Friday, September 7th, 2012...5:34 am

Shade Loving Plants

Shade Garden by edgeplot

TheGardenLady received this question from Susan.

Outside our office in south Florida we have a planter that is entirely in the shade of an overhang. We have placed plants there and all have died. Can you suggest some plants that would survive and add beauty to building.

Before you plant anything in your planter, check to see if it has drainage holes. Plants MUST have good drainage to survive for any length of time. If there are no holes in the planter, you should either bore holes on the bottom of the container or buy new planters with holes.  (see here)

Then use good potting soil. Organic matter is always best. If your office has a gardener maintaining lawns around the building, see if he could start a compost spot for your building to use. This might be a first- creating an office building compost site. You might even be able to compost lunch leftovers in it for a savings to the building. Barring that, TheGardenLady likes to recommend buying soil with slow release fertilizer already in the soil.  If you do buy potting soil with fertilizer added to it, check to make sure the bags are not wet and that the potting mix doesn’t look like it has been sitting around a really long time. For adding your own slow release fertilizers to your potting soil, my friends like the Osmocote brand.

Not knowing the amount of sun or shade your planter location is in, I can only guess how much light there is for the plants. (see here)

Now to answer your question.

I am guessing that because your planter is under an overhang, you have deep shade and this is why you are having problems. Your planters will probably do best with non-flowering plants. Flowers need some sun or light.

The best suggestion for deep shade is the Aspidistra elatior or Cast Iron plant.  (see here)

Aspidistra elatior by intheburg

It was given the name Cast Iron plant for a good reason. It can live in the most adverse situations. No sun? Fine for this plant. Forget to water? Again, no problem for this plant; Aspidistra plants seem to prefer drought to being overwatered. (If you don’t have holes in the bottom of your planter, you might even kill this plant that can otherwise live for over 100 years.) Plant the cast iron plant in any loamy, well draining soil with plenty of organic matter.  If the leaves look dull from being in too much shade, put it into the sun for a short period; though you probably won’t need to do this. It comes with either solid green leaves or with variegated leaves. (see here) This plant is so hardy there was a humorous song written about it in the 1930s called The Biggest Aspisdistra in the World.  You might enjoy hearing.

Another plant that might do well under the overhang is the Caladium, a plant grown for its colorful leaves not its flower – Caladium hortulanum. Caladiums are as colorful as most flowers and though they do have a flower, they are not grown for the flower but for the leaves. For directions on Caladium care check this out.  Planted around the Cast Iron plant, the caladium tubers can be easily pulled out if they don’t look like they are growing well. I feel certain that the Aspidistra will remain looking good forever.

Calathea zebrina or zebra plant might also do well. It likes light but not sunlight. There are numerous plants that like light but no or very little sunlight, so they are called shade loving plants. But be careful when combining plants that the plants chosen need the same type of shade.

If you want to experiment to see if you have enough light for plants like bromeliads, or orchids, like  the Vanda orchids (see here) that grow well in Florida, or begonias (see here), leave them in the pots they come in. Plant the Cast iron plant permanently in the soil in the center of the planter and dig in the pots around the permanent plant.  Then if you see that the plants in the pots are not thriving, they are easily removed and the permanent plant, in this case the Cast Iron plant, still remains looking handsome for all to see.

Please let TheGardenLady reader know if you have success. Photos would be nice.

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