by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Say goodbye to dull shady spots and hello to wonderful color, texture and shape. Not all shade is the same and can be broken down into 5 different categories.
Dense shade means that no light reaches this area. Full shade will last all day, such as on the north side of a tall building. A partly shaded area will receive 4 to 5 hours of sun. A filtered shady spot may seem completely shady but will receive rays of sun through tree branches. Light shade consists of shade for only 2 to 4 hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Figuring out what kind of shade you are dealing with will help you to choose the right plantings.
One of my go-to favorites in the shade garden is the ever popular Hosta, which generally will reach its maturity in 4 to 8 years. Some varieties are more shade tolerant than others. There are so many different sizes, colors and textures to choose from. They are relatively low maintenance but slugs can be a problem. Diatomaceous earth spread around the plants will keep the slugs away and hand picking them off the plant ensures they will not be chewing more holes in your hosta leaves. I go out after dark with a headlamp snug on my crown and a disposable cup with soapy water in hand to place the slugs into after picking them off the hosta leaves. Not a fun job but it definitely puts an end to those slimy little creatures!
Astilbe is a shade lover that comes with colorful plume shades of red, white and pink. If planted in sun it will need to be watered consistently. I know this first-hand as mine dried up to a crispy brown and went dormant during the summer only to sprout again the next spring.
Coral Bells (Heuchera) offer lots of color in not only the flowers but also in the leaves. Flower colors can range from white, pink and red and the leaves from peach, gold and purple to a variegated white and green. It is time to divide Coral Bells when the center is dead. Throw away any woody pieces and transplant. Every spring I cut off the old foliage and it grows back beautiful as ever. Hummingbirds are attracted to these flowers.
Pulmonaria is a deer resistant plant that you will find blooming with the daffodils. It has white to pink speckled leaves and blue, white or pink blooms that are small. When cutting back the bloom stems be sure to wear gloves so the pricklies will not stay on your hands.
Foamflowers prefer some light shade and different varieties sport shapely and colorful leaves with white to pink blooms in the early spring. To encourage more blooms cut off the old flowers.
Spring blooming Brunnera, also known as Siberian Bugloss and False Forget Me Not, prefers the conditions of a moist woodland setting. My favorite is Jack Frost with its’ dainty blue flowers blooming above the heart shaped white and green foliage on slender stems that grow to about 18 inches tall. This plant works very well as a ground cover or in naturalized areas alongside a stream or pond. Most varieties will take some morning sun but like the afternoon shade. Check the growers tag when purchasing for sun and moisture requirements. ‘Variegata” (‘Dawsons White’) will not tolerate sun or drought.
The deer resistant Bergenia sports glossy evergreen leaves and white or pink blooms in the early spring. It likes part shade, will tolerate full shade (will not bloom as well) and can be grown in full sun (leaf edges may scorch).
There are a number of other plants to choose from for your shade garden. Check the Purdue University Cooperative Extension website for publication HO-222.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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