All gardens are not created equal. Some gardens have too much shade and some not enough. You might think that there are not many plants that you can grow in the shade, but there are many perennials in the shade that are worth trying. Here in the Middle South, even plants considered full sun actually appreciate a little afternoon shade. There are a few tips that can make shade gardening with perennials a breeze like evaluating your site, creating the amount of shade you want, and picking plants that are good for your area.
Tips for gardening in the shade
The first tip for planting perennials in the shade is to choose a place that has little competition with trees that have superficial roots like maples, sweet gums and dogwood. The term “surface roots” means exactly what it says. The roots of the trees grow on the surface of the soil. This causes a problem with competition for water and nutrients if perennials are planted around these roots. Giving your plants a good growing environment with little competition is the first step to a large garden. The second tip is to evaluate your site before planting.
Evaluate your site
It is important to evaluate your site and identify the light and shadow levels for that area. Just take a walk around your courtyard and see which areas get full sun and which areas are really shaded. Remember, light levels change throughout the year as seasons change and when trees come out or grow to maturity. Take notes in a diary on which areas receive shade in the morning, at noon and in the early afternoon. Note if the area is full shade, partial shade or full sun. For the novice gardener, these terms can be a little confusing. Here is a quick summary of what these terms mean.
Full shadow the areas have a dense canopy where direct sunlight does not penetrate, or perhaps the plant is in the shade of an evergreen tree or building all day long.
Partial shade means that the garden receives mottled shade all day long. This simply means that you can see parts of the sky through the leaves above you. Another type of partial shade is the garden which is more densely shaded for part of the day but receives intense sunlight for 2-6 hours.
The third type of area is full sun this means that the area receives at least six hours of direct sunlight during the day. After evaluating your site and understanding what kind of shadow you have. Next, you may want to create the amount of shade you want for your garden.
Create the amount of shadow you want
The third tip to increase your success with shade gardening is to try changing the amount of light that enters your shade garden bed to suit your needs and the needs of the plants you want to plant. Prune the trees to reduce the amount of shade and to create a tall canopy that your plants will love. This also creates more airflow which is healthy for you and your plants since it reduces mold and mildew. To create more shadow; plant trees, add walls and fences, build a clapboard house or put a shade cloth on a simple plastic pipe structure, build a pergola or gazebo. Using screws on structures is also a quick way to create more shade.
Choose the right plants for your area
After evaluating your area and creating the type of shade you want, you are ready to plant. Go to your local gardening center or the local extension service website for a list of plants that work well in your area. You will both find a wealth of information. Below is a list of some perennial shadow-loving artists for Mid South.
Ten perennial shades for the Middle South
- Italian Arum (Arum italicum)
- North Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
- Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
- Cardinal flower (Lobelia Cardinalis)
- Solomon’s seal (Polyanatum odoratum)
- Spiderwort (Tradescantia x Andersoniana)
- Lent squad (Helleborus spp.)
- Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
- Astilbe (Astilbe x Arendsii)
- Lily toadTricyrtus formosana)
Visiting local botanical and public gardens, participating in local garden tours, joining local garden clubs and visiting the local extension service website is a great way to learn more about perennials that work well in your area.
Given the right conditions, your plants will thrive. Remember, remove the competition, evaluate your site, create the amount of shade you want and you will be well on your way to a wonderful courtyard that you will enjoy all season long. Keep in mind that there are also ferns, vines, annuals and shrubs that are good for shade. As a general rule, plants that are good for shade have large, flat leaves that help them absorb light for photosynthesis and growth. Generally they will have fewer flowers and seeds than plants grown in the sun. Think about foliage, color and texture for the shaded areas of your garden. This list of ten shade perennials is a good starting point for gardeners in the Middle South, but part of the fun of gardening is experimenting with different types of plants, so be sure to go out and find the plants that will be on their own. favorites “and enjoy the ride.
We strongly suggest you Richmond arborists for tree planting advice and further assistance.