Shade Perennials

by Ms. Grow-It-All on March 30, 2011

in Weekly Column Archive

Q: What perennial flowers will grow in shade? We have a tree-shaded slope that we’d like to cover with flowers, but we don’t want to replant every year.

A: While there aren’t as many flowering perennials for shady sites as there are for sunny sites, there are quite a few to choose from. One thing to keep in mind, though: Full sun in Florida is so much stronger than the full sun that gardeners deal with elsewhere, so if your shade is light shade or high, filtered shade, you can probably stretch and include some flowering perennials that call for part sun or even full sun. It depends on the kind of shade, your yard’s microclimate and the plant.

Some of my favorite shade perennials are Philippine violet (Barleria cristata), Jacobinia, Spanish bluebells and hardy begonias. Hardy star begonia lives up to its name and thrives on neglect, making it an ideal plant for a slope. African iris does well in part shade and is drought-tolerant, once established, and is also a good candidate for slopes. Bush daisy and African daisy are also contenders.

Daylilies can handle high shade and shifting shade, or shade that changes throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. Agapanthus is thought of as a full-sun plant, but it also does well in part-shade or high-shade. Both those flowering perennials offer nice foliage for most of the year, even when not in bloom.

Flax lily, botanically known as Dianella, does well in either sun or shade. It is better known for its foliage than for its small flowers, but it can add interest to a flowering perennial bed. The same can be said for Persian shield, and its colorful foliage is stunning.

If the trees providing your shade are deciduous, you probably can include mass plantings of daffodils. They’ll get enough sun for a spring display, and the summer perennials will come along just in time to help mask the foliage once the bloom season has ended. If you mix your varieties, you can have early, mid-season and late-season daffodils on the slope to provide flowers for weeks.

Decide what flowers you like best, then see whether your slope and its conditions will support them.

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