Shade in the garden is both a curse and a blessing. Trees and buildings provide shade that cools the yard, making it more enjoyable to spend time outdoors. But shade also prevents many beloved garden plants from growing well. Have the best of both worlds by planting shade-loving plants in your garden. Whether you prefer lush foliage or brightly colored flowers, there are plants that flourish with little light.
Ferns come in many varieties, so there is most likely one that will grow well in your climate. Ferns prefer full to partial shade. They grow best in rich, moist soil. Work compost into the soil before planting to improve nutrient content, and add an organic mulch to preserve moisture.
Prized for their large leaves, hostas are common in many shade gardens. Varieties sport leaves in many shades of green as well as variegated leaf designs. Large plants, they may reach 8 feet in diameter, though dwarf varieties are available. Some cultivars have lilylike blooms in summer. Hostas prefer rich, well-drained soil and some dappled morning sunlight.
Tuberous begonias prefer shade, so much so that direct sunlight will quickly burn the foliage. Available in a range of colors, they add bright color to areas of the garden that usually have none. Begonias do not tolerate long freezing winters, so digging and storing the tuberous roots and replanting in spring is required in colder climates.
Nearly all spring bulbs will flower in shaded gardens, but they must be treated as annuals and replanted each year. Spring bulbs include tulips, daffodils and hyacinth. Bulbs only need sunlight after flowering to store up energy to bloom the following year. In a shaded garden they will only produce leaves after the first year's blooming. Replant fresh bulbs each fall for spring flowers, or dig up and pot bulbs after flowering where they will receive sunlight for the rest of summer.
Impatiens do best in light shade and will quickly wilt in direct sun. Available in a range of shades from red and pink to white, these annuals bloom all summer long. They require moist soil and need to be fertilized monthly, as impatiens are heavy feeders. The plants grow as tall as 2 feet with some sun and reach much lower heights in full shade.
Most plants in the mint family do well in light shade. They prefer plenty of moisture and rich soil, so fertilizing is necessary if they compete with large trees in the soil. Mint is invasive and will quickly take over a planting bed or garden. Plant in containers set in the shaded areas or use borders or edging that descends several inches beneath the soil.
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