Creating a shade garden requires careful selection of plants and preparation of the garden site for successful plant growth. Shade presents a challenge to gardeners since the most common plants require some degree of standardized light to grow well in the home garden. The shady neglected areas of the landscape benefit from the introduction of adapted plants that tolerate lower light levels. Shade perennials offer the gardener the option of a plant that returns for successive years.
Choose a perennial plant that matches the light requirements in the shade location. Light shade describes an area experiencing dappled sunlight through a tree canopy or an area with shade for a small period of time each day. Partial shade refers to an area receiving two to four hours of direct sunlight, usually early or late in the day. Full shade features no direct sunlight, but can have reflected light from structures or lawn areas.
Cultivate the garden soil to allow easy spread of perennial plant roots. Dig down with a shovel at least 6 to 8 inches to break up the soil in a 3-foot square area around the planting site. Break up the dirt clumps while digging, and spread the loosened soil evenly on the garden surface. Avoid cutting into surface tree roots when loosening soil.
Apply a layer of organic material and mix it into the garden soil. Shade areas, especially locations under mature trees, present the issue of plant competition. Plant competition occurs when larger plants strip the limited resources of nutrients and water from the rest of the garden. Mixing peat moss or compost into the garden soil before planting the shade perennial benefits all the plants. Both organic products encourage even water distribution through soil layers and boost the nutrient level of the soil.
Prepare the perennial for planting. Cut the plastic transplant container with the utility knife. Peal back the plastic, and grab the plant gently at the point where the main stem disappears into the dirt. Lift the plant free of the pot, and examine the roots. Look for compressed, hard soil and roots growing back into the main root mass of the plant. The object lies in encouraging roots to grow outward from the plant center in loosened, highly organic garden soil.
Loosen the plant roots. Direct a moderate stream of water at the root ball to loosen tight roots. Wash away the old potting soil and create space in the root ball by wiggling your fingers into the root system.
Dig a hole in the garden two times as wide as the planting container. Depth should mimic the planting conditions that the shade perennial experienced in the planting container. The top of the root ball should lie 2 inches below the soil surface.
Place the shade perennial into the planting hole and fill around the roots with loosened, amended soil. Press down firmly during filling to remove air pockets. Water the plant at the base of the main stem and apply a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch around the plant to keep roots warm and conserve water.