What to do this week
By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening” on 970WFLA Live on Sunday’s 7-9am
Plants that do well in the Shady areas of Central Florida
Florida plant lovers tend to seek out ornamental plants that grow in full sun or need at least part-sun to produce the flowers and colors we like to see in the landscape. However, there are also many homeowners who have tall trees or towering hedges that shade large areas of the landscape, prohibiting them from utilizing many of these sun-loving plants. Are there plants that not only like to be planted in the shade, buy possibly can thrive in the full shade? Yes, there are many varieties of shade-loving plants that can fill a landscape with colorful blossoms and dazzling foliage if you know where to look and what to look for. In this article, I am going to introduce you to the vast amount of plants that live, flower, and thrive in low-light conditions. I will also try to give you several suggestions for plants that will work well together. The following plants have been selected for their foliage, contrasting colors, flowering habits, and the benefits they will give you in the garden. Let’s get started!
Understanding the type of shade, we encounter, is an important factor in the selection of the proper plants you plan on using in the landscape. There are the shifting shades tall pine trees create as the sun passes overhead during the day. These are the easiest areas to plant underneath because there is still plenty of light available for most plants to grow and bloom. Camellias and tea olive plants do wonderfully in this type of shade. Next, we have filtered shade we receive below large oak trees. This type of shade is much different because most of the sunlight has been reduced to rays of light that only touch the foliage of plants below them, but never shine directly for any amount of time. Azaleas, orchids, hostas, begonias, ferns, and iris do well in this type of shade.
The next variety of shade we encounter is ambient light shade. This type of shade only receives reflective light from surrounding areas as no sun reaches directly into these areas. These areas are the first to fade into darkness in the evening and the last to be lit in the morning. Most people think that only the hardiest plants will grow in areas like this, but you would be mistaken. Many of the plants we have mentioned above will grow in these areas but will ultimately reach for the sun to provide additional food for the roots. Mosses, ivies, lilies, bulbaceous plants, and ferns are among a few of the plants, that make this area their home. However, I do not want you to think that you cannot turn this area into a beautiful garden, because you can. You just need to learn about the plants that can flourish here, and that is what I am going to tell you. The plants I mention below are plants suited for these darkened areas of the garden.
Let’s start by creating two separate areas that we can divide this garden into. In the first area, you will need to select a centerpiece. I suggest using a couple of Australian tree ferns planted about four feet apart. Now you should plant several rows of peacock gingers (look for different colors) around the base of each of the Australian tree ferns. A little further out and on each side of the ferns, plant a nice clump of variegated flax lilies. About two feet away from the flax lilies, you should add several African hostas for a unique texture. To finish, add dwarf Mondo grass or Black Mondo grass around the edges of the entire planting area. Variegated Algerian Ivy can be used to fill in any open space. Lightly fertilize the plants and over time, you can sit back and enjoy the view.
In the second area, you may want to put on a show by planting a small mass of tuberous begonias that do very well in the shade. There are many colors to choose from so select ones you prefer or mix and match them into a group planting. Behind them, you can install variegated Cast Iron plants for contrasting foliage. The addition of several “Shooting Stars,” planted on either side of the begonias, will give you beautiful purple blooms on a twelve-inch spike in the spring through the summer. I also would add an annual like Alyssum around the edges of the planting area as a bright border. Alyssum comes in pinks, whites, and purples. Each of these colors can add an entirely new dimension of color to the site. Caladium bulbs, Impatiens, and Lobelia can also help brighten up dark areas of the garden. The best part about using different plants is that you can change the color scheme of the garden each year.
Another shade lover you should try is the Browallia. Browallia blooms profusely with loads of star-shaped flowers. These plants work best in groupings of at least five individual plants, and they will give you a flower show from late spring through fall. Coleus can also offer you an endless supply of color in the garden as these plants offer showy foliage with some displaying multiple colors on each leaf. Most nurseries offer coleus in six or twelve packs allowing you to choose several colors you may want to add to your garden.
The main idea here is that even in the darkest areas of the landscape, you can create a fun and colorful retreat away from the summer heat. Contrasting colors, plant heights, and foliage can add a dimension to the garden you may have not tried before. Annuals give you the opportunity to change the color of the garden each year while some plants will surprise you and come back looking even more beautiful every year. Good luck with your shade garden and remember that without plants, we would not be here!