Shade Gardening


Shade is a lovely place to be during the hot Louisiana summers. Gardening in the shade can be a nice relief not only for ourselves, but for our plants. We are all aware of how intense the summer sun can be here in Southeast Louisiana, so take advantage of those pockets of shade you might have in your yard to create a beautiful garden space!

Often times we think of colorful, flowering gardens as full sun gardens. Did you know that you can create a colorful garden in the shade as well?
Here are some suggestions for adding color to your shade garden.

For a specimen piece in your shade garden, consider using a Japanese maple to introduce a dark, contrasting red, purplish color. Japanese Maples are a deciduous tree that are native to Japan, and can be found growing wild in Central China, North and South Korea, and Southeast Russia. In places that are more north of the equator than we are, these trees can be grown in full sun, however, with the intensity of our sun during the summer, these trees will not perform to their best potential unless they are planted in full shade. Consider planting them underneath the canopy of other trees, or along the side of your house or courtyard where it is mostly shaded.

Similarly, Hydrangeas, Hostas and Coral Bells are all plants that will perform best in shade. Use Hydrangeas to fill large spaces so that they will create a very showy colorful effect. Use Hostas and Coral Bells to fill in the remaining smaller spaces. Both of these plants are perennial, meaning that in the event of a frost, their foliage will die back, the plant will go dormant. New foliage will then begin to emerge in the spring when the ground temperature begins to warm up. Both Hostas and Coral Bells will produce a flower spike that can also be very showy. After the plant has finished flowering, prune out the flower spike to create a cleaner, more manicured look, and let the foliage speak for itself!

Other tropical plants that perform well in the shade include bleeding heart vine, cordyline, and many types of ginger. Another aspect about gardening in the shade in Louisiana is the potential to use plants that we would typically classify as “indoor plants” outdoors. Add bromeliads, sansevieria, calatheas, or dracaenas to your combination pots on your patio. As long as it does not have full sun past 11 AM, these plants make great additions to your container gardens. In fact, their minimal water requirements may even make them a favorable choice for gardeners who look for plants that require little attention.

Camellias, Azaleas, and Pittosporum make great hedges in the shade. They are all evergreen, with some benefits. Camellias will give you some flowers in the fall into winter, while Azaleas will bloom in the spring. Pittosporum can come in a variegated form (white and green leaves). This will add to the brightness of the garden.

Ferns are also a great shade choice. The Holly Fern has robust leaves that adds a fuller texture!

Fatsia and Cast Iron plants both have large leaves. Both are evergreen and will add more of a bold look with their broad expansive foliage. Fatsia will grow into a large shrub, while Cast Iron will be more of a low filler plant.
Want a tropical look? Go for Soft Caress Mahonia or Philodendron. Both have more of a lacy type leaf that will give the appearance of a tropical paradise!

Looking for shade bloomers? New Guinea and SunPatiens will grow and bloom in the shade, just keep them hydrated! Hydrangea will give you color in late spring into summer, with their abundance of blue or pink blooms! You can always change the color bloom depending on the soil. We can help! Torenia, or wishbone flower, is a shade-loving annual and will bloom all summer long in full shade. Its bell-shaped flowers can be white, burgundy, blue or pink. Fertilizing your annuals regularly to maximize their color through the season.

For other options go for more colorful leaves, like Coleus, Caladiums and Variegated Ginger. Coleus and Caladiums come in all shades of pink, reds and whites. Use more of the whites to brighten up a shady area. Variegated Shell Ginger has bright yellow and green leaves giving you a pop of color where ever they are placed.

A well-planned shade garden can be more beautiful than even the most floriferous sun garden!