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Shady Gardening

Updated on September 6, 2016
Bellflower
Bellflower

Shady Gardening

Shady gardening can be as much fun as gardening in the sun. Shade presents the opportunity to be creative, the challenge of mixing textures, colors and forms and the advantage of not getting sunburned every time you go out to work in your garden.


Evening Primrose
Evening Primrose

There are different levels of shade

You have light shade where the sun is reflecting in and out over short periods all day. The type of shade you get by overhanging trees or tall plants.

There is partial shade, an area the receives sun part of the day or direct sun at different times during the day. The best situation is sun in the morning hours and shade in the afternoon when the sun is the hottest. This works well for plants that need some sun to grow but suffer in hot sun conditions.

Full shade is just that, full shade. An area in your garden that receives no sun at any time during the day or throughout the growing cycle of the plant/s. This is not to say there is no light, it’s the kind of light you run to when the sun is hot and you wish to get out of it.


Ostrich feather Fern
Ostrich feather Fern

Wet or Dry, Acidic or Alkaline

Almost every garden has shade in one area or another but to know what kind of plants to plant in these area, two of the factors are, is it wet or dry and is the soil acidity or alkaline.

Soil test can give you the answer about acidic or alkaline. On the pH scale of 1 to 14; below 7 is acidic, whereas above 7 your soil is alkaline. It is best to test different areas you wish to plant at, as soil can vary throughout your property.

Not many shade plants require alkaline soil, most will thrive in acidic soil. Soil acidic levels can be raised by mulching with evergreen needles like pine and hemlock or you can use oak leaves. If you do not have this type of mulch you can add iron sulfate. If your soil is too acidity you can add ground limestone every other year but be careful not to turn it too alkaline.


Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel


The moisture of you soil is another factor that can cause you to fail or succeed in your shade garden. To wet soil will cause rot and bugs to take over, to dry soil will cause plants not to grow and cause them stress by you trying to keep up with the watering, lets face it, you want a shade garden because they are to be less work to maintain and forgetting to water can lead to dead plants.

Wet areas tend to be in more open shady areas, like by a wall or where tree canopies are less dense which allows rain water to fall through. Dry areas tend to be areas where the tree canopy is dense, or where heavy tree, plant roots compete for water. The use of a rain gauge of some sort is helpful in known how rain actually gets in the soil. About a inch to a inch and a fourth of water a week throughout the growing season is enough to sustain most plants.


Clethra
Clethra

What else is there?

Good air circulation is important to help dry leave after a rain or watering. Overcrowded plants will tend to be leggy and scanty, it can also create a disease and/or bug problem. Organic mulch can be used to prevent the soil from drying to quickly, keeping weeds to a minimum and help with fertilizing the area.

Remember a healthy garden leads to healthy plants and once you have your plants in; maintenance is key to having a healthy garden.


Best Plants for the Shade by Sensible Gardening

Shade Garden Delights

Maidenhair Fern  6, hardy, rich soil with leaf mold
Maidenhair Fern 6, hardy, rich soil with leaf mold
Lavender  3, hardy, evergreen perennial, aromatic, needs dryer soil
Lavender 3, hardy, evergreen perennial, aromatic, needs dryer soil
Dianthus  16, hardy, ideal front border, needs well-drained soil
Dianthus 16, hardy, ideal front border, needs well-drained soil
Hibiscus  10, moderately hardy, upright, needs support, flowers late summer
Hibiscus 10, moderately hardy, upright, needs support, flowers late summer
Foxglove  3, biennial, tubular flowers summer, likes dryer soil
Foxglove 3, biennial, tubular flowers summer, likes dryer soil
Sweet Pea  4, flower in summer, sweet scented, needs support
Sweet Pea 4, flower in summer, sweet scented, needs support
Kerria japonica  10 spring flowers, arching, easiest to grow, like all types of soil
Kerria japonica 10 spring flowers, arching, easiest to grow, like all types of soil
Common Yew  16, slow growing, very hardy, tiny flowers, small red fruit, needs well-draining soil
Common Yew 16, slow growing, very hardy, tiny flowers, small red fruit, needs well-draining soil
Dog Fennel  12, early summer flowers, daisy-like, evergreen perennial, dry soil
Dog Fennel 12, early summer flowers, daisy-like, evergreen perennial, dry soil
Pampas Grass  8, evergreen oranamental grass, silvery-white plumes summer to autumn
Pampas Grass 8, evergreen oranamental grass, silvery-white plumes summer to autumn

Comments

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    • galine profile imageAUTHOR

      galine 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Thank You both for the comments. growing condition are important, I have ferns that love growing by my garage they grow 4 feet high, where the soil stays moist. I started to move some to the front fence where it gets morning sunny for a short while and the soil is dryer, they only get 1 1/2 feet here. Kind of amazing.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the information. I have a shady area in my garden and haven't had much luck growing things there. You've raised some good points about growing conditions that need to be considered in addition to shade!

    • GracieLake profile image

      GracieLake 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Nice hub. I appreciate the shade suggestions, since I have several spots in the yard that I am trying to decide what to plant.

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