90911thumbJust about every home garden has some sort of shade. Even if there are no substantial trees or shrubbery, there are northern walls of homes and garages, and they likely have eaves that extend their shadows a bit farther. Fences to the south create shade to the north. Gardens of modern homes are smaller, and surrounded by higher homes and fences, so are shadier than older gardens.

Those who enjoy gardening tend to enjoy more trees and substantial shrubbery than those who do not enjoy gardening, so generally contend with more shade. It is both and asset and a liability. Cooling shade makes outdoor living spaces more comfortable in the heat of summer, but limits what we can grow. With very few exceptions that are not worth mentioning, all plants need sunlight.

Fortunately, many plants need less than others. Of these, many are understory species, which live in the partial shade of larger plants in their natural environments. Not only do they naturally need less sunlight, many prefer to be in partially shaded or sheltered situation. Their foliage and bloom can be scorched by sunlight if too exposed, especially while the weather is warm, windy or arid.

Plants that prefer partially shaded and sheltered situations are characteristically different from those that prefer more exposure. Their leaves tend to be bigger and darker green to absorb more sunlight. Those that are sensitive to frost may prefer shelter from evergreen shade. To compete for pollinators with bloom above, flowers may be either bigger and more colorful, or more fragrant.

There are, of course, many exceptions. Ferns are probably the most familiar foliar plants for shade, but provide no bloom. Cast iron plant is comparable to fern for providing rich green foliage, but with insignificant bloom. Caladium, coleus and hosta are grown for lush foliage that is strikingly colorful instead of rich green. Hosta contrarily blooms with pastel flowers that are not even fragrant.

Kaffir lily, calla, hydrangea, azalea, rhododendron and impatiens provide more color for partial shade.

10 thoughts on “Shade Can Be An Asset

    1. Homes out in the hottest parts of the Mojave Desert look so ghastly because of the complete lack of trees. I can understand the lack of landscaping, since no one wants to go outside during the hot summer weather to do any gardening; but I would think that shade trees would be a priority. Unfortunately, not much can survive out there. In Trona, not only is the weather so extremely wicked, but the soil is so toxic with caustic minerals.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your description of large leaves made me think of paw-paw trees, which are always fun to discover in the woods this time of year, loaded with paw paws. Yum. Unfortunately, I haven’t been in the woods lately.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The only reason it isn’t a commercial native fruit is that they are hard to ship and when they’re ripe, they’re ripe. They’re lovely, tropical looking things and grow in little understory groves. And the paw paws! Yum!

        Liked by 1 person

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