Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
May, 2001
Regional Report

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'Lilac Babylon' verbena makes a colorful, tidy, low growing groundcover in sun or part shade.

Landscape the Shade

The Lower South is blessed with many large beautiful landscape trees. In the heat of a southern summer these towering giants make outdoor living more pleasant. However, most blooming plants need light for their best performance, so planting under landscape trees can be a problem.

Planning for Shade Plantings

Shady areas often go unnoticed as dark corners of the landscape. Lost in a sea of dark green, they disappear. Take a walk around your garden now that the trees have leafed out and look for shady areas that need a little extra flash. There are a multitude of great plants to choose from that will help you enhance your low-light areas.

Brightening the Shade

One way I have found to brighten shady areas is by growing white leafed plants. White draws attention to dark areas. Using variegated plants is often a great way to bring white to the shade. I like planting groundcovers 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.

Blooming in the Shade

Despite the shade, there are many blooming plants that lightened dark corners with their white flowers. Azaleas are a staple of the South, but another excellent spring bloomer is Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica). Some of other favorites are oak leaf hydrangea, dogwood, variegated ginger, and white butterfly ginger. The blooms of sweetspire and white butterfly ginger offer the added bonus of a wonderful fragrance.

Of course, for fast results the area can be filled with impatiens or caladiums. The gaudy foliage of caladiums offers a multitude of white to pink and red splashed leaves for really showing off a shady spot. Areas viewed up close are prime spots for the wishbone flower (Torenia).

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