Shade gardens provide a welcome respite from hot days. But many of the popular summer annuals, such as zinnias, geraniums and cleomes, cannot handle fewer hours of sunlight. When designing your shade garden, look for annuals that require less than four hours of sun each day. Tuck them in among shrubs and ferns to add a bright spot of color.
Torenia (Torenia fournieri), also called wishbone flower, is a tender perennial that is grown as an annual. It has delicate flowers of blue, pink or white with a yellow wishbone shape in the center. It makes an excellent potted plant in addition to growing well in the garden. Torenia can grow in full shade, but partial shade will ensure more flowers. The plant will grow about 6 to 9 inches tall.
Fuchsias (Fuchsia x hybrida), commonly called ladies' eardrops, are frost-tender perennials grown as annuals. Fuchsias grow well in part to deep shade; these heavy feeders require fertile soil. They will grow about 3 feet tall and wide, and also work well in hanging baskets. Their pendulous flowers come in pink, red, white or bi-color, and they bloom from May through October.
Bells of Ireland
Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis) is native to Western Asia and Syria. This annual, which prefers partial shade and neutral, moist soil, has flowers that are commonly known as a symbol of good luck. Tall spikes are covered with cup-shaped, pale-green leaves that contain tiny, white, fragrant flowers in August. The leaves (often mistaken for the flowers themselves) will turn pale beige when dried. Bells of Ireland is an excellent container plant, growing to 36 inches tall and 9 inches wide.
Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) have brightly colored blossoms that light up a shady garden. Their flowers come in every color except gold, brown, true blue or black, according to the Iowa State University Extension. Impatiens grow 8 to 24 inches tall and spread even wider, with flowers in single or double forms. They can handle anything from partial shade to full shade. White-blooming impatiens are particularly striking against foliage plants like hostas.
Wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens) is the workhorse of the shade garden, working well in the ground, pots or hanging baskets. It is a tender perennial treated as an annual. Wax begonia has succulent stems and glossy oval leaves that can be green, red, bronze, mahogany or variegated. Its flower colors include pink, red, white and rose, and the blooms can be single or double. Wax begonia grows from 6 to 18 inches tall, depending on the variety. It will tolerate some bright light but prefers partial to full shade. Pinch wax begonia back regularly to keep it compact and blooming.