Ask Koopman: Shade Gardens


Dear Lost,
Let’s see we can shed a little light on those shady places will help you find your way. And, yes, there are many, many options for you besides hosta. But let’s not ignore the idea of hosta, they add such wonderful color and texture to shade gardens.

Let’s start with three things you should know:

1. Know your shade

Shade Garden example 1The amount of sun or shade in a growing area is crucial to proper plant selection. Is your area blocked by a wall or a row of trees so that it gets very little light? Perhaps you are planting at the base of a tree and the shade moves as the sun moves.

Watch your shady areas and note the changes of sun and shade. “Light shade” is an area that gets 2-4 hours of shade a day. “Partial shade” is an area that receives 4-6 hours of shade per day. Full shade is just that – a full day out of the sun’s direct rays. Be sure to pick your flowers based on the plant’s tolerance of the shade it lives in.

2. Know your soil

Shade Garden example 2Shade gardens that grow poorly often suffer from a lack of nutrients. Many shade plants require a rich, forest-like soil. Your shade garden will benefit from the addition of organic matter such as peat, your home-made compost, or dehydrated manure. Dig your nutrient material into your garden spot in the spring and fall, as well as whenever you are putting in new plants. You can also add organic material to your soil by mulching with shredded leaves or with pine needles.

3. Know your plants

Make sure to do your homework before buying new plants. Find out the needs of each specific plant and do your best to provide for them.

It is important to check the blooming time of your plants. You want to have some plants in bloom each season.  If you put in only plants that bloom in spring, your garden will look quite sparse in the late summer and fall.   If you use plants that have different colors and textures, you achieve a shade garden that is a live, growing quilt for all seasons.

4. Recommended Plants

When it comes to gardens there’s one thing we all want; a beautiful garden. These are 10 perennials and annuals that do that job!

Here are 10 perennials that do well in the shade: Astilbe, Coleus, Jacob’s Ladder, Dead Nettle, Geranium Cranesbill, Common Bleeding Heart, Fringed Bleeding Heart, Foam Flower, Ferns (try the Japanese Painted Fern!)

Here are 10 annuals that do well in shady places: Dusty Miller, Sweet Potato Vine, Violas, Impatiens, New Guinea Impatiens, Begonias, Forget-Me-Nots, Nasturtiums, Lobelia and Cleome.

Shade Garden Foam Flower

Foam Flower

Shade Garden Astilbe


Shade Garden Cleome


May this little bit of knowledge light your path and may beauty fill your shade.

Happy Gardening,
Flora Gardner