Gardening in the Shade on a Hot Summer Day

Having tall or dense trees on your property does not stop you from having beautiful gardens. It only gives you the opportunity to start a shade garden. Just imagine, on a hot summer day, doing your gardening work in the shade.

Planting the right plants in the right area of your property will ensure beautiful gardens. You’ll need to consider 2 factors in doing this:

1- How well does a particular plant do in your region according to the hardiness growth zone map?

2- Is your garden in the direct sunlight, full shade, or partial shade?

Shade can have a big impact on a plants adaptation to a region. For example, plants that normally won’t grow in a warmer region may do well if planted in the shade. You create a micro-environment that is different than in the open direct sunlight.

Gardening in the Shade on a Hot Summer Day

Plants need sun to survive. Question: Why are some plants able to do well in low light conditions? Answer: They are genetically adapted to be more efficient in photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process where chlorophyll absorbs light and uses it as energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into nutrition.

The intensity of the light will have an impact on the size & shape of a plants leaves. Light intensity will also affect flowering as well as fruit production. In general, silver or gray leaves have no tolerance for shade. In full shade, plants with white or pastel flowers do the best.

Problems of Shade:

Large trees absorb large amounts of both moisture and nutrients from the surrounding soil.

Solutions to Shade:

1- Choose plants that are known to thrive in shaded or partially shaded areas.

2- Feed & water your shaded plants on a regular basis to make up for the needs of the larger trees.

3- You may also remove leaves & debris from the surrounding area to encourage growth.

Choosing your Shade Garden Spot:

You may have more than one choice when deciding where to locate your shade garden. No mater where you put your shade garden these factors will affect the outcomes:

  • Trees & shrubs nearby
  • Buildings nearby
  • Soil quality
  • Adequate Water
  • Drainage – Wet conditions
  • Season – Time of Day or Year
  • Full or Partial Shade

Different types of Shade:

The 2 primary types of shade in your yard are full shade and partial shade. Note: Keep in mind that shade patterns change with the seasons. An area that has light shade in the summer may have full sun in the spring or fall. Conversely, an area that has full sun in the summer when the sun is high, might have partial shade in the spring or fall when the sun is at a lower angle in the sky.

Gardening in the Shade on a Hot Summer Day

Full Shade – is usually created by tall, dense trees or by structures on your property. If your yard is full of trees there is the challenge of both shade as well as multiple roots. Not only can roots get in the way but they may also grab most of the nutrients and water from the surrounding soil.

Adding Compost / Organic Matter:

Plants that love shade have evolved over time and have developed preferences for healthy growth. In their natural environment, shade lovers are used to a covering of debris from overhead trees. Most have a preference for acidic (low pH) soils. Shade lovers such as azaleas & camellias need even more acidic conditions than normal.

Adding organic mater to your shade garden will help create healthy plants. You can add shredded leaves as a mulch. Organic matter:

  • Improves soil drainage
  • Loosens heavy clay soils
  • In sandy soils, increases water-holding capacity
  • Releases nutrients into the soil

Partial Shade – is an area of your yard that receives less than 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. There are different kinds of partial shade that should be noted.

* Time of the Day Partial Shade: The amount of sunlight is what really matters but your plants could be adversely affected if the direct sunlight is around noon versus early morning or late afternoon shade.

* Dappled / Filtered Partial Shade: Shade may be considered partial if the sunlight only comes through the leaves as spotted or in a confetti pattern (even if it is all day).

Pest Control:

Although you may have less weeds because of the poor lighting conditions, you’ll still have to contend with certain pest. Most common pest for shade gardens are slugs, snails, root weevils, and deer.

Slugs & Snails – You cannot totally eliminate slugs & snails from your shade garden but you can control them. This can be done by:

  • Using pesticides
  • Remove them by hand
  • Introduce frogs & toads

Root Weevils – They attack your plants during the night and hide during the daytime. They love to attack rhododendrons leaving bite marks on the leaves edges. Pesticides may be the best option here.

Deer – They are neat to look at but they love to eat your garden. Some people build high fences but deer can jump very high. A natural alternative is to grow plants that deer dislike. They avoid plants that are sticky, poisonous, or thorny. Some of these include bleeding hearts, periwinkle, boxwood, holly, and others.

Full & Partial Shade Plants:

Below is a list of some of the plants that thrive in full and partial shade (This is only a partial listing). Remember to check the plant hardiness zone map for your particular region to choose plants that will thrive.

Full Shade Perennials:

  • Bluebell
  • Hosta Lily
  • Fringed Bleeding Heart
  • Lily-of-the-valley
  • Some Ferns
  • Foam Flower
  • And Others…

Partial Shade Perennials:

  • Butterfly Lily
  • Daylily
  • Foxglove
  • Dropmore
  • Coral Bells
  • Columbine
  • American Alum Root
  • Lobelia
  • Lady’s Mantle
  • And Others…

Full Shade Annuals:

  • Begonia
  • Impatiens
  • Caladium
  • Coleus
  • And Others…

Partial Shade Annuals:

  • Ageratum
  • Petunia
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Periwinkle
  • Dahlia
  • Salvia/Scarlet Sage
  • And Others…

There are also shrubs and ground cover that do well in shaded gardens. Again, check the growth zone maps to make sure a particular plant will survive your local region.

Shade Trees & Shrubs:

  • Azaleas
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Hemlock Tree
  • Rhododendrons
  • Bayberry
  • Weeping Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle
  • Oak Leaf Hydrangea
  • And Others…

Shade Ground Cover (such as Ivy):

  • Ground Ivy
  • Creeping Buttercup
  • Kenilworth Ivy
  • Wild Ginger
  • Periwinkle
  • And Others…

You’ve got it made in the shade!!!