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Colorful plants for the shade

Updated on September 20, 2015
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, Master Gardener emeritus.

Little Vision in Pink

As a container plant, it is even more important to keep astilbe in rich,  well watered and well drained soil.
As a container plant, it is even more important to keep astilbe in rich, well watered and well drained soil. | Source

Little Astilbe

Astilbe 'Little Vision in Pink'
Astilbe 'Little Vision in Pink'

Look for these new plants

Astilbe, Hostas, Impatiens


Improve the soil first

If you learn just one thing today, let it be this: Take care of the soil and the soil will take care of your plants.

Before putting plants in the ground, take the time to improve the soil. Remove rocks, weeds, and any other overwintered debris. Enrich the soil and add organic matter.

Astilbe 'Little Vision in Pink' An Astilbe just the right size for containers. This is a smaller version of 'Vision in Pink'. A rose pink focal point in a shade garden with 16" block of fuzzy, pyramidal plumes.

Astilbe 'Little Vision in Pink'new introduction from Vermont Wildflower Farm.

Astilbe is a show off in the shade garden

All astilbe prefer shade but will tolerate some sun. The more sun, the more water is needed. Astilbe is a good choice for a shade garden or woodland border.

Most shade-loving plants, are native woodland dwellers with shallow root system. Adding organic matter, peat moss or core will increase the water holding capacity of the soil.

Bloom time is a relatively short, but attention getting display. The green foliage is the key consideration when placing this plant in your garden.

Give your astilbe plenty of growing space. It will come back bigger and better every year. Mulch will help maintain a consistent water level and block weeds.

Astilbe is made for the shade

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Astilbe 'Burgundy Red'Astilbe 'Elisabeth Van Veen'Astilbe 'Peach Blossom'Astilbe 'Little Vision in Pink'
Astilbe 'Burgundy Red'
Astilbe 'Burgundy Red' | Source
Astilbe 'Elisabeth Van Veen'
Astilbe 'Elisabeth Van Veen' | Source
Astilbe 'Peach Blossom'
Astilbe 'Peach Blossom' | Source
Astilbe 'Little Vision in Pink'
Astilbe 'Little Vision in Pink' | Source

Advantages of shade plants

Astilbe flowers
Hosta
Impatiens
Rust, bright reds, copper
Green
Red, pink, peach, orange
Pure white, cream
Blue
Purple, orchid, lavender
Pink, coral, peach
Verigated
White
* Astilbe foliage
** Hosta flowers
*** Impatiens leaves
Astilbe. Plan for the full growing season, not just the few weeks of flower color. **Hosta. Flowers are fragrant and usually purple, sometimes white, or white with fine lavender stripes. *** Impatiens dark green leaves are little noticed because the

New Shadowland™ 'Coast to Coast' - Hosta

The thick, golden color showcases the puckered and wavy leaves of the 'Coast to Coast' hosta. Pale violet flowers are attractive to humming birds.
The thick, golden color showcases the puckered and wavy leaves of the 'Coast to Coast' hosta. Pale violet flowers are attractive to humming birds. | Source

Shadowland™ 'Empress Wu' - Hosta hybrid

Shadowland™ 'Empress Wu'
Shadowland™ 'Empress Wu' | Source

Empress Wu

A huge upright mound of thick, dark green leaves. Spiky pale reddish violet flowers rise above the hosta. Your plant will arrive in a quart size container. It may take more than 5 years for your plant to grow as big as the one in the photo.

Plant is where it will not outgrow it's shade. It must have a regular water source to achieve it's giant size.

Grown in average soil, Empress Wu will grow to 36 - 48 Inches high. Spreading up to 60 - 72 Inches. Plant in zones 3-9.

An Autumn Frost shines in the shade

Autumn Frost is a jumble of striking  blue leaves with big yellow margins in spring. Just 10 to 12" tall, the broad gold margins lighten to soft white in summer.
Autumn Frost is a jumble of striking blue leaves with big yellow margins in spring. Just 10 to 12" tall, the broad gold margins lighten to soft white in summer. | Source

Sizing up hostas

There is always a place for a hosta in every shade garden. Select the perfect plant by it's size, color and texture. Most gardeners do not choose hosta for it's flowers, but they are the main attraction for humming birds.

