The Q&A Archives: Low light area container gardening

Question: I have a condo that faces N/E. I want to add color and diversity.
What kind of flowering plants or plants with lot's of color could I use for containers.

Answer: Shade loving annuals include Impatiens x wallerana (Impatiens); An everblooming shadelover with red, pink, or white flowers. The 1-foot plants will wilt badly when dry. The best strain is the Super Elfin Strain.

Begonia x semperflorens (Wax Begonia); Red, pink, or white flowers. The 6- to 8-inch plants can grow in sun or shade and are quite drought tolerant. Some kinds have bronze foliage.

Lobelia erinus (Dwarf Lobelia); This is a low 6-inch plant that is grown for its intense true-blue flowers that bloom continously throughout the season. It also comes in sky blue, reddish purple, and white, and some have a white eye that allows them to be easily associated with other white-flowering or foliage plants. 'Cambridge Blue' is the most common, with gentian-blue flowers and bronze foliage on compact plants. The cascading types are loose and open and look very nice when allowed to ramble through other plants. Prefers a moist soil rich in humus.

Coleus Blumei (Coleus); The flowerless coleus has large leaves in bright beautiful colors. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall. Coleus are available in a broad array of rich vivid colors for outstanding and eye-catching displays. Plants will tolerate sun, but produce best color in partial to full shade.

Shade loving perennials include:

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's-Mantle); This 1-foot plant has pleated, kidney-shaped leaves and long lasting chartreuse flowers similar to Baby's-Breath. Takes dry shade well.

Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian Bugloss); This plant has bold foliage and bright blue Forget-me-not like flowers and grows to a height of 1 foot.

Hosta spp. (Plantain lily or Hosta); A durable, broadleaved plant with weed-smothering bold leaves. There are white-, yellow-, and gray-leaved forms. Flower stalks rise above the foliage in summer.

Phalaris arundinacea 'Picta' (Variegated Ribbon Grass); An indestructible white-variegated grass that is a rampant spreader. Sometimes turns brown later in summer, but cut it back to the ground and it will sprout a fresh batch of foliage.

You might also brighten up the area with bulbs. Plant in the fall. In the spring, after the bulbs have flowered, do not remove leaves until they turn yellow.

Crocus spp. (Crocus); They bloom in yellow, purple, and white in March. Plant corms 2-3 inches deep, 1-2 inches apart, in tight groups. Must be lifted and divided every 3-4 years.

Chionodoxa luciliae (Glory-of-the-Snow); These are lesser known than Crocus but are of an intense royal blue with a white eye, 3-4 inches high. It self-sows and does not need to be lifted and divided. Excellent with daffodils. Same planting directions as Crocus.

Endymion hispanicum (Spanish Bluebells); Blue, but also comes in a pristine white and a very intense pink. One-foot spikes bloom in May. An excellent performer. Plant in groups of 3-10, 4 inches deep, 3-4 inches apart.

Narcissus spp. (Daffodils and Narcissus); Everyone loves these, which may cause a problem. Passerbys may pick the flowers when they bloom in April. Plant 6 inches deep, 4-6 inches apart. Because their leaves stay green until July, floop over and look unsightly, they may be treated as annuals by pulling them out after flowering, discarding them, and replanting new bulbs in the fall. Bulbs need to be lifted and divided every 3-4 years.

Scilla siberica (Siberian Squill); Deep blue flowers, but not as showy as Glory-of-the-snow. Same planting directions as Crocus.

Tulipa spp. (Tulips); Available in many flower forms and in most colors execpt true blue and black. Prone to being picked. Plant 6 inches deep, 4-6 inches apart. Unless species tulips are planted, they often do not flower well after the first year. In that case, it is best to treat them like annuals, as with Narcissus.

Best wishes with your shade garden!

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