The Q&A Archives: Would like colorful perennials under shade trees and begonias are not surviving.

Question: I planted begonias and hostas under my trees last year and they looked good all summer. This year the hostas returned, but the begonias did not. So I planted a different type of begonias this spring. The appear to be losing their leaves and disappearing. The ones that are still visible look sick. I tried the sprinkle flower fertilizer (because we have had alot of rain). But then when that did not seem to work, I used Miracle Grow attached to the water hose. The hostas are hanging in there, but the begonias are not surviving. I use potting soil when I plant in the gardens because our ground has hard clay. I would like to have color under my shade trees and I would like the flowers to return every year so I won't have to keep replanting. Do you have any suggestions of what is not working with the begonias and what is another flower I could use?

Answer: Begonias can just disappear if the soil remains too wet, which seems to be what has happened to yours. Instead of begonias, try planting Bishop's hat, or barrenwort (Epimedium x versicolor): Attractive heart-shaped leaves. With its delicate yellow flowers, 'Sulphureum' is the most popular cultivar.

Dead nettle (Lamium maculatum): Look for cultivars such as 'Beacon Silver' with rosy pink flowers and silver leaves edged in green or the white-blooming 'White Nancy'.

Heart-leaved bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia): Large, leathery leaves and rose-pink flowers in early spring?looks great in a big grouping.

Sweet woodruff (Gallium odoratum): Finely textured leaves and white flowers in spring?top-flight ground cover in the shade garden. Will spread.

Dicentra (bleeding heart) is another good choice.

Hope one of these suggestions is just right for your garden.

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