Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2005
Regional Report

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Hanging baskets that combine various colors and textures add interest to shady areas in the summer landscape.

Hanging Baskets Made for Shade

Hanging baskets provide a great way to add color and interest to our summer landscapes. While there are many great blooming plants for hanging baskets, I like to use hanging baskets in shady areas. Baskets in shade are easy to care for as they don't require nearly as much watering as their sun-drenched counterparts.

Baskets provide interest to a shady area by adding another dimension between the ground cover or turf and the spreading tree limbs. They can bring texture and color to shady areas, and their gently swinging motion in the breeze adds additional interest.

Good Bets
Some of the best shade-loving plants for hanging baskets are ferns. There are many suitable types, including Boston fern, fishtail fern, Rabbit's foot fern, and Japanese painted fern. You just want to keep them moist and out of the direct sunlight. They like a bright shade, so I use them under the eaves of the house or perhaps out under the trees on long hangers where they can dangle out there in the yard and look great. Like me hanging in a hammock under a tree on a hot summer day, these ferns really love that shady location. They thrive in our southern heat, as long as you provide them moisture and a little shade.

Ivy is well suited to a hanging basket. There are many dwarf types of ivy with various foliage forms, from standard to deeply cut. Variegated forms are especially nice as they brighten the area and call attention to the hanging basket, even in medium shade. Other shade-loving basket plants include airplane plants, fern asparagus, wandering Jew, and creeping fig, to name a few.

Most blooming plants don't perform well in shade. A few exceptions include begonias, impatiens, and wishbone flower (Torenia), if the shade is very bright.

My favorite plants for hanging baskets in the shade are houseplants. They would really rather be in their natural habitat, which is outdoors beneath a tall tree canopy. Houseplants do very well in low light conditions, and the darkest outdoor shade is just right for most of them.

Mixing plants in the container is a great way to add eye-catching interest. When you mix plants, consider using various colors. In addition to the blooming plants mentioned earlier, you can bring great color to a shady basket with various types of colorful foliage. Caladiums, coleus, purple heart (Setcreasea pallida), burgundy colored dracaena, polka dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) and beefsteak plant (Iresine herbstii) are some excellent color options.

Variegated or striped foliage provides an added bonus. Hey, white is a color too! Aluminum plant, pothos, Aztec grass (a relative of monkey grass and liriope), and the variegated ivy mentioned earlier all draw attention to the hanging basket.

In addition to mixing colors, utilize different textures in your planting. Combine the narrow leaves of dracaena or Aztec grass with the broad foliage of pothos. Include upright plants, such as dracaena, with trailing plants, such as ivy or wandering Jew.

So try building some hanging baskets for shady outdoor areas this summer. Let you imagination run wild to create beautiful combinations of these easy, eye-catching additions to your landscape.

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