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What is 'Shade''?

Posted by patsi z7-S.Jersey (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 24, 09 at 12:05

For years I've been trying to grow shade plants in tooo much shade with many failures.
This is a blog post that may be helpful in understanding SHADE.
This is what works in my yard.
Top Favorite "Shade" Plants" and What is Shade ?
I've tried to grow just about every full shade plant.
It took a long time to learn... sometimes you just have to give in. :)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What is 'Shade''?

Very nice! You've definitely mastered shade gardening. I appreciated the definitions. My garden is partial shade, but I never knew that. I just considered it "shade."

I've done very well with the Gartenmeister Bonestedt fuchsia, impatiens (of course), dragon wing begonia, coleus, a couple un-named HD ferns, hosta, coleus. I keep my potted Christmas cactus in the partial shade garden too. I also use it as a place to put my houseplant rejects which seem to like it there.

RE: What is 'Shade''?

  • Posted by patsi z7-S.Jersey (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 25, 09 at 8:53

Most seem to define "shade" by how much shade plants get...I find that too fuzzy/confusing.
I do it the opposite way.
Knowing the plants you have...picking one definition of shade would be "partial shade".
Don't forget compost :)

RE: What is 'Shade''?

Here's a picture from last year. It's much the same this year. I yanked out the maidenhair fern on the right because it interfered with my Pathway to Nowhere. I added a couple liriopes to the far back left, and they seem pretty happy there to my surprise.

I compost as much as I can--mostly kitchen scraps buried here and there plus a worm bin. How do you do it, in a pile or what?


RE: What is 'Shade''?

No list is ever right for everybody and every climaste. I find all gardening is by guess and by golly with some knowledge thrown in. If a plant doesn't like the conditions I move it, but if I think I'd like it somewhere I try it. It will soon let me know if it's happy.

Your list is pretty good but there are exceptions to everything. For instance I have 3 coral bells in full sunlight in the center of 3 boxes and they thrive there.

RE: What is 'Shade''?

I define shade by how many hours of light the area gets. If 3-5 hours of sun/light, then it is partial shade. If less than 3 hours, full shade. If those 3 hours or less of sun are brutal afternoon sun - I consider that miserable shade (not many plants would be happy there!).

Climate varies

By the way, I agree with oilpainter that things work differently in different climates. What works in the more northern areas of the US won't necessarily hold up in the heat and stronger sun of the South. And what doesn't work for us in the South may be fine in northern NJ, NY, New England, etc. Some of it is still trial and error. Gardeners must be prepared to observe and relocate plants if necessary!

RE: What is 'Shade''?

  • Posted by patsi z7-S.Jersey (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 26, 09 at 16:56

Nice shade the combo of plants.
Looks great !!
We use compost by the truck load....lots of beds.
My definition of shade is not for zone 3 or 10...that's a different ball game.
I'm surprised your heuchera does well in full sun light(6 plus hours)...maybe they're a little shaded by other plants ?
I like that..." prepared to observe and relocate plants if necessary!" Sooo true !

RE: What is 'Shade''?

What a wonderful post. We moved into our house about a year ago and this is definetly my first shade yard. I have all kinds of shade so I know exactly what you are saying about the levels of shade. I have gotten lucky with my experiments so far but I also did some research before I planted. My begonias are doing well, my caladiums are gorgeous and my impatients are doing well too. I inherited lots of colorful shrubs so I am mostly adding flowers and colorful greenry. I am actually loving shade gardening because it is cooler than doing stuff in the hot sun. My screened porch is in the shade too and it makes everything so much more pleasant. Besides, it is definetly more challenging to have find the right plants for the different levels of shade. Full sun is hot and icky no matter where it is. Thanks again for your great post, I have saved it in my bookmarks.

RE: What is 'Shade''?

  • Posted by patsi z7-S.Jersey (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 13, 09 at 16:39


Shade won't give you alot of color without the annuals
BUT it does become low maintenance.
Sorta carefree ! Can't beat that.

Just don't keep trying to put those "full sun/partshade" plants in less than 4 hours of DIRECT sunlight
like I've done in the past.
Four hours will keep them alive but that's about it.
Putting full shade plants in DENSE shade is the same story with most plants.

Have fun,

you can always stop by and ask any questions

RE: What is 'Shade''?

Interesting post :-)

I'd have to agree that shade conditions will differ considerably - and what will grow in them - in different areas of the country. Several of the plants listed grow extremely well in full sun here. In fact, I'm surprised to see Sedum spectabile listed as that is commonly considered to be a full sun plant pretty much anywhere (although tolerant of light shade conditions). And the Rhododendron 'PJM' group is considered to be one of the more sun tolerant group of cultivars and will develop better winter foliage color in more sun than shade. I also grow most heucheras in full sun. Again, they develop better foliage colors and bloom better in more sun than shade. The exceptions are the very pale, chartreuse leaved cultivars like 'Lime Ricky' or 'Key Lime Pie'. They just need an organic, evenly moist soil. Those that I've attempted to grow in shadier conditions just poop out after a season or two, while those in sunnier locations thrive.

Since every garden in any location is unique, at best suggested 'shade' plants are only guidelines of what may possibly work and often, trial and error is the only reliable way to know for sure. Many plants which are commonly considered shade lovers are really only shade tolerant and will thrive and bloom better if they receive a reasonable amount of sun. Hellebores are a prime example. Soil moisture is often a major influence as well. Many so-called shade plants can be grown and even thrive in full sun if they receive sufficient soil moisture and avoid reflected heat.

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