Gardening in Florida: Selecting the right plants for a shade garden
In a recent column, I reminisced about afternoons outside under trees during the summer with Granny Cloud and watermelon. The shady spots were nothing fancy, a few chairs and a few shade-loving plants under the trees. Shade gardens can be a lovely focal point or private garden for quiet contemplation, just be sure to select plants which thrive in shady locations.
Selecting plants with growing requirements which match site conditions, including the light conditions is a basic skill practiced by green professionals and gardeners. Shady areas can be defined in many ways and are variable.
Dense or deep shade is shade throughout the day such as found under the deck or stairs, on the north side of the house or under dense, thick trees. Full shade is still defined as no sun, but is brighter than deep shade. Partial shade locations receive sun for a few hours a day, usually less than 4 hours, and light or shifting shade may have a few hours of sun or not, but is characterized by dappled sunlight filtering through high, thin branches.
Once the amount of light is determined, consider a few other factors when selecting plants. If the shade is produced by trees, the soil may be dry and low in nutrients due to competition. Additional irrigation and applications of fertilizer may be needed to compensate. If the shade is produced by buildings or other structures, the soil may be moist, and the irrigation system should be adjusted to reduce the amount of water applied and plants selected which can tolerate the moisture.
If you have a shady spot in your space, I recommend planting and decorating the area to welcome and encourage your family and friends to spend a little time in the shade. Here are a few of my favorite shade-loving plants to consider for your place in the shade.
Florida Anise: A large native shrub, grows to 10 feet with interesting red flowers. A protected species so be sure and secure from a reputable nursery.
Crepe Jasmine: An evergreen shrub that grows to 6 feet. Has wonderful, fragrant white blossoms. A little fast growing, but loves the shade and flowers well in the shade.
Border grass or Liriope: Though often grown in the sun, it is much happier in the shade. Liriope produces lovely lavender flowers borne on spikes above the leaves.
Confederate Jasmine: A springtime blooming vine grown all over Florida and the southeast. It grows in sun or shade but does best with a bit of partial shade. It has moderate salt tolerance and good drought tolerance, climbs by twining, has no support roots or disk so it may need tying to start.
Other plants to consider include Variegated Ginger, Lady Palm, Sweet Viburnum, Wild Coffee, Firebush, Marlberry, Coral Honeysuckle, and Green Dwarf Schefflera.
Select plants for your shade location based on actual observations of the light and soil conditions, as well as the amount of space for growth and temperature ranges; the right plant will make a beautiful landscape and maintenance easier. Then cover up with mosquito repellent and enjoy an evening or a morning glass of iced coffee in the shade.
Carol Cloud Bailey is a landscape counselor and horticulturist. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit yard-doc.com for more information.