Does shade garden take a long time to established

paulsiu(5a)September 14, 2011

Reading a shade garden book I found in the library, it mentioned that shade garden tend to grow slower and take a long time to establish, so those large hosta will take years to get that size.

Larger hosta tend to be pretty expensive. Has someone managed to grow the plants in a container in a bit more light until it reached a particular size before transplanting them to the final shade?


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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Like so many things, it depends. What is providing the shade? A large maple with an extensive, fiberous root system might not allow anything to get large. I garden under some Austrian Pines and my hosta take the ususal 3(ish) years to get a nice healthy size.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 6:03PM
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No, it's shade from an Ash tree. I planted some hosta, Tiarella, heuchera, iris crestata, Pulmonaria, and Tricyrtis in late spring. So far, the heuchera and iris has died and the pulmonaria isn't looking so good. The Tricyrtis was mysteriously dug up and torn to pieces, so I have no idea if it will grow there.

I do notice some roots when I dig but not as much as the maple. Do you think it will take 3 years for the Hosta to get up to the full size?


    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 7:01PM
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Paul, the longer you give hostas, the grander the clump! Especially the larger varieties. Some do grow quicker than others. Keep everything well watered, especially under trees, once established they will do ok without as much water. mary

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 9:46AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Did you actually plant them as far apart as you were told and now are impatient about all of the "naked space" between plants? If that's what's on your mind, how about some columbine or myosotis seeds, scattered in patches for a fuller look, until the hostas actually meet?

I've not found that shade gardens take longer than full sun gardens. It's just so much easier to spend time in the shady parts of one's yard that I think the shorter intervals between visits and longer amounts of time spent in the shady spots vs. sunny spots cause a mental illusion that the shade plants are slower.

Not all hostas grow at the same pace, and the size of a 20-year-old hosta is widely variable, from tiny little "teacup" plants to shrub-sized monsters.

There is a whole hosta forum if you'd like to ask the specific hosta question there - about the possibility of getting it to grow faster in a sunnier spot, or you might find the discussion's already in progress.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 9:50AM
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If you live in a hot climate, a shade garden can actually "mature" faster because the plants are protected. But it depends on what you're going for.

The way I see it, there are basically 5 kinds of plants/components that make a perennial garden.

1) Long-lived perennials that slowly grow (including hostas) which can take 2-3 years to really look their best.

2) Short-lived perennials or re-seeding annuals that "mature" in 1 year, spread aggressively but are held back by competition in an established garden.

3) Bulbs that are at their peak right after being planted; even if they naturalize, they still look good after 1 year.

4) Spreading groundcovers that fill in gaps.

5) Woody perennials/shrubs.

So for the first category - a hosta, as a shade plant, isn't going to take any longer than an ornamental rhubarb or liatris or some deeply-rooted plant that fills out in the third year.

Short-lived perennials "mature" just as quickly in the shade but their look will be different; they'll be lighter, more airy, and bloom less heavily, but will still fill in the following summer if you seed in late fall.

Bulbs... might actually do better in the shade if your most limiting factor is your hot/dry climate.

The right kind of spreading groundcovers will grow more quickly in the shade, IF you plant lots or cut them into small pieces and spread them around to propagate. Ajuga, for example, will look "established" in the 2nd year and if you plant the baby plants 1-2 feet apart, they can easily be completely blanketing the ground after 2 years. Same with lamium, and a lot of other rapid spreaders.

Shrubs... do grow slower in the shade.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 1:46AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Sorry it took so long to get back to you Paul. Make sure your hosta is not planted too deep. The crown needs to be just a hair above grade in my zone 5. Too deep and it will flounder. Tiarella and heuchera, heck I've occasionally lost them the first year for any of a number of reason. Did you have the drought or the deluge that different folks had this year? As for pulmonaria, mine are looking ratty this time of year too so I wouldn't worry about them.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 7:04PM
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Perhaps the soil needs improvement or plants need more water to thrive. Some cultivars are faster growing than others. We've had most plants thrive here even in our dry summer weather due to the soil preparation. We had to water it in August & September, but no more now. Will water again in dry season next summer, but after than only if plants need it. Mulch helps, too!

These are mid summer pix of our spring planted back garden in the shade where we layered chicken coop cleanings (manure + shavings) materials over packed clay, let sit for a few weeks, then turned over with a fork, but could barely dig in, layered more materials & then just planted right in them. I dug big holes for the hosta & added a soil amendment called Sumner Grow, which is like Milorganite. The plants are happy.

Chicken & duck coops in background are a good source of manure + bedding for our compost piles.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 6:25PM
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beatrice_outdoors(6a MA)

I started my shade garden 3 years ago-everything I planted then is only just now looking great. Last year's plantings are getting there. I agree with cornerdesk about the sleep, creep, leap theory, as I've seen it with my own eyes, unless you have something that spreads very quickly (I added brunerra this year and am pleased with the speed it has filled in). I also agree that those three years have come and gone very quickly.

corrine1-your shade garden is beautiful!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 12:20PM
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ptpulley(8b Western WA)

That is a fabulous shade garden!!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:36AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

No doubt! Enjoyed looking at again as much as I did the first time. Truly an inspiration.

Corrine, if you see this, please tell us what is the brownish thing in the first pic - at the base of the ladder?

Hey, Paul - how's the shade garden doing? Hostas springing to life? Been admiring your ambitious endeavors the past couple years!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:32AM
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