The Q&A Archives: New Gardens in Sun and Shade

Question: I would like to plant perennials this year and I am not sure what to plant. I live in Chattanooga Tn and I love gardening but am just learning. I have full sun during the day on the front of the house and partial on the back. I would like to plant front and back but focus on the back which gets mostly morning sun. It doesn't get much. I want to fix a water garden and a nice plant garden without wasting money on wrong plants.

Answer: I like the way you think! Many gardeners just go out and buy plants because they like the way they look, and find out that they aren't the ones suited for their growing conditions. You've got a planning headset.

The next step is to have your soil tested for acidity and nutrient levels for soil in the front and back of the house. This will help narrow the field of plants you can grow, or let you know how to adjust the soil pH and nutrients to grow what you want. Your county agricultural extension office (ph# 423-855-6113) can give you information on soil testing.

You have a huge array of plants to choose from when you have a site in full sun. The limiting factors are more likely to be soil type, drainage, wind exposure, space, and, of course, your chosen color scheme and design.

Does your backyard get dappled shade during the day, filtered light, or is it heavily shaded? These degrees of shade are important to note when choosing plants, too. There's a great catalog called Shady Oaks Nursery ( that categorizes plants into four groups by their shade tolerance -- I highly recommed it as a guide, even if you decide to purchase plants locally.

I also suggest that you find a copy of The Southern Living Garden Book published by Oxmoor House (ISBN # 0-8487-2023-7) -- it'll serve as a great foundation for your growing gardening knowledge. Enjoy!

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