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7 Expert Tips for Shade Garden Success

White flowering Annabelle Hydrangea and gold Hostas inject light & energy in a shaded north facing location.

Over the years of gardening, I have found shade gardening required less time and maintenance than my sunny perennial borders. It also became a tranquil place to relax and unwind after a hectic day.

Here are a few shade gardening tips that are quick and easy to do while making your shade retreat a place you want to spend time in.

1) Consider the Grand Design. You can create the illusion of space by installing a gently curved pathway. Create shade by installing a pergola or umbrellas if you have open sunny areas.

2) Most shade loving plants benefit from some sun (preferably morning which is less harsh)  Light colored foliage plants brighten up shaded areas and look colorful all season. Gold Hostas and moneywort gradually transition from gold to bright yellow. Black leaf plants such as Heuchera Obsidian really depend on some sunlight to bring out the deepest black leaves possible.

3)  How to add light to deep shade

Don’t hesitate to limb up lower branches of trees and shrubs. Those tired and overgrown shrubs will not only have a fresh new look but more oxygen circulates creating a healthier environment.

4 )  Plant Selection & Foliage

Hosta, Hellebore & Fern combine well with their different textures and shapes. The combination of blues & greens are calming in a shade garden

The less sun available, the less energy there is for plants to produce a lot of  flowers that you would normally get in a sunny perennial garden.  You can create a beautiful setting with the right mix of foliage color, shaped & textures.  Blue and green foliage create a calming and comforting feeling in a shade garden.

5 ) Tough Areas

If you are having a hard time getting anything to compete with tree roots, grow your favorite shade plants in containers.  Sink pots in the ground between roots or add height with taller pots.

6)  Berm or Terrace

For problematic areas, consider a berm or terrace. Make sure you don’t cover more than a third of tree roots.  A raised bed will be easier to maintain and bring in plants closer to you for your enjoyment.

7) Shade Garden Success

If you are just starting out, select plants that are more WIDELY ADAPTABLE to various degrees of light and soil conditions.

Enjoy season long bursts of foliage color in the shade

I once had a shade garden that included hundreds of shade plants, but there were a handful that were able to tough it out better than others.  It was an easy care shade border that was beautiful 3 seasons of the year and a terrific place to unwind after a hectic day.  As the plants got bigger, they filled in nicely covering bare spots and reducing maintenance.

For gardening inspiration, check out these shade garden collections.

Our next article will feature 12 Best Shade Loving Plants for Your Garden.

One Response to “7 Expert Tips for Shade Garden Success”

  • Mary Walters:

    I generally use an all purpose fertilizer in the spring (my soil is pretty close to 7.0) – like a 12-12-12.
    Thanks, Mary

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