By - Carlos May

Shade Landscaping in a Dim Backyard

To plant a shade landscaping effectively we will need a plan to fit the proper plants. Shade landscaping is for the dim backyard, areas that sit under a shade tree or some hidden corner that does not get very much sun. Planning before we start planting is the key to a successful landscape design.

When a plant fails in our shady backyard it usually means that it was not a shade tolerant landscaping plant. Sometimes when we visit the garden nursery we fall in love a particular plant, buy it, take it home and plant it without checking to see if our environment is conducive to its requirements. We go ahead and plant it where there is room, it dies and then we discover it was planted in the wrong spot.

One of the common problems we face when shade landscaping is finding the plants that will satisfy the needs of the landscape design. From an artistic view point we probably have a fantastic landscape plan mapped out with good colors and intriguing textures. Eventually it comes time to carry out our landscape plan. We have now hit our first stumbling block, the plants and trees we selected are not good shade plants. We need to swallow our pride and realize that the shade is really meant for the plants that do not need very much sun and like the shade.

Landscape requirements have a habit of changing over time and we need to redo some of those now shady areas to keep our garden beautiful. Some of us have lived in our homes for twenty years or more and those trees and shrubs have matured and created more shade. We have a couple of choices here, trim everything back to give you more sun or put in shade landscape plants. Some plants, as we well know, do not do well in the shade but there are plenty that thrive with the shady conditions. Some plants do well with light shade, and others will thrive with partial or full shade. The amount of shade in our landscape can change with the seasons. The areas that receive full sun in the summer may be partially shaded in the spring and fall due to the lower angle of the sun.

We know that some of our large shade trees are valuable resources and pruning away some of the dead, diseased, and structurally poor limbs will improve the beauty of our landscape and also give us the opportunity to set in some plants that require more sunlight. Another way to expand the light in our garden is to paint a fence or the siding of the house a light color for a substantial effect. Root competition for moisture is an important consideration in shade landscaping. Some of the shade tolerant plants adapt to the low moisture while others need moist shade. We will need to consider all the nearby plants, trees and shrubs when choosing or watering our plants.

Ferns are low maintenance shade tolerant plants. We want to provide them a well-drained area so they will not be allowed to dry out. They are good border plants, like to be planted near ponds or streams, or as accent plants. If we have plenty of shady areas in the garden, we may want to add some ferns for color and interest. The Autumn Fern is an excellent plant for this because it adds a new color every season.

Just because we are planning on shade landscaping in a dim backyard does not mean we will not be able to have beautiful flowers. When choosing flowers there are a few that will do well with four hours of sun or less: Annuals; Globe Amaranth needs only 4 hours sun with purple, pink, magenta, red, or white flowers. Nicotiana, only 4 hours of sun with purple, pink, red, white, yellow or green flowers. Perennials; Forget-Me-Not needs full or part shade with its bright blue flower with yellow center. Columbine likes 4 hours sun with red or pink flowers. Hardy Geranium needs partial shade with colors of purple, red, pink, white, or blue. Coral Bells, want part to full shade with many colors ranging from coppery orange to black and deep purple to chartreuse. Bleeding Heart likes partial to full shade with its shades of pink, purple, red, and white blooms. Biennials; Foxglove needs around four hours of sun with purple, pink, white, yellow or red flowers.

When choosing shrubs, here are some that enjoy the shade: Butterfly Bush; needs about 4 hours of sun with cheerful blooms of red, pink, purple, white, and yellow. Red Twig Dogwood; needs partial shade and will tolerate full shade with white blooms in summer and purple leaves in fall. Oakleaf Hydrangea: it is happy in partial shade landscaping and its blooms are white in spring, they fade to pink in summer and brown in fall.