Excessive amounts of shade can be a challenge for growing plants in the home landscape. Just as moisture, temperature and soil conditions are often limiting factors in plant growth, the amount of sunlight a site receives is also a factor.
Not all shade is the same. The various types of shade are filtered, partial and dense shade. The amount of shade varies with the time of day and from year to year as trees grow. The good news is that many garden plants do well in shady locations and some actually need to be out of the full sun. If you are struggling to get a lawn to grow under a grove of trees, consider a different approach by adding variety and class to your yard with shade loving plants.
The challenge is to figure out which plants are most likely to succeed growing in the shade. Then provide them the type of care they need. First, determine how much light the plants will receive. Deeply shaded areas under large trees or the overhang of a building present more of a challenge than partial or filtered shade. Most shade-tolerant plants need well-drained, fertile soil. Incorporate organic matter such as peat moss or compost into sandy soils and heavy clay soils. Make sure the plants growing in the shade of large trees, shrubs or structures are provided with adequate water.
What type of plants do the best in a shady situation? Camellias, azaleas and hydrangeas prefer shade since the full sun will cause leaf scorch and lead to a variety of other maladies. Some smaller understory trees, such as dogwoods, need to be out of full sunlight. Annuals, impatiens, coleus, wax begonias, dwarf salvias and other shade tolerant annuals can be planted after the frost danger is past. Some early blooming spring flowering bulbs, such as crocus, bluebells and snowdrops can be planted in areas shaded in the summer by deciduous trees. These small bulbs bloom and their foliage matures in the sun before the trees finish leafing out.
Hosta, lilies, astilbe, columbines, bleeding hearts and Huecheras (coral bells) thrive in filtered shade. Many shade loving perennials are woodland plants that usually blossom very early in the season. Trillium, foam flower, Solomon's seal and wild violets are examples of woodland plants. Ferns prosper in shade provided they have the necessary amounts of organic matter in the soil and adequate water.
Often we receive questions about turf grasses in shady areas. There are not many solutions to growing turf in the shade. Fescue and St. Augustine can grow in filtered shade, but will deteriorate in deep shade. The area must receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Other alternatives exist. Consider planting a shade loving perennial ground cover like English ivy, ajuga, liriope, vinca and Japanese pachysandra.
The 2010 Annual Gwinnett County Extension Plant Sale will be offering some shade loving plants such as native azaleas, evergreen ferns and two varieties of Huecheras (coral bells), among other plants.
If you are interested in purchasing some of these excellent plants, go to the Extension Web site at www.gwinnettextension.org to download the brochure and order form or call the Gwinnett County Extension office for a form to be mailed to you. The deadline for ordering is March 2. The order pick-up day is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 11 at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville.
Timothy Daly, MS is an Agricultural and Natural Resource agent with the Gwinnett County Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.