The Q&A Archives: Low light gardening?

Question: I just moved to a house with a backyard. The trees have not filled in yet, but I anticipate having less than 6 hours of sunlight. I am already using some containers to make the garden more mobile, but are there any flowers or veggies that I can put into the ground (i.e. herbs, greens?)?
Cheers, David

Answer: Here's a short list of some of the top shade perennials that will thrive in most shade gardens:

Hostas: Hostas are excellent shade perennials and will prosper in the deepest shade. Besides surviving in the shade, hostas are grown for their attractive and dense foliage. Leaves vary in color from green to almost bluish and some species that display two colors are also common. Hostas, depending on species, also produce either glossy or dull colored leaves that can be rounded, heart-shaped, or long and slender in appearance.

Asiatic lilies: Asiatic lilies are shade perennials that will withstand filtered shade. They will also thrive near trees and hedges and are often used in landscaping design. They produce large flowers that sit atop stems that are about three feet tall. Blooms appear in a wide range of colors and can be picked to complement any previous color scheme in place.

Lady's mantle: Although once considered a weed, lady's mantle is now very popular and considered one of the easiest shade perennials to grow. It resists nearly all pests and produces yellow blooms, shaped like inside-out umbrellas, which rest on 18-inch stems. They bloom in June and continue through August but also produce attractive green foliage when not blooming.

Foxglove: Foxglove produces flowers in late spring through early summer. The delicate blooms display themselves on tall stems which can be found with a variety of colors. As a shade perennial, they grow best in dappled shade and can be grown both as a perennial or biennial. Foxglove stems should be cut back to about 6 inches after the flowers fade.

Virginia Bluebells: Virginia bluebells are ideal as shade perennials that can be planted under shrubs and trees. They produce flowers that can be either pink or white but will eventually turn to blue as the blooms age. Virginia Bluebells will bloom around April or May but will go dormant when the heavy heat of summer arrives.

Astilbe: Astilbe is ideal for shade gardening because the sun will fade the beautiful flowers it produces. Blooms appear in pink, red, and purple hues and sit on stems that will rise to about 2 feet in height. These will need to be divided every couple of years and they prosper best in a soil that will stay lightly moist.
Bleeding hearts: Bleeding hearts are a shade perennial that produces pink flowers and ferny vegetative foliage. It grows very well in shady environments and will grow to around 3 feet tall. The spring bloom period for bleeding hearts is a short, but dramatic, one.

The vegetables to grow in shade include leaf lettuce, carrots, radishes, beans and peas. Anything that flowers and fruits won't perform well in shade to don't grow tomatoes, peppers or squash.

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