Just because your yard is shaded doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy flowers and greenery all summer long. Understanding the shady space in your yard is the first step in planting a colorful shade garden. There are several different types of plants that flourish in shady flower beds or large backyards under a canopy of shade trees. If you’re not sure which plants will thrive, there are many local experts who can help you choose the perfect annuals, perennials, shrubs and ground cover to bring your backyard to life.

Shady Personality

Understanding the amount of shade in your yard is the first step in choosing the perfect plants. There are several types of shade to consider.

  • Light shade offers indirect light, partial or half shade, receiving two to six hours of direct sun per day.
  • Dappled shade creates different patterns on the plants as it peeks through tree leaves.
  • Heavy and dense shade areas receive little to no sun throughout the day.

Scott Moon, manager at Sargent’s Landscape Nursery, says, "Monitor the planting area before planting. In early spring before the leaves of trees have fully grown, the sun may be more intense, but as the leaves grow, it creates more shade. Also, as the sun rises and sets, the shade can range from partial to full."

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Rooting Around

Moon says the soil in Rochester is heavy in clay and limestone, so compost is a necessity. The soil should consist of 50 percent compost and 50 percent existing soil. "The soil in shady areas stays wetter, so insert your entire finger into the soil to test for moisture. You may need to water shrubs once a week and flowering plants every two to three days because their root system is shorter." However, watering also depends on the heat of the sun. In late summer, you may need to water more often. The key to success is paying attention.

Picking Your Plants

Most shade loving perennials have green leaves with flowers that bloom for only a few weeks, so Moon recommends staggering annuals and perennials that bloom at different times. Hostas are perennials with large green leaves, although some varieties have a touch of yellowish gold or white on their leaves. Their flowers bloom purple or white. The yellow blooming corydalis pairs well with hostas because their bloom lasts all summer long. Both are perennials and can withstand heavy shade. Columbines, bleeding hearts, lily of the valley, and astilbe are shade loving perennials that bloom throughout the summer. Ivy and ferns grow in dense shade, but are not known for color.

Intertwine a few annual plants including impatiens, coral bells, begonias and geraniums.  These plants have gorgeous pink, purple, coral, red, and white blooms and create a colorful explosion all summer long. According to Moon, the most popular shade plant is the coleus. Its flower is petite with little color, but has leaves ranging from orange and yellow to red, burgundy, and lime.

Shade loving shrubs include hydrangea, azaleas, and viburnum. Vinca minor and ajuga are two types of ground cover for shady spots.