Six Ways to grow in the shade
by Sandy Johnson
Shady areas can be difficult to get plants to grow in. The “trial and error” method can really test your patience and your gardening budget. There are a few simple tricks we can share with you to make gardening in the shade a success.
1. Shade level
Determine the degree of shade you are dealing with, as this will guide you to make better plant choices:
Full shade – This is an area that receives no direct sunlight. The shade can be cast from trees, fences or the walls of your house or your neighbour’s house.
Dappled shade – This is where there is a mix of sun and shade. The area will receive sun at some parts of the day directly or filtered through foliage.
Part shade – This is the easiest type of shade to deal with, as the area will only receive shade for part of the day and be in the sun for the rest of the day.
2. Treat the soil
In shaded areas, just as in the rest of the garden, it is important to treat your soil. It is not unsual to have dry, poor soil in shady spots, which will restrict growth. Before planting, add a liberal application of compost and dig it through the top layer of soil. Shady areas also need water, though not as much as areas in the sun, so water occasionally in the hottest times of the year.
3. Increasing the light
The more light that the area receives, the better the plants will grow. Thin out the branches from trees that are casting the shade or remove low branches. This will also give you more space to work in.
4. Root competition
This is a common problem in shady gardens as large trees responsible for shading have large roots that take up a lot of space. Their root systems also use the water and nutrients, making it very difficult for other plants to thrive. This is where plants with a small root system such as ferns and bromeliads are perfect.
Add some height by using pots or containers. They can be planted with a permanent plant or changed every season with annuals. Using pots is also an effective way to get colour into a spot that might be very wet. A sculpture is another way of adding colour and interest to a dreary area.
6. Stick with a good thing
If it works, then plant more. If your plant choices are limited or the area is very large, then plant in large groups – this is an effective way to create a stunning display, especially when the plants flower. Choosing plants that flower in lighter colours like white, light blue and pink will also help to brighten shade.