Shady places that provide
cool, refreshing areas of beauty during
summer's heat can contribute color and
interest to the landscape throughout the
growing season. Large trees and shady
areas in your yard can be provide a perfect
spot for a beautiful shade garden.
Don't think you have any shade in your
yard? The east side of every home or taller
structure is shaded in the afternoon.
Gardening in the shade doesn't have to
be frustrating, that's why we designed
this section of the website. There are
many plants that will tolerate relatively
low light, and a few, such as Cast Iron
Plant thrive in total shade.
You can choose from an array of flowering
annuals such as impatiens or coleus. Hosta
lilies, hardy ferns, and heucheras are
a few perennial plants that love the shade.
A host of woodland plants and trees like
it shady as well. Many groundcovers, such
as Ivy and Vinca Minor (Periwinkle) do
great in shade and help tie together all
of the other plants and trees in the shade
In light, or afternoon shade you might
even be able to grow a few herbs or leafy
vegetables. Roses, such as the Knockout
Rose and the newest introduction Carefree
Sunshine appreciate some relief during
the hot summer afternoons as well. The
trick is to know which plants are most
likely to succeed. We've done that research
for you and have provided descriptive
listings with photos of some of our favorite
shade plants and trees in the following
& Screens I
If you have enough ceiling
room in your garden or woodland area make
sure to plant lower growing understory
trees and shrubs such as dogwoods, red
buds, and native azaleas. Florida anise,
an excellent larger growing evergreen
shrub or small tree, is excellent as a
backdrop or tree form specimen in the
shade garden. Florida lecouthoe is another
excellent backdrop for a shade garden.
If your shade garden is on the east side
of your house, and there is a tall blank
wall, plant a Little Gem magnolia or a
camellia as espalier.
- Plant a few evergreen shrubs such as
mahonia, aucuba, azaleas, rhododendrons,
and nandina into the garden as well.
Annuals - If you're
looking for a continuous display of color
from late spring till frost, shade-loving
annuals such as impatiens, green leaf
begonias, and coleus work well.
New Guinea impatiens are becoming an
increasingly popular annual since they
are now available in a wide range of intense
flower and foliage colors.
Wait to plant summer annuals until after
Bulbs - Some spring
bulbs such as crocus, scillas, snowdrops,
tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils bloom
and produce leaves early enough, before
the trees leaf out, so that they receive
adequate amounts of sun to blossom annually
in a lightly shaded area. Daffodils naturalize
beautifully in an open wooded area. The
tuberous begonia is another bulbous plant
that grows well in light shade, since
its delicate blossoms cannot stand full
sunlight. Tuberous begonias are very tender,
though, and must be stored indoors over
the winter and not set out until frost
danger has passed.
Under the canopies of
large trees or on the south or east side
of structures usually are the best area
for a shadfe garden. Monitor and assess
these areas for a day to find out how
much shade they actually receive. You
may notice that sometimes on the west
side of trees, or under trees that are
high branched, there isn't much shade.
Just remember to choose a site where the
plants will receive at least afternoon
Light is not the only major concern when
gardening in shady areas. Frequently,
inadequate moisture can be a problem.
The thick canopy of a large tree or the
overhang of a house will act as an umbrella,
deflecting rainfall away from the ground
directly beneath it. Drip irrigation systems
or soaker hoses can be of benefit. Drip
systems allow you to place a water emitter
on only the plants that will need it.
Many shade-loving plants such as heucheras
are quite drought tolerant.
Your Shade Garden
There are different methods for planting
various selections of plants in you
shade garden. Refer to the following
sections to find proper planting techniques:
If planting your shade garden under
a large tree do not till the area. Tilling
could damage the root system of the
tree. Instead plant each plant individually.
In other areas, such as on the side
of your house, tilling is okay - just
watch out for buried utility lines.
