Made in the shade: plants for a shaded yard

Wayne Hobbs
Posted 4/19/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – If you have trees in your yard, you most likely have those areas where plants just seem to struggle because of the shade. Whether it is the area of your lawn that you need to …

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Made in the shade: plants for a shaded yard

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – If you have trees in your yard, you most likely have those areas where plants just seem to struggle because of the shade. Whether it is the area of your lawn that you need to re-sod every few years, the bed where some of your plants just never seem to grow or a completely bare spot, shaded places can be a challenge in the landscape. However, with proper choices you can have a beautiful garden with little sunlight.

First of all, while some varieties may have the ability to tolerate some shade, no turfgrass is able to truly thrive in these areas and will likely never perform as well as it would in full sun. Consider adding more landscape beds where you can plant a diverse array of plants that will flourish. Vegetable gardens will also likely fail with less than 6 hours of sun during the day.

Another item to consider is that shade does change during the day and during seasons. Note how it may shift during the day or throughout the year. Afternoon shade is usually preferable to morning shade for most plants.

Shaded areas can also sometimes be poorly suited to any landscaping if they are too wet or dry, have many tree roots or have an extremely thick canopy. If the tree canopy is too dense, you can consider thinning out some branches to allow more light through but this should be completed by an ISA Certified Arborist to ensure it is done correctly.

One option for shady spots under large trees are understory trees. These species evolved to grow in dense forests so are well-suited to survive in the shaded yard. Some options include Eastern Dogwood, Red Buckeye, Redbud or Dahoon Holly. Shrubs such as Camellias, Azaleas, Florida Anise, or Beautyberry can also be planted. There are many other options available as well. These can be planted as single specimens or in striking groupings.

For lower growing plants, River Oats can be an effective ornamental grass and most ferns can also do well. If you are looking for groundcovers, consider Asiatic Jasmine, Ajuga, Cast-Iron Plant, Lilyturf, Asiatic Jasmine or Mondograss. Color can also be found in the shade garden by utilizing Gingers, Kaffir Lily, Walking Irises and shrimp plants. If you are looking for a palm like plant, Coonties, Palmettos, Lady Palms and Needle Palms are well suited to the shade. For more plants and ideas for your shade garden you can read the UF/IFAS fact sheet on shade gardens found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep457.

Just like with any landscape, you should never use any invasive plants. Stay away from Nephrolepsis cordifolia, also known as the tuberous sword fern. Other invasive, shade tolerant plants to avoid include Wedelia, Coral Ardesia, and Nandina.

If you have any questions about the Master Gardener program, landscape and garden topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904) 284-6355. Also, we will be holding a class on landscaping using the concept of Right Plant/Right Place on May 22 from 6-8 p.m. Visit clayextension.eventbrite.com for more details and to register.

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