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How to Grow Flowers in the Shade

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017

Many flowering plants need lots of sun in order to thrive and produce their colorful blooms. But some just love the shade, so if you have a mostly shady yard, fear not—you can add color and interest with plants like hostas, astilbe, impatiens and bleeding heart. Some shade-loving flowers are annuals and others are perennials. You'll need to evaluate your property to learn whether you have light shade, part shade, filtered shade or full shade before you make your choices of plants to grow (see Tips).

Select the plant(s) you want to grow, depending on the amount of sun (or lack of it) that your yard receives. For example, hostas perform well in light to full shade (see Tips).

Dig in compost, peat moss, bark and other organic materials to enrich the soil in your shady area. Different plants have different needs, but if you think of a forest setting where shade-loving plants grow, often a rich, thick layer of loam or mulch exists due to dropped leaves and other organic materials from the trees that provide the shade.

Dig holes slightly larger than the nursery pots in which your plants arrived. Empty your plant(s) from their pot(s) and then set them into the holes. Gently fill them with the soil you dug out, patting it down gently around their bases.

Water thoroughly and keep most shade-loving plants moist.

Bait or trap snails and slugs because they live in cool, dark and damp environments. You can purchase snail and slug bait at your nursery, or scatter diatomaceous earth around your shady garden bed. Try beer traps if you prefer a nonchemical solution to rid your garden of these pests.

Evaluate how well your shade-loving plants bloomed and prospered at the end of summer. If one plant pleased you more than another, you might want to plant more of that one the following spring.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Plant(s)
  • Compost, peat moss, other organic materials
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Snail bait, diatomaceous earth or traps (optional)

Tips

  • Light shade means an area receives two to four hours of shade during peak daytime hours. Many sun-loving plants can survive under this condition.
  • Part shade means an area receives four to five hours of shade during peak daytime hours.
  • Filtered shade occurs in an area that receives some sunlight all day, but it is filtered through trees without dense foliage, or perhaps by an arbor.
  • Full shade is where the sun never shines. The north sides of buildings often have full shade, as do areas under trees with a thick canopy.
  • Conditions for specific plants: Astilbe needs part shade; bleeding hearts, lily of the valley and hellebore need part to full shade; impatiens likes light to full shade; hostas, trillium and toad lilies prefer light to part shade; coral bells thrive in part shade to full sun.

Warning

  • Some trees, such as the black walnut, are not appropriate places under which to grow anything because of a toxic chemical celled juglone that is contained in their fallen leaves. Also, the large root system of many trees makes it difficult for other plants to compete underneath them.

About the Author

 

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.