The Q&A Archives: Colorful Perennials for Shade

Question: Could you recommend any shade loving colorful perennials for under pin oak trees?

Answer: Do keep in mind that plants grown under trees face stiff competition from the trees for moisture and nutrients. You will achieve better success if you can prepare the planting area by adding plenty of organic matter and then using a two or three inch layer of organic mulch around the plants. You will probably also need to water these plants during hot dry spells even after they become well established. Having said that, there are a number of colorful perennials you might consider growing under trees!

Here are some reliable performers: Ajuga, lamium and epimedium provide interesting foliage colors as well as lovely blooms. Astilbe has a lovely airy texture and comes in a wide range of bloom colors. The perennial geraniums will bloom in partial shade as will columbine, ceratostigma and Japanese anemones.

Hostas are always a good choice for shade. The color here is in the incredible foliage which, depending on the variety, can grow from miniature to huge in size and in color ranges from blue to green to chartreuse. Although hosta blooms as a rule are not very exciting to look at, some are wonderfully fragrant.

Your local nurseries may stock these plants, or a good mail order source for many varieties of shade loving plants including these is Shady Oaks Nursery, 112-10th Avenue, S.E., Waseca MN 56093-3122 or telephone (800) 504-8006.

Good luck with your shade garden!

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