Shade gardens can be lovely, tranquil oases of cool colors, and calming places of rest … for your eyes as well as for birds, squirrels and other creatures. Shade gardens aren’t attention grabbers; they can’t support the vivid-colored flowering plants and shrubs that thrive in sunny spots. Their charm is of the quiet, ethereal variety.
If you have a shade or part-shade area, embrace it for what it is and contact Cool Hand Carpentry and Landscaping to transform it into a special space you will enjoy for years to come.
No Need for Sun Envy
One of several advantages of shade gardens is that, once fully established, plants can go longer without watering. Also, generally, shade plants seem to require less maintenance, including weed pulling.
Keep in mind that “shade” is not an all-encompassing term. There are degrees of shade and very few plants will survive in full deep shade, i.e. where no sunlight, not even a couple hours of dappled sunlight, reaches them each day. It’s worth spending some time studying the pattern of sun/shade in your yard. Notice what areas get morning sun or afternoon sun, and areas that receive no direct sun, but plenty of filtered sun thanks to nearby trees and shrubs. Pay attention to sun requirements on plant tags.
Plants That Do Well in Shade
When purchasing plants consider the following list of plants that crave the limited sunlight that your yard offers. There are many varieties of each … you can spend hours online researching them. And check out local nurseries – for sales and knowledgeable staff to help you with your garden plan. Unless noted, these are perennial plants, which means they will come back year after year (and in a few years you can divide them to further fill your garden or share with friends). They all do well in our Southwestern Pennsylvania climate. As with sun-loving perennials, when purchasing any of these plants consider the foliage. Because perennial flowers last a few weeks at most you’ll want to select plants whose leaves and shapes are pleasing in their own right.
Astilbe – feathery green fronds, small flowers on upright stems
Bleeding Hearts – delicate leaves with lovely heart-shaped pink and white blossoms in spring
Brunnera – silver-variegated heart-shaped green leaves, with blue or purple flowers
Coral Bells – many varieties, with leaf color ranging from green to gold to red to umber
Ferns – delicate, feathery, mostly green; Japanese painted fern is especially nice
Hosta – wonderful foundation plant for every shade garden; many varieties in all shades of green, with white or yellow stripes, centers, borders. Some get as big as 3-4 feet across so good space fillers as well; they grow quickly and divide easily
Lamium – low-growing groundcover that spreads pretty quickly; variegated green and white leaves host clusters of small white or purple/pink flowers in spring
Lenten Rose – early flowering plant in late winter; clusters of antique white or pale pink flowers with deep red interiors are surrounded by sturdy leaves
Pulmonaria – really cool leaves that are an elongated oblong shape, with white spots; clusters of true-blue flowers Solomon’s Seal – adds much-needed height; sturdy upright green stalks support symmetrical green and white leaves up and down all sides of plant; pretty white flowers that only last about 10 days
Some other shade-loving plants:
Japanese Forest Grass – adds different texture to your garden; although slow-growing, once established it requires little maintenance. Comes in shades of green and, some are striped.
Hydrangeas – who doesn’t love the elegant, old-fashioned shrubs with graceful and bountiful flower “mops” in shades of blue, pink and white. Too many varieties to count.
Coleus – wonderfully performing annual that comes in amazing variety of colors, almost all with some shades of red and green, including true chartreuse. Flowers are negligible … you purchase coleus for their flashy leaves. They look great in pots, mass plantings, or tucked here and there for added color.
Impatiens – yes, they are “common” annuals but aren’t the colors nice? Plus they flower from spring until frost with no dead-heading required. Sometimes you just want a plant that is pretty and oh-so-easy to care for. Use in the same way you would coleus. .