Some plants are just made to be in the shade

Gardening in the shade is a condition I don’t have to deal with. My house faces south, and is fairly low, and so I have sun everywhere for most of the day. The only real shade is under the beautiful old oaks and maples in the back, and those areas are more suited to a lawn chair, a book and a cold drink or a cup of coffee than plants. And they are getting plenty of use this summer.

For those gardeners who do have full or partial shade for a good part of the day, there are solutions.

Full shade is that caused by a high wall, evergreens or a building facing north, or may be limited to part of the year under trees that create deep shadows in summer months when in full leaf.

Light shade may be under deciduous trees with sparse foliage, on the north side of low obstructions or where there is filtered sunshine. Half shade may be on the east or west side of a house or other building, with either morning or afternoon bringing sunny conditions.

Plants growing in any type of shade have specific requirements for water and good soil. They need adequate space to spread foliage that will absorb all available light. A large amount of organic material such as compost or well-rotted manure is necessary.

Spring flowering bulbs can be planted in places that receive some sun early in the year, before deciduous trees leaf out. It is possible to have a colorful display ranging from the earliest crocus, muscari and snowdrops on through daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. By the time shade from trees becomes a problem, the flowering will be over. It is a good idea to plant some ferns or ground cover such as ajuga between the bulbs to hide that browning foliage as summer arrives.

Of course, the first shade plant that comes to mind for most people is the hosta in all its forms. From fairy garden miniatures such as the Minnie Mouse series to the enormous gigantea varieties, from variegated to plain, from ribbed to puckered or wrinkled, variegated to plain, true green to whitish or almost blue, there is an almost limitless array to choose from. Hostas are drought tolerant and in every way the perfect plant for the shade garden.

Day lilies are close behind, and choosing the right varieties can provide color from late spring right through the summer months.

Some reliable annuals include many different impatiens including the beautiful New Guineas, lobelia, begonias, nicotiana and torenia. Many perennials will grow well in moderate shade, including columbine, monkshood, lily of the valley, bleeding heart, coral bells, forget-me-knot, bee balm, spiderwort and pansies and violets.

Patches of shade provide restful areas in the garden, and offer a chance to showcase a number of plants that would not do well in a sunny area.

Janet DelTurco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.

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