Monday, September 19, 2016 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Plants for the Shade Garden

Options for shade plants are plentiful

Brian Jervis, Ask a Master Gardener

Saturday, September 17, 2016  

Q: I am wondering what plants you would recommend for a shady area. I am interested in some shrubs and perennials that are low maintenance. Terri, Tulsa.
A: Most of us have to deal with shade in some areas of our gardens. The good news is that there are many plants — shrubs and ornamentals — that do well in shade; some must be in shade. A good source for shade-tolerant plants is found in OSU fact sheet HLA-6608, “Managing Turfgrass in the Shade in Oklahoma.” This fact sheet lists shade-tolerant ornamentals and shrubs from which to select for shade too dense for grass.
For shrubs, azaleas do well with a few hours of sun, but Encore or reblooming azaleas need mostly sun with afternoon shade. Additional shade shrubs to consider are aucuba, leatherleaf mahonia, nandina, various hollies, yews, dogwoods and others. The aucuba is a favorite that grows in full shade. Its large evergreen variegated leaves have a tropical appearance.
While many perennials must have sun, a large number have excellent tolerance of shade. High on the list are hellebores and hostas. Several cultivars of hellebores are not only evergreen with thick leathery leaves but also are unique in blooming in mid-winter to early spring. Hostas are widely used because of the appeal of form, shades of green, variegation and different sizes.
Many varieties of ferns do well either in a mixed bed or as a distinct fern garden. Other shade perennials are Astilbe, coral bells, toad lilies, Italian arum, sweet woodruff, goatsbeard and bleeding hearts; they add the eye-catching appeal of blooms and unique foliage colors and patterns.
Chinese ginger is a shade favorite with attractive leaves, which, like hellebores, are evergreen. It will spread slowly after established and do well in the shade year after year.
Perennial groundcovers to fill the shade garden are numerous. English ivy is an old favorite and is tough, evergreen and problem-free. One of the varieties of lamium is useful. Most are variegated and are semi-evergreen. They spread rapidly. An additional good choice for a shade groundcover is one of the pachysandras. They are evergreen and slow to spread but are worth the wait.

Some other plants to consider for groundcovers are ajuga, liriope (lily turf or monkey grass) and Mondo grass. A sedge called Carex or “Ice Dancer” was one of the Oklahoma Proven selections this year. It grows to 12 inches in full shade and would be an interesting addition to the shade garden.

Annuals that have some color and tolerate heavy shade are cultivars of coleus, impatiens, begonias, caladium, fuchsia and sweet alyssum. Coleus and caladium come in many colors and are used for their attractive foliage. Impatiens and sweet alyssum are much used. They both have a range of blossom colors; the white-blossomed ones will light up their spot in a dark shade garden.

There are many others, but, as stated, these are readily available and proven to do well in our area.
For more information or to ask a question about gardening, contact the Master Gardeners at 918-746-3701 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Garden tips
§  Watch for fall specials at garden centers and nurseries because fall is a great time for planting many ornamentals. Choose spring-flowering bulbs as soon as available.
§  Fertilize established fescue lawns with one pound of actual nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square feet now and again in November. Do not fertilize Bermuda or zoysia lawns until next spring. Late fertilization of these warm-season grasses may promote disease.
§  Winter broadleaf weeds like dandelion will begin to emerge in late September, which is also the best time to control them with a 2, 4-D type herbicide.


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