Leaves are cupped, curled,wavy, flat or furrowed. Always plant hosta where you want them to be in 5 years. The hosta plant gets more attractive every year as it naturalizes into the landscape.

Leaves of a young hosta plant may not be as variegated or as blue, for example, as it will be once it is established.

Flowers bloom once a year rising on tall spikes well above the plant. Usually a pale lavender, the tubular flowers are popular with hummers and pollinators. Some varieties have a mild fragrance.

Plant Size*
Mini: Less then 6 inches tall (example Blue Mouse Ears Hosta)
Small: 6-10 inches tall (example Alakazaam Hosta)
Medium: 11-18 inches tall (example Autumn Frost Hosta)
Large: 19-27 inches tall (example Abiqua Drinking Gourd Hosta)
Giant: 28 inches and larger tall (example Blue Angel Hosta)

*Plant size and the hosta examples above are from New Hampshire Hostas. The site includes lots of good information about hostas and the best companion plants.

Wheee! hosta

Impatiens (sometimes commonly called bizzy Lizzy) is the most popular annual bedding plant in the U. S. today. For easy-to-grow, non-stop flowering in shady conditions, it has no equal.

— Missouri Botanical Garden

Rockapulco® Appleblossom Double Impatiens Impatiens walleriana

Yes. It's perfect. Appleblossom Double Impatiens
Yes. It's perfect. Appleblossom Double Impatiens | Source

Impatiens is made for the shade

Is this the little black dress of the plant world?

The bright bold colors of impatiens can be planted en masse, in shady beds and borders. It serves as ground cover planting swaths of hot colors in hard to plant shady places.

Accent a woodland garden, interchanging the newest colors. Fill hanging baskets with mounding impatiens that spill over edges. Select shades of pink, rose, red, white, lilac, purple, orange, and bicolor versions of both single and double flowers.

Dress up cottage garden containers or sleek metallic window boxes. Plant a basket tumbling over with color. Edge a driveway, border a sidewalk, draw birds and butterflies to your yard.

Bring the floral festivities inside using Impatiens as houseplants.

With few pest or disease problems, there are impatiens for every shady spot. Keep an eye out for slugs.

Can it take a little morning sun?

What is your favorite shade plant?

See results

5 new Impatiens

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Bolero™ Bright Coral - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybridaBolero™ Blush - Trailing Impatiens Impatiens hybridBolero™ Fuchsia - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybridBolero™ Orchid - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybridaBolero™ Orange - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida
Bolero™ Bright Coral - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida
Bolero™ Bright Coral - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida | Source
Bolero™ Blush - Trailing Impatiens Impatiens hybrid
Bolero™ Blush - Trailing Impatiens Impatiens hybrid | Source
Bolero™ Fuchsia - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrid
Bolero™ Fuchsia - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrid | Source
Bolero™ Orchid - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida
Bolero™ Orchid - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida | Source
Bolero™ Orange - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida
Bolero™ Orange - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida | Source

New series of 5 Impatiens

Impatiens will deliver a pop of color to any shady area. They require part shade to shade. Choose for shaded landscapes and containers. Requires regular and consistent watering for continuous bloom. See Proven Winners for more information about these Impatiens.

  1. Bolero™ Blush - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida - Little flowers of white burst open in clusters with little paint brush marks of fuchsia at the center of each flower.
  2. Bolero™ Orange - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida - Intense orange impatiens are beautiful spilling over the edges of the containers.
  3. Bolero™ Orchid - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida - Solid orchid color flowers crowds over the edges of the hanging basket.
  4. Bolero™ Fuchsia - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida - Continuous fuchsia blooms non stop til frost.
  5. Bolero™ Bright Coral - Trailing Impatiens - Impatiens hybrida - Thrives in light morning sun and afternoon shade.

All 5 new impatiens are pictured directly above.

Comments

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  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 9 months ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    I enjoyed your suggestions. Wish I could see you garden this summer.

