Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 28, 2014

DIRT ON GARDENING: Looking for shade-loving plants? Try these


— Who says there’s not much choice in shade-loving plants?

Well, maybe choices are a little more limited than in the thousands of sun-lovers but really, if one does a little research, there are many out there that thrive or survive in shade or partial shade.

Here are a few examples:

• Old-fashion bleeding heart — It is always a favorite because they are one of the first to bloom in spring; rose/pink and white blooms on delicate arching stems make them a stand-out. Usual height is around 2 to 3 feet with widths about the same. Because they have been around since older generations, many of us seasoned gardeners are well aware of their open structure and abundant flowering.

• Astilbe — This is a well-tried first in any garden and was probably one of the very first in my garden when I moved to the Goshen area in 1977. Colors, sizes and pattern variations make them a must. While they grow nicely in a sunny spot they will be comfortable in filtered sun/shade as well. Colors run the gamut so expression is easily accomplished.

• Heuchera — This old standby is also one of the first to incorporate in your shade-garden. This amazing plant is admired not only for its colorful blooms on stiff tendrils but for its amazingly colorful foliage. This plant has, in the last two decades or more, undergone major hybridizing to increase not only foliage colors but also their textures.

Most gardeners are very familiar with the older versions of Heuchera that occupy many gardens that have green foliage with brilliant red flower spikes. They were almost standard at any home. While they are still valued, they have given way in recent years to the many newer varieties that sport newer and more interesting foliage and flower colors.

• Hostas — These are a must in any shade garden. The color variations, leaf sizes, leaf variations and flower colors are endless, so the world is your oyster (so-to-speak) in availability. I once had a paperback publication that had literally thousands to choose from.

• Meadow rue (Thalictrum rochebrunianum) — As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, this is my all-time favorite and is a perfect specimen for shade. You’ll love its open growth habit with spider-like stemming but you’ll fall in love more with the tiny cerulean blue flowers with lemon-yellow stamens.

• Ajuga — Ajuga does well in filtered light and there are several to choose from. Foliage colors range from solid purple to mottled green/purple. Colorful purple spikes grow from 6 to 12 inches and they, too, vary in various shades of purple. This is a perfect combination plant with candytuft. The white against the purple is most pleasing.

• Anemone — This is perfect in a tree line where filtered light will make it right at home. Give them an ample amount of water and mulch them heavily for overwintering. They can be a little touchy so make sure proper winter care is followed.

• Primrose — Always a welcome sight, primrose is one of the earliest plants to bloom in the spring. It is winter-hardy with proper mulching. These beauties are one of the most interesting shade-lovers in the garden and have the most outstanding blossom color variations of any plant in the garden. They were always prized while perusing the many perennials at the garden center because they were always in full bloom when placed on the shelves.

These represent only a handful of all that are available but can give you a good start.

Of course, there are many annuals as well that will thrive in the shade — impatiens being the most prominent with colors roaming the whole spectrum.