Why You May Want a Perennial Shade Garden
Are you looking for landscaping ideas to fill shaded spots in your garden? Maybe you have a steep slope or area that is difficult to access?
Lawn grasses can be difficult to grow due to bare spots and disease problems. Adding a perennial shade garden under larger plants or areas that have low light will liven up your landscape.
Shade-loving perennials provide lush, multicolored foliage that will flourish in 3-4 hours of sun per day or full-shade. Ground covers that thrive in shaded areas are also a great solution for masking uneven surfaces that may have rocks and tree roots.
Define Your Perennial Shade Garden Space
Each plant has a preference for how much light it needs to grow successfully. Prior to purchasing plants for your perennial shade garden, you will want to observe your garden. Look for how the sun moves throughout the day and take note of trees, structures, and any existing perennials. Sunlight will change throughout the year, so it is best to monitor your space each month.
1. Full Shade, Partial Shade, and Dappled Shade
Full shade and partial shade perennials need some sunlight to promote growth and flowering. However, if there is not enough shade, the plants will burn during hot summer days.
Plants that thrive in full shade require one to two hours of direct sunlight. They may receive some ambient light that is reflected from nearby structures or sunlight that peaks through trees. Full shade areas may be present under thick vegetation, patios, decks, overhangs, and other structures.
Partially shaded areas receive between two to six hours of sunlight. Objects that provide shade, the direction of the sunlight, and the intensity of shade are important factors to consider when planning your shade garden. Edges of wooded areas and the base of trees provide ideal growing conditions for partial shade perennials.
Dappled shade is created when sunlight is filtered by tree branches or structures with open spaces (such as latticework). The sunlight moves throughout the day, creating different patterns and shapes.
2. Morning Shade and Afternoon Shade
Several hours of afternoon sunlight are more intense and create more heat than morning sunlight. Perennials that require partial shade will do best in locations that receive morning sunlight. In addition to placing plants where nearby trees will provide afternoon shade, you can plant on the east side of structures. This will allow morning sunlight while providing protection from the heat and sunlight of the afternoon.
3. Soil and Water Needs
Shade-loving perennials will do best in deep and nutrient-rich soil that is similar to woodland areas. The soil should have a loose and airy texture and be able to hold moisture. Decaying organic material, such as leaves, helps retain moisture in soil when left to breakdown.
The pH level of soil in a shade garden should be neutral to slightly acidic. Although soil pH can be modified using chemicals, some plants may do best in containers. For a low maintenance shade garden, choose native plants that have adapted to grow in your local soil conditions and climate.
Trees use a lot of the moisture from surrounding soil so it is recommended to use perennials that tolerate dry conditions. Only a few inches of soil should be added around the bases of trees. This will allow tree roots to breathe.
Pebbles or stones can provide a natural and attractive addition to mulch and help retain water in soil.
Growing A Perennial Shade Garden
Here are some recommended shade-loving plants that you can grow in a perennial shade garden:
1. Japanese Solomon's Seal
2. Oakleaf Hygrangea
3. "Coral Bells" Heuchera
4. Japanese Painted Ferns
Hakonechloa varieties provide texture and color to woodland gardens and areas with shaded borders. Their cascading leaves make a rustling sound when the wind blows.
A favorite among many gardeners, hostas are an easy plant to grow in moderately-shaded areas. There are many types of hostas with a wide range of shapes, colors, and textures. Some sun is recommended for varieties with light or variegated foliage.