Fertility & Fertilization
- Soil fertility can
be a concern in shade gardens, particularly
those situated under large trees. Some
of the plants that prefer shade also
prefer fertile soils rich in organic
matter. Large trees and shrubs fill
the soil with feeder roots that greedily
use up nutrients as readily as they
are applied. Incorporating a good compost
into the mix when planting can help
give your shade plants the organic matter
they need to thrive well in your shade
garden. An additional spring application
of organic matter such as mushroom compost,
or composted cow manure helps your shade
garden plants to thrive.
With few exceptions shade-tolerant
plants will do best in well-drained,
relatively fertile soil. Both sandy
soils and heavy clay like soils will
benefit from the incorporation of organic
matter or compost. Such materials are
particularly helpful in areas of hard,
Instructions For Planting Your Shade
Plot the perimeter
of the garden out with marker paint,
flour or a garden hose.
Then spray to kill
any existing weeds or grass with Killzall
Super Concentrate. You'll have to
wait a week or so to make sure the
weeds have been killed. Respray if
While waiting the
week or so for the weeds to die use
some time to develop a plan by investigating
what type of shade plants you will
want to use in your garden. While
investigating make sure to write down
a list of the ones you like. Note
height and width so that you will
know how to space and where to place
them in the garden.
Draw out a sketch/garden
design. Put taller varieties (48"
+ height) towards the back (center
if the garden will be viewed from
all sides). Place mid-size plants
(18-48' height) in front or nestled
in front and between taller ones.
(outside and around taller plants
in gardens that will be viewed from
all sides.) Place lower plants at
the front or along the outside edge
of the bed. Scatter groundcovers throughout
the shade garden. Our favorite groundcover
for shade gardens is Vinca Minor.
Once all the weeds
have died cut dead foliage back with
a lawn mower or weed eater. If you
plan to till simply till the dead
weeds under. Apply a liberal layer
of organic matter such as Claycutter
or mushroom compost and till to a
depth of 10" or so. Now you are
ready to begin planting.
- Before planting, arrange the plants
and trees you have purchased in garden
following your skecth. NOTE:
When setting the plants out in the bed
make sure to space them properly. If
a perennial grows 18 inches wide mark
out a circle on the ground with an 18"
diameter (Orange marker paint works
great for marking.) Set the plant in
the center of the circle. After placing
all of the plants step back to take
When you are satisfied
that everything is in place, remove
one plant at a time from its container
and plant it - starting with the largest
plants or trees first. For planting,
dig holes three times or more as wide
as the container the plant came in.
Mix in an good composted soil ammendment
such as Claycutter or mushroom compost
at a 50/50 ratio with the soil removed
from the hole.
Give your plants a
good soaking when you have finished
- Mulch the garden with pinestraw or
wood mulch. We prefer wood mulch at
about an inch or two deep.
Make sure you check
every day to see if your new plants
- Install a drip irrigation system or
soaker hose is convenient for watering
when there is drought or periods of
The base of your perennial shade garden
is now complete. The first year, you
might want to plant some shade
annuals here and there in the garden
for extra-added, season-long color.
You may also want to plant a
shade garden to go on the
deck or porch, or as movable accents
in sitting areas around a pond
or pool, or in the shade garden.
Your Shade Garden
Summer Care of
the Shade Garden - Your garden
will need attention throughout the growing
season. Weed control, which is usually
minor, and provision for adequate moisture
are two important cultural necessities.
When rainfall is less than 1 inch per
week, provide additional moisture.
The use of a mulch is
an attractive and effective means of
controlling weeds and maintaining constant
soil moisture and temperature for the
root systems of your plants. Mulches
that you might consider include bark
chips or shredded bark. To be effective,
the mulch should be applied at least
2 inches deep around the plants.
Pruning and Deadheading
Perennial Plants in the Shade
Garden - You may deadhead (remove
spent or faded flowers) all season long.
Deadheading encourages the development
of new flowers. In late fall or early
winter, when your perennials have died
back, you may remove dead foliage.
After cutting back dead
foliage you may want to winterize your
perennial garden by applying an inch
or two of loose mulch over the perennials.
Sample Shade Garden Designs