Grow Tips

Shady Areas

Large trees are known for their majestic beauty and the cool shade they provide, but many times gardeners feel they are limited to what types of plants and flowers they can grow in shady conditions. There are many annuals, perennials, and shrubs that grow beautifully in varying levels of light. "Gardening How-To", published by The National Home Gardening Club describes in the article "Made for the Shade", written by Justin Hancock, the four groups that determine levels of shade. Partial or light shade is when sunlight is indirect for most of the day. An area that gets a couple of hours of sunlight just after sunrise or just before sunset also falls into this category.

Full shade is when an area receives filtered light for the entire day. "Made for the Shade" says plants that do well in partial shade will grow in fully shaded areas, but plants and blooms may not reach their full potential. An example of full shade, as explained in "Made for Shade", is the amount of shade that would be under the leaves of a large tree. The same article recommends against planting shade gardens near the trunks of large trees because the main root system is only two feet below the ground. It would be difficult to dig around the roots, and the roots could become damaged in the process.

Deep shade can be compared to the level of lighting right before sunset. Successfully growing plants in these conditions is not easy. Most plants need some light to grow and thrive. A deeply shaded location will have very little light even at noon, according to "Made for the Shade".

The same article says an area that receives no sunlight throughout the course of the day should be categorized as being heavily shaded. It goes on to say, there is not much that will grow under these conditions. It recommends two plants in particular that should do well in deep shade. Liriope muscari can be grown in zones six through ten. It has lavender or white blooms surrounded by beautiful grassy foliage, and it can reach a height of twelve inches. Liriope muscari blooms typically from summer to fall. Convallaria majalis also does well in deep shade. This lovely, fragrant flower can be grown in zones two through seven. It blooms in the spring and also reaches the height of approximately twelve inches.

The website "Gardening With the Garden Helper", says in the publication "Gardening in the Shade", that large trees absorb much of the nutrients and moisture contained in the surrounding soil. Plants within these locations should be fed and watered on a regular basis. It recommends the removal of fallen leaves to avoid the suffocation of plants. Also, snow covered leaves may be too heavy, and they can compress the plants beyond repair.

The following is a partial listing of plants that thrive in full shade, adapted from "Gardening in the Shade". Perennials that will successfully grow in full shade are monkshood, lily-of-the-valley, bleeding heart, shooting star, hosta, dwarf forget-me-not, bluebell, and various ferns. Ground cover in fully shaded areas can enhance surrounding flowers and shrubs. Some you may want to consider are wild ginger, periwinkle, lungwort, bunchberry, kenilworth ivy, ground ivy, and creeping buttercup.

"Gardening in the Shade" suggests partial shade annuals such as sweet alyssum, snapdragon, wax begonia, basketflower, coleus, Chinese forget-me-not, flowering tobacco, and clarkia. Some partial shade perennials suggested are periwinkle, columbine, cyclamen, day lily, false spirea, dropmore, foxglove, and butterfly lily.

The same article recommends shrubbery that will prosper in patially to fully shaded locations. Some of the more common shrubs are azaleas, flowering dogwood, burning bush, weeping forsythia, oak leaf hydrangea, snowhill hydrangea, mountain laurel, honeysuckle, bayberry, and rhododendrons.

Before planting these recommended shrubs, flowers, and ground cover, check the plant hardiness zone map for your location. This will provide information on when to plant. Check with your local garden center or county extension office to see if a particular plant will grow in your area.