Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
May, 2008
Regional Report

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Impatiens are one of many plants that can provide color for a shady spot in the landscape.

Shady Characters

When the summer sun bears down on our southern landscapes, we really appreciate shady areas. Shade makes the season tolerable and helps a lot with water bills that rise with the thermometer each summer.

However when we give up light we often give up color because most blooming plants need sunlight to make the carbohydrates required to support bloom production. Shady areas often go unnoticed as dark corners of the landscape. All is not lost, however, as there are a number of plants to help bring color and interest to shady spots.

Colorful Foliage
One way I have found to brighten shady areas is by growing white-leaved plants. White draws attention to dark areas. Using variegated plants is often a great way to bring white to the shade. Consider planting ground covers such as variegated ivy, Aztec grass (actually a type of mondo grass), variegated liriope, and variegated Asian jasmine. Shrubs with variegated foliage, such as some hydrangea varieties, also work well.

The gaudy foliage of caladiums offers variations of white-, pink-, and red-splashed leaves for really showing off a shady spot. Persian shield sports purple and silver foliage. Beefsteak plant (Iresine herbstii) adds a deep red color. The variegated cannas such as Bengal Tiger will tolerate a bright shade, as will purple heart (tradescantia), with its dark purple foliage.

Blooming Options
Flowering plants for shady areas include impatiens, wishbone flower (torenia), and adapted columbines such as red columbine and the yellow-blooming Hinckley's columbine. Perennials such as hostas provide foliage and blooms to attract attention. There are many blooming gingers including hidden ginger, and my favorite, the Hedychim genus, which includes the fragrant white butterfly ginger.

Woody ornamentals including azaleas, Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), and pieris do well in moderately bright shade. American beautyberry is attractive with its lavender-purple berries that adorn the stems after the leaves drop in fall. Mexican buckeye and red buckeye are worth their space, too. Hydrangeas such as lacecaps and oak leaf hydrangea are other shade-loving favorites in our southern gardens.

Don't let a little shade make you settle for a lack of color in the landscape. These and other great choices can keep your shady areas colorful this summer and all year long.

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