Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

What perennials are good for the shade?

In order to have success with perennials in the shade make your selections carefully. Do not try and grow sun loving perennials in the shade. They will only fail. Instead select plants that prefer or tolerate shade.

Foremost among the shade perennials has to be hostas. Hostas form regular mounds of glossy overlapping leaves and come in an astounding range of leaf colors from light lemon yellow to green to blue-green to variegated leaf forms.

Another exceptional plant for shade is astilbe. The fine, feathery foliage and flowers of astilbe adds a dramatic contrast to the bold form of hostas and adds an airy, light quality to any shade garden. Astilbes come in white, red, and pink. They will not tolerate dry shade. Keep them watered well, but don't be surprised if those plants which find themselves in too much sun begin to develop browning leaves.

The fringed bleeding-heart is a good choice. Plants are small, 12-18 inches, and bear their flowers above the foliage. They come in both pink and white. Flowering can continue throughout the summer although it may stop during hot weather.

For a bright touch of red in your garden, try cardinal flower. Plants grow 2-3 feet tall and in summer produce spikes of scarlet red flowers. It needs moist soil and will not flower well in very deep shade.

Three tough perennials that do well in shade and can tolerate dry conditions are goutweed, dead nettle and lesser periwinkle also know as vinca. All are tough ground covers that perform well in the shade. They can tolerate dry soil and in some situations can become invasive. The lesser periwinkle bears white or reddish purple star-shaped flowers about 1 inch in diameter.

Bulbs make wonderful additions to shade gardens. Many of the early bulbs are ideal for shaded areas under trees because they emerge, flower and build food reserves in their underground bulbs before sunlight is drastically reduced by the overhead canopy of leaves. Good choices for bulbs that can be tucked around existing plants are Glory-of-the-snow, snowdrops, and grape hyacinth. Their flowers are small, so they are best planted in clumps and in locations where they can be viewed up close. Their bright cheery blooms are certain harbingers of spring.