Plants in shaded area - Knowledgebase Question

Dudley, Ma
Question by wresener
July 12, 2009
What would be good plants for ground cover in a shaded area? I would also like some flowering plants in that area.

Answer from NGA
July 12, 2009


Some shade loving groundcovers to consider include: Wild Ginger, Bunchberry, Kenilworth Ivy, Sweet Woodruff, Houttuynia cordata, Lamium maculatum (Dead Nettle),
Redwood sorrel, Pulmonaria, carpet bugle, pachysandra and vinca. Shade loving annuals and perennials include: Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) are the kings of shade-loving annuals and are readily available at almost every garden center. Their brightly colored flowers are available in every color except true blue, black, brown, or gold. Flowers are available in single or double (rose-like) forms. Their low growing (8 24 inches tall), spreading habit make them ideal beneath trees, in containers, or near buildings.

Rose balsam (Impatiens balsamina) is another type of impatiens that was popular 50 years ago. They are taller (1 2 feet) than the other impatiens and they prefer a couple of hours of sunlight for best bloom. Flowers are often double, resemble small roses when fully open, and are produced at the tips and leaf axils along the tops of the stems. The fruit or seed capsules are also interesting. As the capsules ripen, they are sensitive to touch or movement. Once touched, they explode, sending seed great distances.

Wax begonia (Begonia x semperflorens) is another common shade-loving annual. The succulent leaves are dark green or bronze, depending on cultivar. The thick flowers are white, pink, red, or salmon and bloom all summer. Plant height ranges from 6 to 12 inches, depending on cultivar and growing conditions. Wax begonias are extremely durable and make excellent bedding or container plants in shady or sunny sites.

For vibrant foliage in a shady site, Coleus (Solenostemon hybrids) is king. Combinations of burgundy, purple, red, pink, orange, yellow, gold, white, and green are all available in different cultivars of coleus. Flowers are lavender or white, insignificant, and often removed so as not to distract from the interesting foliage patterns and colors. Coleus are also easy to root from cuttings, and rooted plants can be overwintered indoors.

Browallia or silver bells (Browallia speciosa) is a lesser known annual for shady sites. The light blue or white flowers grace the tops of 6 12 inches tall plants for most of the summer. Plants are commonly grown in containers or hanging baskets for shady decks or patios.

Wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri) is another uncommon annual for shade gardens. The white, pink, purple, yellow, or blue flowers are tubular and resemble snapdragons from a distance. Many of the cultivars have contrasting or dark spots on the petals. The stamens are fused and resemble a wishbone, hence the common name. Plants are 6 12 inches tall with bright green leaves.

Caladium (Caladium bicolor) is a tender bulb that is often treated like an annual. The bright red, pink, white, and green leaves are the showy feature of this shade-loving plant. Each two-toned leaf is heart or arrow-shaped and displays prominently all summer. Plants are 2 3 inches tall depending on cultivar. Flowers are insignificant and rarely produced. Tubers or roots should be dug in fall and stored indoors over the winter.

A few other annuals that tolerate shade or partial shade are: nasturtium (Tropaeolum), flowering tobacco(Nicotiana), pansy (Viola), lobelia (Lobelia), bachelor button (Centaurea), Pinks (Dianthus), bells of Ireland (Moluccella), forget-me-not (Myosotis), baby blue eyes (Nemophila), perilla (Perilla), fuchsia (Fucshia), and elephant ear (Colocasia).

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