Designing for a Shade Garden

Suggested Plant Selections for Shady Areas

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Hardy Plumbago is a perennial that will work well in a shady place.Hardy Plumbago is a perennial that will work well in a shady place.

I bet right about now, what with the heat and all, you're heading for the shadiest spots you can find. I know I am. I'm also noticing I don't have a lot of plants in those shady spots.

Somehow we don't tend to think of shade plants here in the Southwest, but there are a few that do quite well.

Many of the annuals fit perfectly into shady corners including tuberous begonias, coleuses and fuchsias. (I love fuchsias. When I was little, I used to call them 'ballerina flowers' because of the little pointed dots on the ends of the leggy stamens.)

Some of the perennials that take nicely to the shade include:

  • Ceratostigma plumbaginoides 'Hardy Plumbago': A groundcover that weaves into flowerbeds and likes any type of soil. It has deep blue, long lasting flowers. And the leaves turn red in the fall.
  • Lamium: Has silver leaves and pink or white flowers (White and Red Nancy varieties.) Both tolerate a wide range of soils and moisture levels. These are perfect to brighten dark shady areas.
  • Pulmonaria 'Mrs. Moon': A groundcover valued for its ornamental silver spotted foliage and blue flowers in the spring. It likes rich composted soil.
  • Ajuga reptens Bungleweed 'Burgundy Glow': A groundcover and likes any kind of soil. Zone 3.
  • Tradescantia 'Concord Grape' Spiderwort: A bluish-green grass that grows in dense drifts and likes dry shade.

Whether you're planting annuals or perennials, most of the shade plants benefit from organic matter such as compost in the soil. You will also want to add lots of mulch, but not too near to the crown of the plant because it will cause rot. Add a two-inch thickness rising quickly to about four inches, forming a ringed ridge around the plant. Mulch, of course, keeps water from evaporating and keeps the soil cool.

So…now you and your plants can both enjoy the shade in this heat wave. If, that is, you can get yourself out of the hammock to do any planting. That's been my problem lately.

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