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Perennials & Ponds

Made for the Shade

A lot of individuals get discouraged planning a garden when they have to contend with shade. In fact, shady corners can turn into beautiful, colourful and peaceful spaces using a bit of creativity and imagination. There are varying degrees of shade and a wide assortment of plants that thrive in these conditions.

A shady area does have its benefits. Blooms tend to last for longer periods of time and most weeds and heat-loving insects avoid shaded areas. Best of all during the heat waves in the summer a shade garden becomes a cool retreat.

Types of Shade

It is important to look at what type of shade one has. The most important factor in determining this is to gauge the amount of available light. The amount of available light will vary from morning to dusk, day to day and from week to week throughout the growing season. It is always advisable to observe how much available light an area gets, so one can choose plants that will successfully grow and thrive.

Dappled Shade / Partial Shade

This is produced by trees and creates a moving pattern of sunlight and shade. Simply put, it is the drifting pattern of light and shadow under trees. This type of shade lets in the greatest range of light and allows for the widest range of plant selection. Dappled / partial shade will support both shade-loving and sun-loving plants.

Open Shade

Open Shade is created in north-facing yards. This shade is created from shadows by structures (adjoining walls, fences or building eaves and bay windows). The distance the shade is cast will vary depending on the time of year. This can be a very challenging area for growing plants, as the hot afternoon and evening sun in the mid-summer may burn the leaves of some plants.

Medium shade

Medium shade occurs when an open shade area is further obscured by trees. This can also be a very challenging area for growing plants.

Alternating shade

This occurs when light levels shift from sun to shade or vice versa, depending upon the time of day. The important thing to note in areas like this is when sun and shade respectively are most dominant. Some plants prefer morning sun, but need to have afternoon shade. The plant selection for this type of shade may be limited, but with careful planning a striking garden can still be had.

Dense Shade

Dense shade is characterized by an almost complete lack of available light. This can be found where tall walls, fences, buildings or trees block all but the narrowest strips of light. The plant selection for this type of shade is limited, but there is a selection of shade-proven varieties that will help create a shady paradise.

Dry Shade

This encompasses any shade conditions involving mature trees. Dry shade occurs because most trees rob the soil of nutrients and water leaving very little moisture for other plants in the area. Dry shade conditions are common under evergreen trees, as they tend to absorb all available moisture.

When shade in a landscape is produced by a structure such as a house, wall or fence, it is very different from that produced by a mature tree. Structurally shaded areas are common on the north, northeast and east facing sides of buildings and fences. The amount of available light in these areas is fairly consistent. This makes choosing plants a little easier.

When looking at planting under a mature tree however, the amount of available light is ever-changing as the shade pattern from the canopy shifts. This can be tricky for choosing appropriate plantings, as the intensity of the sun at ten in the morning is very different from the intensity at two in the afternoon. Knowing the available light levels in an area is important to ensure a successful planting.

Shade plants usually have more chlorophyll (green pigmentation) than sun loving plants. This makes their leaves more sensitive to light and therefore more adaptable to low-light situations. Due to this light sensitivity however, the leaves may bleach, yellow, scorch at the edges or develop burn spots if light levels become too intense.

Once one has assessed the amount of available light in the planting area one can choose from a variety of plants. They will range from true shade plants, sun-loving plants (that tolerate some shade) and semi-shade plants. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing plants:

  • sun loving plants will tolerate some degree of light shade 
  • shade loving plants will rapidly show signs of distress from too much direct sun (late afternoon sun)

Successful shade gardening is not an impossible feat. Here are some great choices for shady areas:

 

 

Shade Tolerant Trees and Shrubs

Arrowwood

Balsam Fir

Bog Rosemary

Buckbrush

Burning Bush

Cedar

Chokeberry

Cotoneaster

Cranberry

Currant

Dogwood

Elder

False Spirea

Flowering Raspberry

Hazelnut

Honeysuckle

Hydrangea

Savin Juniper

Mockorange

Nanking Cherry

Nannyberry

Ninebark

Rhododendron

Russet Buffaloberry

Russian Cypress

Saskatoon

Snowball

Snowberry

Sumac

Wayfaring Tree

Yew



 

Shade Tolerant Perennials

Astilbe

Beard-tongue

Beebalm

Bellflower

Bergenia

Bishop’s Hat

Bleeding Heart

Bugbane

Bugleweed

Bugloss (Brunnera)

Bunchberry

Columbine

Comfrey

Coral-bells

Cranesbill Geranium

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Jenny

Daylily

Ferns

Fleeceflower

Foamflower

Foamy-bells

Forget-me-not

Foxglove

Fumitory

Gentian

Globeflower

Goat’s Beard

Hellebore

Himalayan Poppy

Hosta

Jacob’s Ladder

Japanese Spurge

Kinnikinnick

Lady’s Mantle

Lamium

Ligularia

Lily-of-the-valley

Loosestrife

Lungwort

Masterwort

Meadow-rue

Meadowsweet

Monkshood

Obedient Plant

Pasque-flower

Periwinkle

Plume Poppy

Primrose

Rayflower

Rodgersia

Shooting Star

Siberian Iris

Snow-on-the-mountain

Solomon’s Seal

Sweet William

Sweet Woodruff

Toad Lily

Violet

Waxbells

Windflower

Wintergreen

Yellow Archangel




Shade Tolerant Annuals

Asparagus Fern

Begonia

Black-eyed Susan Vine

Coleus

Fuchsia

Impatiens

Ivy

Lobelia

Mimulus

Benesua

Nierembergia

Nolana

Ornamental Kale

Pansy

Salpiglossis

Schizanthus

Spider Plant

Torenia

Viola