Gardening in the shade does not have to be frustrating

Published 11:36 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010

If you have an abundance of large trees and shady areas in your yard, try to see this as a challenge rather than an obstacle to good gardening.

Gardening in the shade does not have to be frustrating. Some plants tolerate relatively low light, and a few actually thrive on it. No, you cannot grow zinnias or petunias very well, but there are some equally lovely flowers that will do well.

First, evaluate how much light the plants will actually receive each day. Areas beneath large trees or under the overhang of a building that are very densely shaded present more of a challenge than do areas of partial or light shade. Although partially or lightly shaded areas receive direct sunlight for only a small portion of the day, light intensity is often still quite bright.

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Make sure that plants in these areas receive plenty of water. Remember that they are competing with other plants, trees, and shrubs for every available drop of water.

It is vital that plants growing in the shade of large trees and shrubs or sheltered by your home be watered regularly even during times of seemingly adequate rainfall.

Soil fertility can also be a problem. Trees and shrubs fill the soil with feeder roots that greedily use up these nutrients as readily as they are applied. In most cases a spring application of a balanced fertilizer, followed by one or two application as the season progresses, will help your shade plants survive the competition of tree and shrub roots.

Some of the plants you might consider will definitely include impatiens. They are the kings of the shade loving annuals and are readily available anywhere plants are sold this time of year. They come in almost every color and are available in single and double forms. They a low growing habit and spread rapidly. They are great beneath trees, in containers or near buildings. Their biggest drawback is that they must be watered frequently.

A newer type of impatiens is the New Guinea impatiens. These have patterned or variegated leaves and grow taller than the regular impatiens.

Wax begonia is another shade loving annual. The succulent leaves are dark green or bronze depending on the cultivar.

The flowers are white, pink, salmon or red and bloom all summer. They are extremely durable and make excellent bedding or container plants in shady or sunny sites.

If you want colorful foliage, then coleus are what you want. Their burgundy, purple, red, pink, orange, yellow, gold, white and green foliages are all available in every imaginable combination. Their purple blooms are usually removed so as not to distract from the foliage. Coleus are extremely easy to root from cuttings. They can be overwintered indoors.

Caladium is a tender bulb that is often treated as an annual. The bright red, white, pink, and green leaves are the showy feature of this plant. Each two toned leaf is heart or arrow shaped. Roots should be dug in the fall and stored indoors over the winter.

These a just a few of the shade loving plants that can brighten your summer landscape.