Colorful Leaves To Brighten Shady Areas

Variegated false Solomon’s seal is a great addition for shade gardens. It is perennial.

Coleuses are electric in the shade.

Caladium leaves are excellent color additions to shady spaces.

Hosta leaves come in all kinds of variations of yellow, green and white.

Gardening in shade is a delight. Adding color to the darker areas of the garden is easy if you use foliage. Both annuals and perennials are available to do the job. While there are many types, the ones discussed here are not too hard to find and can easily be transplanted from a container into the garden now.

Coleus is treated as an annual in our area. This is a very easy to grow, colorful foliaged plant that does well in shade. Most of the popular colors are all the variations and variegations of red, but in our area the lime colored ones have gained popularity. You can, with small plants, have a beautiful display all summer. Give them good water and drainage for best results. One tip – pinch out the flower shoots as they begin to form to help with density and height control.

Variegated false Solomon’s seal is not the most popular of the shade loving perennials, but boy to I like the foliage. Many of my gardening friends swear by it for dependability and massing. Just make sure it is planted in fertile soil that is well drained. You will probably have to go to a good local garden center to purchase these plants. Great variegated foliage for the shade.

Caladiums are tubers that can be harvested at the end of the growing season, stored in a dry place, and replanted every year. But today most of us buy them potted from our garden centers. While white might be my favorite color of caladiums, there are wonderful variations of white, red and pink. And now because of breeding, there are excellent types that do well in full sun. They of course like fertile well drained soil and must be watered when dry to continue to produce new foliage, as the older leaves die and need to be removed.

Hosta – The longer I grow hostas the more fond I am of these plants. Shade is a must. Through breeding they come in every size and variegations of white, green and yellow. I have found that hostas are easy to grow, and other than foliage eating insects have no problems. The ones shown growing in the image above are at the base of a Japanese maple and have been growing there for years. A quick google of hostas will show you an enormous selection. I suggest you pick your plants based on size, foliage color (with or without variegation), and price. Good local nurseries generally have favorites for the area, and if you buy now you can have instant color for your space. One bonus of this plant is that many of them put up bloom shoots that have to be removed when finished blooming. They love good soil and need shade to thrive and good summer watering.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

One thought on “Colorful Leaves To Brighten Shady Areas

  1. John, My day lily fronds are turning yellow. There are about 40 lilies in one bed and most of the fronds are have yellow stripes or are completely yellow. There has been plenty of water since the four wk drought we had earlier this spring and I have given them a couple of good waterings with MiracleGrows blue granules. Any idea what my problem is. Oh, and in spite of the yellowing of the fronds, the blossoms are beautiful. paul davis, bessemer, al

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