The Q&A Archives: shade bulbs

Question: i would like to plant summer bulbs for the shade. any suggestions? i live in brooklyn ny

Answer: Contrary to popular belief, many bulbs thrive in shade. Achimenes, a terrific groundcover that comes in blue, pink, pure white, salmon, and a mixture of all colors, blooms throughout the summer as long as you keep it moist. Bletilla, an easy shade-tolerant bulb in the orchid family, comes in magenta or white and stands about 12 inches tall. Caladium hybrids bring light and color into shady locations with their large, brightly colored leaves. White, green, pink, and red caladiums make excellent companions with hostas, ferns, coleus, impatiens, astilbes, and any other shade-loving groundcovers. Scadoxus also performs happily in partial shade, with dramatic masses of tiny bright red florets in softball-sized flowers on 8- to 10-inch stems.

To give your garden a tropical feel, try elephant ears, Alocasia or Colocasia. With their large, often darkly veined or mottled leaves?upright in Alocasia and facing out or down in Colocasia?they provide drama and structure. Sauromatum venosum is right at home in a shady jungle garden. Its large, 1- to 2-foot finger-like leaves on purple mottled 2- to 3-inch stems will look stunning behind caladiums or in front of colocasias and hedychiums.

Sun-loving plants with great foliage will produce fewer blooms in the shade, but their foliage alone can add a lot of interest. Canna 'Striata' ('Pretoria') grows best in full sun and may not bloom as well in partial shade; but who cares about those orange blossoms when you can have the terrific yellow and green striped foliage in the shade garden!

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