  • Jean Bakula profile image

    Jean Bakula 11 months ago from New Jersey

    Breck's garden catalog features a white hosta, that looks really stunning with your green or green and yellow hostas. It comes up really small the first year, and does better each year. I love orange or purple impatiens too. In NJ where I live, they also have something called "star impatiens" and they are white in the middle, but usually come in red or purple. It adds a lot of color.

  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    You make me want to tour your garden!

  • sgbrown profile image

    Sheila Brown 2 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

    I have quite a few hosta planted in various areas in the yard, I love them! Your astilbe is beautiful! Mine has never done very well. I am going to have to try the again! I do plant a lot of impatiens in my shade gardens too, bright red!

  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Rochelle Frank, I couldn't agree more. I even love them in hanging baskets. Thanks for reading my hubs.

  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    purl3agony , Why couldn't we just cover the entire lawn with those? I love them. Thanks for reading my hubs.

  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    beaddve1800, Thank you for reading my hubs. I always appreciate it. Blessings.

  • Patsybell profile image
    Author

    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Kiss and Tales, when we have a place where hosta can remain undisturbed, they grow to be show stoppers. The flowers are a bonus but oh so fragrant. Thank you for reading my hubs.

  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Peggy W, many plants that used to reseed don't anymore because the plants are sterile or are hybrids that don't come back true. Still, it is worth it if you find just the right combo for the right place.

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country

    "Impatians are a virtue." I think I saw that on a tee shirt.

  • purl3agony profile image

    Donna Herron 2 years ago from USA

    Those Appleblossom Double Impatiens are gorgeous! I'll have to consider those for some areas in our garden. Thanks for introducing these new varieties!

  • beaddve1800 profile image

    beaddve1800 2 years ago from Toronto

    Interesting hub!

  • Kiss andTales profile image

    Kiss andTales 2 years ago

    I did not know Hostas can can be enormous. How beautiful. Thank you for your wonderful hub.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

    For several years after moving to this home we had impatiens that always reseeded themselves and grew without any special care on our part. Then one year almost all of them died. We have a lot of shade and even if I have to plant them each year, they are such a showy and colorful plant mixed in with our shrubbery.

    Loved this hub with all the photos and information. Pinning it to my gardening board and happy to share++.

  • colorfulone profile image

    Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

    I love these colorful plants. You have given me some good ideas for shady areas of the yard that I think need some brightening up. Thank you!

  • Patsybell profile image
    Author

    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    colorfulone, Thank you for reading my hubs. It always makes my day if I can help a fellow gardener in some small way.

  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Carb Diva, If you are interested in the impatiens in this hub, the Proven Winners website has listed all the closest garden centers where you can buy the impatiens. Just type in your zip code. As far as fertilizers, I would work in some time release fertilizer when the impatiens are planted. That will take you through the whole summer. To look the their best, regular watering is important. Thanks for sharing.

  • Patsybell profile image
    Author

    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    annart, Busy Lizzie is a common name in the (United Kingdom) for Impatiens. And was new to me until writing about one of my summer favorites. Thanks for reading my hub. I appreciate your kind words. And I would love to see your garden as well.

  • Patsybell profile image
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    Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Glimmer Twin Fan, Thanks for reading my hubs. Some tough, deer resistant plants to consider: Deer Resistant Garden for Shade

    Iris, Vinca minor, Pardancanda, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Pulmonaria. Thank you for your kind words.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

    We have a great deal of shade on our property. The deer attack our hostas so I have given up on them. Too bad--I love them. I've not tried impatiens but the ones you show here are stunning. What beautiful colors! Do they require feeding and if so, what do you use? Voted up, useful and beautiful!

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

    I love Busy Lizzies and used to have loads of them; I must add some to my current garden. All of these plants are lovely and a great idea for the shaded parts of the garden. We don't get much sun at the top of ours so I'll bear this in mind. Thanks for the advice.

    I bet your garden looks wonderful!

    Ann

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

    Well I have loads of shade and after 7 years of living here am still trying to get used to it. We have lots of deer too. I love my astilbe, but hostas always are the best performers. The impatiens seem to get eaten about 5 minutes after I plant them, but they are lovely too. I don't know about you, but I have started getting all the flower catalogues and I'm starting to get inspired. Nice hub!