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Shade Gardening Tips – Ten Shade Perennials For the Mid South
Not all parks are created equal. Some gardens have too much shade, and some not enough. You might be thinking that there aren’t many plants you can grow in the shade, but there are plenty of shade perennials that are worth trying. Here in the Mid South, even plants that are considered full sun appreciate afternoon shade. There are some tips that can make perennial shade gardening a breeze such as assessing your site, creating the shade you want and choosing plants that will perform well in your area.
Shade Gardening Tips
The first tip for planting perennials in shade is to choose a site with less competition from surface-rooted trees such as maples, sweet gums, and dogwoods. What does he mean by the term “surface roots”? The roots of trees grow on the surface of the soil. If you plant perennials around these roots, this creates a problem of competition for water and nutrients. Giving your plants a good growing environment with little competition is the first step to a great garden. Another tip is to assess your site before you plant.
Evaluate your site
It is important to assess your site and identify the light and shade levels for that area. Just walk around your yard and see which areas get full sun and which areas are really shady. Remember, light levels change throughout the year as the seasons change and the plants leaf out or mature. Keep a journal of which areas get shade in the morning, midday and afternoon. Note whether the area is in full shade, partial shade, or full sun. For the novice gardener, those terms can be a little confusing. Here’s a quick primer on what those terms mean.
Full shade Areas have a dense canopy where direct sunlight does not penetrate, or perhaps the plant is in the shade of an evergreen tree or building all day.
Partial shade That means the garden gets shade throughout the day. This simply means that you can see parts of the sky through the leaves above you. Another type of partial shade is a garden that is more densely shaded for part of the day but receives two to six hours of bright sunlight.
There is a third type of area full sun This means that the area gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Once you have assessed your site and understand what type of shade you have. Next, you’ll want to create the desired shade for your garden.
Create the shade you want
A third tip to increase your success with shade gardening is to try to vary the amount of light that enters your shade garden according to your needs and the needs of the plants you want to plant. Prune trees to reduce the amount of shade and create a high canopy that your plants like. This creates more air flow which is healthier for you and your plants as it reduces mold and mildew. To create more shade; Plant trees, add walls and fences, build a lath house or shade cloth over a simple plastic pipe structure, create an arbor or gazebo. Using vines over structures is also a quick way to create more shade.
Choose the right plants for your zone
Once you’ve assessed your area and created the shade you want, you’re ready to plant. Visit your local garden center or your local extension service website for a list of plants that do well in your area. You will find a wealth of information on both. Below is a list of some of the top shade loving perennials for the Mid South.
Ten shade perennials for the Mid South
- Italian arum (Arum italicum)
- Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
- green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
- main flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Solomon’s Seal (polynatum odor)
- spiderwort (Tradescantia x andersoniana)
- Lenten Rose (Helleborus spp.)
- sweet wood (gallium odor)
- astilbe (Astilbe x Arendsii)
- Todd Lilly (Tricertus formosana)
Visiting local public and botanical gardens, attending local garden tours, joining a local garden club, and visiting your local extension service website are all great ways to learn more about perennials that do well in your area.
Given the right conditions, your plants will thrive. Remember, eliminate the competition, assess your site, create the shade you want, and you’ll be on your way to a gorgeous yard that you’ll enjoy all season long. Remember that there are also ferns, vines, annuals and shrubs that do well in shade. As a general rule, plants that do well in shade have large, flat leaves that help them absorb light for photosynthesis and growth. They generally have fewer flowers and seeds than plants grown in full sun. Consider foliage, color and texture for the shady areas of your garden. This list of ten shade perennials is a good place to start for Mid-South gardeners, but part of the fun of gardening is experimenting with different types of plants, so get out there and be sure to find plants that will make it on your own. List “favorites” and enjoy the journey.
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