Wednesday, July 15th, 2009...12:44 am

Shade Loving Plants

Pink Double Impatiens by Judes Jewels

Pink Double Impatiens by Jude's Jewels

TheGardenLady received this question from Kevin.

I have a very small front area, very small, 2′x25′ with very little sun. I was thinking about some kind of ornamental grass for height and some other colorful flowers.  Any ideas?

In order to give you a more precise answer, TheGardenLady would need to know your temperature zone and the amount of dryness or moisture in your front area.  Without this information, here are some suggestions:

You seem interested in grasses. Most ornamental grasses need sun. Many are shade INTOLERANT. A few will tolerate light shade.  See here.   But these do not bloom as well in shade. Sedges seem to be more tolerant of shade but some can grow too aggressively for your small area.

Koeleria macrantha, Junegrass and Melica imperfecta by edgehill

Koeleria macrantha, Junegrass and Melica imperfecta by edgehill

For a drier site there is Koeleria macrantha (syn. K. cristata) June grass which is a small, green, native clump grass with showy white flower panicles in June. A host for butterfly larvae. Shade tolerant and soil tolerant.

For a moist area there are two plants that might work:
Carex muskingumensis or Palm sedge is a slowly spreading plant with palm-like foliage that requires shade and moist conditions.

Chasmanthium latifolium by nobuflickr

Chasmanthium latifolium by nobuflickr

Also, Chasmanthium latifolium or Northern sea oats which is noted for its showy, drooping flowers and light green, upright, bamboo-like foliage. Flat green flowers will turn copper. Blooms well in shade and reseeds.

Also, consider hostas. The number of different hosta plants is so numerous that you can create a unique garden just with them alone. For your small area you can find miniature or small hostas. Plant variaged hostas or gold colored hostas to brighten the dark area.

Best shade tolerant colorful flowers would be annuals like impatiens and begonias.

Ligularia Dentata by robelsas

Ligularia Dentata by robelsas

If you want perennials consider Astilbe varieties, Greater Celandine (check to see if it is invasive in your area), Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Hearts), helleborus orientalis (Hellebore) and Ligularia dentata or Elephant ears. One doesn’t see Ligularia very often. It has large leaves. There is one with maroon-black leaves. Showy golden daisy like flowers appear in midsummer.

Lastly, consider an azalea. Azaleas will grow in shade.

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