes a dense carpet of pretty foliage and scented flowers; and the fanned, maple leaf like leaves of the Red Leafed Mukdenia are rimmed with bright red.

Dappled shade

Hosta are quite happy in dappled shade and their interesting foliage shape and texture create a great look. Try some of the bright colored foliage like Fantasy Island or the perfect green Aphrodite. Bright variegated Hosta like Great Expectations, Cherry Berry, Fire & Ice, Patriot add a lot of interest. Equally at home under an airy tree are our new Cityline® Bigleaf Hydrangeas. You’ll love the interesting foliage on our new Camouflage™ Variegated Japanese Aralia, a selection Dan Hinkley brought to us from Japan.

Dry shade

Many Heucheras take dry shade, especially the newer varieties that have been bred to hold up to heat, humidity and a wide range of soil conditions. Pistache will add a pop of lime yellow foliage. Sweet Box thrives in dry shade and will survive where other plants won’t! Himalayan is a great choice – this evergreen groundcover has pretty white flowers that are delightfully fragrant – and bonus, is disease and pest resistant. Variegated Periwinkle is an evergreen perennial with pretty purple flowers and it can beautifully cover dry soil that is plagued with tree roots. Grecian Pattern Plant has tall white flower spires, adding an eye-catching structural element.

Seasonal shade

Then there is that garden challenge when happy shade plants are fine in the winter and then come summer, full sun is too much for them. If you love your shade, one option is to create more. HGTV has 40 ways to create some shade in your garden. But there are pretty plants that can deal with shade and sun. Fuchsia have colorful flowers and can handle both. Gartenmeister has colorful red-bronze foliage and doesn't mind the heat. DebRon’s Black Cherry has fascinating flowers that will bloom from early spring through frost! Lily Turf is a workhorse in the sunlight challenged garden, with pretty foliage, flowers and berries.

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