February 19 2013
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The Right Plants for Sun or Shade: Part 1 –Shade-Happy Plantings

You can make your gardening life a lot simpler by choosing the right plants for certain areas in your garden or lawn.

In this two-part article we’ll cover the basics on how to choose the right plants for your garden based on sunny or shady areas and also list some of the top plants for those areas.

The idea behind selecting the right plant for the right place is that when you pick plants that are well-suited to the location where they are planted, they will perform well with limited additional work. Plants that are ideal for their site will establish themselves quickly, and have strong roots.  Healthy plants growing in ideal conditions will be less likely to become diseased. The same way we are less likely to catch a chill if we are well-rested and healthy. They are also less likely to be adversely affected by insects. If a few insects chew on healthy plants, the plants are likely to shrug off the injury and keep on growing and flowering. If unhealthy plants are chewed by insects, the plants have less energy to deal with the invading pest and will be more likely to die.

So how do you pick the right plant for the right place? It’s simple; first you assess your local conditions, not for your garden, but the general surroundings. Do you have long, hot, humid summers? Are they hot, but dry? Do you have chilly nights, even when the days are hot? Do your conditions tend to be wet, dry or somewhere in between? Also think about what plants grow in your area naturally. It makes sense to think about native plants, but you needn’t limit yourself to them.

Below is a list of plants that thrive in shady areas. Low-Light Plants include:


Ideally, impatiens receive partial to full shade. This allows the plant to produce gorgeous flowers in a medley of heights and intense colors, including white, red, dark pink, light pink and orange. Impatiens are beloved because they’re not only pretty, but also easy to care for. Glossy leaves make it attractive even when it’s no longer in bloom. Water impatiens regularly, but make sure soil is just moist — not too wet. Use rich soil and apply a general-purpose fertilizer once a month. Impatiens are susceptible to frost, so bring potted ones indoors or cover the ones planted in your garden when temperatures drop too low for their liking.


Fitting for flower beds, hanging baskets, pots or even indoors, begonia is an incredibly adaptable plant. You can find this flowering plant in red, white, yellow or pink, depending on the variety. All types of begonia grow dense foliage and reach between 6 inches and 9 inches in height. Waxy green or chocolate-brown leaves give this plant appeal even when it’s not in bloom. Begonia hates frost and love shade. Unlike some other plants on this list, it does best with a little care and attention. Remove dead leaves, stems and flowers. Water generously, but allow its soil to dry before watering again. Ensure that soil stays loose, and add fertilizer once a month.

*Wild Violet

Don’t mistake this plant for the common African violet that’s a popular indoor/outdoor plant. Truly wild violets always live outdoors. This hardy perennial does well in intensely shaded areas and can pop up in the most unexpected spots, such as the dark crevices of a forest floor, among prairie grasses and even in wetlands. Wild violet is sweet-smelling, and it tastes sweet, too! Use the well-washed blooms in salads, or crystallize them with sugar to decorate desserts.

The coloring of this plant can range from the palest purple to the deepest blue, and the spectrum also includes oranges, pinks, whites and other brilliant colors. Wild violet emerges in early spring, and it prefers well-drained soil abundant with decayed manure and organic matter.

* Hosta Lily

The hosta lily is more alluring for its broad, showy leaves than for its small white or lavender flowers that bloom on long stalks shooting up from the plant. Green, blue, golden and variegated leaves bring interesting textures and colors to shady areas of the yard. Once established, the hosta lily doesn’t need much pruning. It prefers partial to full shade and grows between 18 inches and 30 inches tall and 2 feet to 4 feet wide. The hosta lily should have nutrient-intense soil that’s constantly moist. After the first frost, cut back the plant down to ground level. Either cover the plant crown with a 3-inch bed of organic mulch to prepare it for the following season, or let the plant naturally die back. If this is your preferred method, cut back dead growth the following spring before new shoots come up.

As you think about each of these plants make a few notes on each of them, this will help you plan what plants should go in each place. If it’s bushes and shrubs you want to plant in shade, ask our landscaping professionals to make suggestions for you! In our next article, we’ll go over some of the top plants for sunny areas that love to soak up the rays!