These Plants Enjoy Shade

This window box of old fashioned impatiens blooms continuously through the summer with proper care.

This container of Gold Dust aucuba and rhodea graces a shady spot in my garden.

The deeper the shade the more cast iron plant likes it.

These lime colored hosta are an excellent way to brighten a shady spot.

The colorful foliage of caladiums are popular tubers we treat in this area as annuals.

This time of the year, shade is what we all look for in the garden. And while we like to escape summer in shady spots these plants love shade, too. While both impatiens and caladiums have types that will survive our sunny summer days, the ones most of us grow thrive in shade to part shade. When I think about shade plants I either want plants in this area of the garden that give it a burst of brightness either in blooms or foliage color, or provide a lush green feel that enhances the shade effect we are enjoying. Here are a few of my thoughts on plants that thrive in the shade of summer.

  • Gold Dust aucuba is a fine example of a shrub that shows its stuff in the shade. There are so many selections of variegated aucuba that you can select from lots of patterns, but the basic landscape effect is all the same – colorful (now for all you professionals, I know there are solid green foliage colored ones, too). The plants do well in shade but never in continuous full sun.
  • Rhodea or Nippon lily is a favorite of mine for shade, but many folks says it does nothing for me because it doesn’t have an attractive bloom. It looks almost tropical with its large strapping leaves and whorled foliage. It loves shade and will take dry conditions. Also, this is a great container plant. There are some variegated and speckled selections but will have to be ordered from a speciality nursery.
  • Impatiens are the most dependable annual for summer color in the shade. Some of the older types even reseed themselves, but the newer hybrid shade selections which you generally buy today have large flowers and a super wide range of colors. These do best in high filtered shade but are subject to wilting when they need water. They will also need fertilization throughout the summer, if you expect them to look like the ones in the window box above. There are also SunPatiens that thrive in full sun.
  • Caladium is the one colorful foliage plant that you see in most shady gardens that want color. While the tubers can be dug in late fall and over wintered indoors, most of us buy new tubers each year. These plants, no matter what size tuber you buy, will need water and at least monthly fertilization throughout the summer for maximum foliage production.
  • Hosta have so many foliage and size variations there are books that have been written about this plant. But for a shady garden, this perennial plant is hard to beat. They trive in high filtered shade to deep shade. The foliage size can be as large as a dinner plate, or as small as a baby spoon. There are green, grayish, yellow variegated, white variegated, and lime foliage selections. I have seen plants in this area from two feet tall and wide, to six inches high. My suggestion is to google the plant and choose what you want, or visit your local nursery and see what they have. Also, check out their mature size online, if that is a consideration.
  • Ferns have types that do not like sun and others that do. While I do not have an image of these plants, they can vary a lot in texture from the course foliaged holly fern to the fine delicate maidenhair fern. Also, ferns can be tiny like resurrection fern to tall and bold like royal fern. There are also a few variegated types that like shade like Japanese painted fern. Most ferns in shade add an airy, wispy feel that is very cooling. Select ones that do especially well in our area or are native, if you expect to plant a mass of these popular foliage plants.

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.

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