Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners
Garden Shade Considerations
Shade gardens usually are more subtle, lacking the bright, bold colors found in sunny locations, so shade gardeners should consider plant textures, height differences, forms and color variations for variety.

For example, large-leaved plants, such as shade-loving hostas, are coarsely textured. Finely divided leaves, such as wood or male fern, impart a fine texture.

Use height contrasts between plants, such as dwarf conifers and their upright cousins, to add interest. Weeping or rounded forms create a spacious feeling that adds to flower beds otherwise dominated by upright or horizontal, ground-hugging plant forms.

Glossy leaves of bergenia have more impact than dull ones such as Siberian bugloss. Light colors -- white, cream or pink -- stand out in the shade like the silver and pink tones of Japanese painted fern and the creamy yellow shades of some hosta varieties. Some red-leaved plants such as Chocolate Ruffles coral bells contrast well with green plant leaves.

Deep blues and purples tend to recede into the shade unless set off by a lighter, contrasting color. The tall, purple blooms of an upright campanula will have more impact if coupled with the yellow, spiked blooms of a perennial foxglove.

To realize the potential of the shade in your garden, you must first understand the type of shade, the type of soil, and the amount of moisture usually present in your shady areas.

Full shade describes the lighting on the north or northeast side of buildings, walls or fences where, during the growing season, the ground remains in shade through the entire day.

Medium or part shade is the shade cast by evergreens or dense, deciduous trees such as maples or lindens. Area under decks or stairwells, or in south-facing but deeply recessed entries, also may be classified as medium shade.

Light shade prevails in a north-facing yard, under the canopies of ornamental or more open deciduous trees, and in the areas of the garden which usually receive only morning sun.

Soil in shady areas is often poor because of the proximity of structures, or trees whose roots have depleted natural nutrients. Amending the soil heavily with four inch deep compost or sphagnum peat moss restores nutrients. This is important because shade plants typically do best in soil enriched with organic matter. Compost or sphagnum peat moss also help the soil hold moisture, reducing the need to water. 

Most shade in Colorado gardens is dry shade, meaning that without watering, the soil is generally dry. However, if a shaded area receives runoff from rain or sprinklers, it may qualify as moist shade. Determining if your shaded areas are moist of dry will help in selecting appropriate shade plants.

Landscapes change over time and require renovation to remain beautiful. One condition that often changes within twenty years of planting a landscape is the degree of shade, due to maturing trees and shrubs. The rest of the garden must change to keep up. While some plants do poorly in shade, many will thrive in these conditions.

The best criterion for landscaping in a shaded spot is to select plants that do well in less light. While some plants thrive in light shade, others will tolerate partial or even full shade. The degree of shade in a landscape may also change with the season. Areas in full sun in the summer may be in partial shade in spring and fall, when the sun is at a lower angle in the sky.

Available sunlight may sometimes be increased through selective pruning. While large shade trees are a valuable resource, removal of dead, diseased or structurally poor limbs can improve a landscape's beauty and increase the light available for other plants. Another method to increase light to a landscape is through reflection. Painting a fence or house siding a light color can have a significant effect.

Root competition for moisture is another consideration in shade gardening. Some shade tolerant plants adapt to low moisture situations while others require moist shade. Consider nearby plants, especially trees and shrubs, when choosing and watering plants.

Shade garden perennials 

Shade, whether cast by trees, buildings or structures, presents a different environment than a typical Colorado landscape. Often homeowners believe plants won't grow in these areas. However, many shade-loving plants will thrive there and can create a shady haven to visit often.

Most shade plants are grown for their varying forms and color. Foliage plants that have stripes or speckles, such as lungwort, hosta and dead nettle, tend to grow well in the shade and provide a striking interplay between light and dark. The key to a successful shade garden is to combine and contrast the forms, textures and colors of the leaves.

Some shade-tolerant perennials especially well suited for Colorado's semi-arid environment are lady's mantle, sweet woodruff and coralbells, and shrubs like mahonia, golden currant and thimbleberry. For more moist conditions, plant astilbe, Japanese anemone, foxglove and ferns.

Adapted from an article





Wax Begonia Browallia Coleus Heliotrope Impatiens Lobelia Myosotis Nicotiana Tuberous begonia


Acorus (Sweet Flag)           Hosta (Plantain lily)
Alliums                       Iberis (Evergreen candytuft)
Anemone                       Iris
Aquilegia (Columbine)         Ligularia
Astilbe                       Lunaria (Moneyplant)
Begonia                       Lysichiton (Skunk Cabbage)
Brunnera (Bugloss)            Mertensia (Virginia Bluebells)
Caladium                      Monarda (Beebalm)
Cypripedium (Lady's Slipper Orchid) Polemonium (Jacob's Ladder)
Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)     Polygonatum (Solomon's Seal)
Digitalis (Foxglove)          Primula (Primrose)
Gentiana (Gentian)            Sanguinaria (Bloodroot)
Geranium (True geranium)      Sedum
Helleborus (Winter rose)      Thalictrum (False Solomon's Seal)
Hemerocallis                  Tradescantia (Flower-of-the-Day)
Hepatica (Liverwort)          Trillium
Heuchera (Coralbells)         Trollius (Globe Flowers)



Azaleas Buxus -- Boxwood Calycanthus -- Carolina Allspice Enkianthus Fothergilla -- Bottlebrush plant Hibiscus syriacus -- Rose of Sharon Hydrangea quercifolia -- Oak Leaf Hydrangea Ilex crenata -- Japanese Holly Kerria japonica -- Japanese Kerria Leucothoe Mahonia -- Oregon Grape Holly Pieris japonica -- Lily of the Valley Shrub Rhododendron Ribes alpinum -- Alpine Current Symphoricarpos -- Snowberry Viburnum rhytidophyllum



Aegopodium leodograria (Bishopsweed) Ajuga reptans (Bugleweed) Arabis caucasia (Rock cress) Asarum (wild ginger, evergreen wild ginger) Bergenia (Saxifrage) Convallaria (Lily-of-the-Valley) Epimedium Euonymus fortunei (Wintercreeper Euonymus) Galax Galium Hedera (English Ivy) Hypericum (St. John's Wort) Juniperus (Junipers) Liriope Pachysandra (Japanese Spurge) Sedum Vinca (Periwinkle, myrtle) Waldesteinia (Barren Strawberry)


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