Southern Shade Garden

While shade is a treasure in every yard, it can also create bare ground or sparse grass under trees. These spaces can be a gardening challenge, but there are solutions that can fill the otherwise monotonous areas with a beautiful shade garden. Deciduous trees with deep roots, which are most often the cause of the shady areas in question, are perfect locations for a colorful collection of perennials or shrubs and a nice bench to enjoy the location. Adding a native stone border around the garden, when planted, can keep plants in place and create a quite location to enjoy after a long day.

You can create lovely shade gardens in other areas, not just under trees. You can use these plant suggestions to create a border for a woodland path, on the north side of a building or under a grouping of trees. Shade gardens that are planted somewhere other than under a tree will need a yearly compost boost in order to keep the soil rich enough to sustain the shrubs or perennials. I suggest adding a heavy layer of mulch to your shade garden in the fall. Remember to keep the size of thee garden space and the plants you are considering in mind when designing your garden. Do not overfill the area or you could meet with results that are chaotic, messy or just sad and do not thrive because of limited resources for too many plants.

The plants that I am suggesting for use in a shade garden here do best in hardiness zones five through nine. These plants love the shade and generally require soil that is rich in organic matter. The natural falling and decomposing of leaves under a tree will provide all the organic matter necessary, but if you have been an eager raker and not allowing the natural carpet of leaves then you might need to add some compost to the soil. If you have a shade loving plant that you love and I do not list here or live elsewhere then I suggest discussing your garden plan with someone at your local garden center. They will be able to suggest plants that do well in your area, and give specific recommendations to your particular climate.

Bottlebrush buckeye is a deciduous shrub that grows to around six feet tall and four feet wide. It features large panicles of pale cream flowers in the spring. It has a stout growth form that is pretty in the winter, with large shiny buds. These should be placed about five feet apart.

English primrose is a perennial that grows to around eight inches tall. It has dense rosettes of leaves and yellow blossoms in the early spring. These should be planted around eighteen inches apart.

The Florida pinxter azalea is a deciduous shrub that can grow to 10 feet tall and spread to three feet. It has fragrant pink blossoms that generally makes its appearance in April. These should be planted around four feet apart.

Japanese anemone or ‘September Charm’ is a perennial that grows to around two feet tall. It displays a richly colored yellow foliage in the fall and mauve blossoms in the summer and fall. They should be planted around one foot apart.

The Lenten rose is a perennial that grows to around eighteen inches tall and wide. It is mostly evergreen, with compound leaves and irregular leaflets, Its clusters of purplish flowers bloom in the early spring.

The Oakleaf hydrangea is a deciduous shrub, and significant presence in my backyard. It gets to be around five feet tall and three to four feet wide. It has large lobed leaves that turn wine colored in the fall. In the spring, there are cream-colored blossoms that stay through summer and turn reddish purple in the fall. Plant them around five feet apart.

Persian epicedium, or ‘Sulphureum’ is a perennial that grows to between ten and twelve feel tall. The leaves are almost evergreen, turning a deep scarlet in the fall. Pale yellow blossoms will make an appearance in the early spring. Plant them around one foot apart.

Wild blue phlox is a perennial that grows to between nine and eighteen inches tall. It is a gently spreading plant that has pale blue blossoms that make their appearance in the early spring. They should be planted about one foot apart.

Wild columbine is a perennial that grows to around eighteen inches tall. It blooms with red and yellow flowers above the delicate lobed foliage. It should be planted around one foot apart.

Wild cranesbill is a perennial that grows to around a foot tall and eighteen inches wide. It has sharply lobed leaves and blooms with pale lavender-pink flowers in the spring. They should be planted around a foot apart.

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