Fun in the Shade

This month, our theme is how to get something to grow in the shade. There are lots of shade-loving plants, but they need to be especially hardy to take our heat and erratic rains. Prepare the soil with compost and expanded shale if needed, and you will be ready to start.

Sometimes it is hard to find blooming plants that do well in the shade. Columbine is one of the best, and if it likes it where you put it, it will reseed itself and make lots to share! Blue and yellow (gold) varieties are available. Lily of the valley usually blooms early in the year also. Hosta will tolerate alkaline soils and comes in many interesting leaf colors ranging from wavy silver and green to very light green with dark edges. They bloom, too, with lavender or white flowers on a long stem.

It is difficult to get really bright blooms in the darkest shade, but bright bulbs provide lively color before all the leaves come out to shade your area. Pansies in the cooler months and impatiens in the warmer ones can do well in the lighter shade areas. In the darkest areas, go for caladiums in white, red or yellow hues. Against a background of hardy ferns like the Wood Fern, Japanese Fern or Royal Fern, the contrast can be wonderful. My favorite background “filler” is the Inland Sea Oat plant. It looks a lot like a regular oat plant as it grows, but takes very little water and loves deep shade. But be aware that it spreads rapidly, once you get it going.

Next month we will look at a fern garden that will not require a giant water bill. For other questions, please call the Ellis County Master Gardeners at Texas AgriLife Extension, (972) 825-5175 or visit with us at the 2011 GARDEN EXPO to be held at the Waxahachie Civic Center, Saturday, March 26.

Written by Nancy Fenton, Master Gardener.