Like its sunnier counterparts, the shady spots in your garden can receive a boost of color from annual bloomers. A number of plants fit right at home tucked among hostas and ferns in even the deepest of shade. Start your search for the right annuals for your growing zone with a visit to your local full-service garden center early in the growing season when the selection is greatest.
Impatiens are one of the most popular annuals in the United States because of their ease in growing and abundance of blooms. Available in colors ranging from shades of red and pink to white and lavender, impatiens are usually 6 to 18 inches tall. Perfect for containers or garden beds, impatiens thrive on regular watering and fertilizing. They will quickly show signs of distress by dropping leaves from a lack of moisture before many other plants; other than that, they are virtually trouble-free. With no special care needs, such as deadheading or pruning, impatiens can give a season-long show among your shade foliage with little care.
New Guinea impatien cultivars tend to have more variety in foliage color and leaves with a glossier shine than regular impatiens. New Guinea impatiens grow best in bright morning sun with an afternoon shade, while regular impatiens do better in less sun.
Begonias are an excellent annual choice for small garden beds and containers. They grow from 8 inches to 2 feet tall and add color with constant blooms and unique foliage. Begonias grow well in partial shade in well-draining soil with little fertilizer. Available in double and single blooms, begonias range from white to shades of pink with either green or bronze foliage. Some cultivars, such as the hardy begonia, are actually tender perennials that survive year-round in zones 7 to 11. Begonias are a little more susceptible to disease than impatiens and are a favorite snack of pests such as spider mites, slugs, mealy bugs and snails. Treat your garden appropriately with a pesticide recommended for these pests at the first sign of problems.
Torenias, or wishbone flower, is another annual that will overwinter in zones 10 to 11 like a perennial. While impatiens and begonias are readily available in garden centers of all types, torenias are only likely to be found in a full-service garden center. With unique, cup-shaped blooms with a wishbone shape in the center of the flower, torenias will give your shade garden a different look. Torenias grow to about 6 inches and are found in shades of pink, blue and purple. They prefer very little sun.