the LOOK for shade

magickiwi(Zone 5 Michigan)January 21, 2004


My garden has a lot of shade and I am wondering what you would recommend for Zone 5 tropicalesque part shade to shade. Anyone have any starts to share? Elephant ears did pretty well for me last year and I would like some more of those - the ones I have are just plain green - I would appreciate your advice and help.

Cheers - MagicKiwi in Michigan

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I would try some really large-leaved hostas, combined with large ferns, hellebores, japanese spurge, and heartleaf bergenia. Those will form a lush, green, hardy background. Mixing with bulbs or annuals such as elephant ears, caladiums, and begonias will add to the tropicalesque effect.

Also, I've had some success with aucuba japonica 'crotonifolia', but it seems marginally hardy here in zone 6. You might be able to grow it in zone 5 with protection.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2004 at 6:49AM
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jderosa(z6 NJ)

Add some Catalpa that you can cut down to the ground every year,if the shade isn't too deep.

Ferns are a great idea, too. Ostrich Fern can get 5' tall if you give it VERY rich, moist soil.

I did well with Banana in shade in Zone 6, but it again depends on how deep the shade is.

Some of the largest hosta are Blue Angel, Sum and Substance and Colossus. Add some small ones in, too, for added interest.

Joe 'struggling myself with finding the right plants' DeRosa

    Bookmark   January 23, 2004 at 10:17AM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

I wouldn't expect Aucuba to be hardy in zone 5; it's already marginal in zone 6.

Your options are limited if you're looking for hardy perennials; if you don't mind replanting annuals and tender perennials and bulbs every spring, there are many more possibilities. For example, Caladiums and coleus add a colorful tropical touch to shady areas.

Fuchsias, especially the shrubby, dark-leafed triphylla hybrids like 'Gartenmeister Bonstadt' (sp.?), add a nice tropical touch and should do well in your climate (they resent the summer heat and humidity in my area). F. magellanica, also a shrubby species, might even be hardy if carefully sited (e.g., next to a house foundation) and well mulched. Fuchsias probably want bright shade or even some sun in your climate, but if elephant ears did well, you probably have good light.

Begonia grandis MIGHT be hardy for you, again if situated near a foundation and mulched well.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2004 at 11:21AM
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try petasites japonicus for large leafed tropical looking foliage. 5-6 ft tall after three years, perennial, and very hardy. spread to a 10 foot patch from a 4 inch pot--in 3 years. needs shade --no sun, and moisture. mine is in regular soil, but in moist comditions it will grow rampant. i 'll have tons of starts come spring. here is a link to my photo album of petasites: sue

    Bookmark   January 23, 2004 at 10:40PM
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Fatsia japonica? Solomons' Seal? YES, Hostas. Ferns. Acantha? Rhodies...(we grow the tropical form a lot here), bamboo?


    Bookmark   January 26, 2004 at 12:02AM
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Besides most of what has already been mentioned, in my shade garden I have some ligularias, darmera, rodgersias, brugmansias and a gunnera. It is starting to look very tropicalesque!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2004 at 5:21PM
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Meghane(7b NC)

Jesse, how does the brug do in the shade? Mine seem to like lots of sun, IF I can keep up with the watering. I'd love to have that sweet smell near my patio, but it's almost full shade (just a little morning sun through some trees). Do you bring the brugs inside for winter? I don't (not enough room). Just wondering...

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 5:13PM
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safariofthemind(z7b NC)

A couple of strategically places half barrels can provide good soil and moisture to expand your options too. Try some water edge plants like the Carex's available today - some have great spiky foliage and nice seed heads. You can also put skunk cabbage in there. RJ

    Bookmark   February 11, 2004 at 4:20PM
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maleko(USDA 9)

The only real difference between northern deciduous forest plants and rainforest plants is the lower temperatures that make the northern plants go dormant in the fall. That is why many woodland plants blend perfectly with exotic tropicals from the rainforrests of the world. A shruby border of rhododenrons and azlaeas and other woodland understory plants makes a good start. Add some hardy bamboos for the exotic touch. Then choose from any of the woodland perienials and ground covers others have mentioned along with the modern varieties of spiderwort,lirope, dicentra, corals bells and hardy ground orchids. If your trees are hardwoods they will be leafless all winter. That means you can plant early blooming bulbs like daffodils between the perienials and replace them with tropical bulbs like taro, calla, caladium and tuberous begonia after they have bloomed out. If there is any room left you can't go wrong with impatiens or bedding begonias as summer annuals for shade. Sink a few potted palms and bananas in the ground and you have got yourself a paradise.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2004 at 4:38AM
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Hey there MagicKiwi!! Did your callas survive the winter?? I just planted 3,000 for this year, yikes!! I like the dicentra/bleeding hearts for shade. I don't like the standard red and white one so much, I prefer the white only or the red/pink only, which is called luxuriant and seems a bit smaller.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2004 at 5:06PM
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