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Three Shade Garden Plants to Add Color

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That One Patch in the Backyard...

Americans love the outdoors. In 2018 homeowners spent $47.8 billion in lawn and garden retail purchases trying to create their own backyard getaway -- and that was before the stay-at-home restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic. Without much effort it's easy to get some bright hues into your landscape with some basic gardening. Planting some pretty annuals in a sunny spot is virtually a guarantee that in just a few weeks you'll have a colorful burst of color to enjoy. It's so satisfying when you see those little blooms pop out!

But what do you do with that one patch in the backyard that is completely shaded (thanks to that giant tree you can't afford to cut down, or the side of the neighbor's garage)? It's tempting to cover the spot with some big rocks and mulch and call it a day. But there IS a way to bring some color and life to that shady spot.

The Quest for a Successful Shade Garden

Gardening has been a passion of mine since I was 11 years old when a neighbor gave me a few of her leftover annuals to plant in my yard. I set those few marigolds in the only sunny spot in my parents' backyard, and they quickly burst into color, giving me the impression that I had a natural green thumb! It was pretty disappointing the next year though when I tried to bring that brilliant yellow color to a shady part of the yard. I found out the hard way that not all plants work in all situations.

Over the years, through trial and error, I learned how to get great gardening results in all kinds of conditions - from extreme sun to intense shade - with very little effort. I now know the easiest way to fill a dark spot in your garden is to find one perennial, one annual, and/or one ground cover to keep that shady area looking colorful, bright and lush from Spring through Fall. Here are my top three picks to fill a shady spot in your garden:

Heavenly Hosta

This was the first shade-loving plant I ever worked with, and I'm so glad I did because I had amazing success. It's a hearty perennial that never fails to deliver lush foliage that comes in several shades of green, from light celery to deep blue-green. Some varieties are also striated with pale yellow or white stripes which can really lighten up a shady area of your yard. In late summer, hostas produce delicate pale purple or white flowers - a welcome bit of brightness as autumn approaches.

Fluffy hostas are also the perfect choice to plant near rocks, decks and fences because their large oval leaves tend to soften the look of hard edges. And one more reason to love hostas -- they get fuller year after year and can easily be moved, divided and replanted, which can save you money! Maybe it's just me, but a row of big beautiful hostas looks very rich and well-established -- even the same year you plant them. These no-fail perennials are a must for shady gardens.

Hosta is fluffy and full

Hosta is fluffy and full

The Importance of Impatiens

In my search for brightly colored plants that grow in the shade, I learned quickly that impatiens is a virtue (I couldn't resist the pun!). This cheery annual is a fast bloomer that expands quickly and provides vivid color throughout the spring and summer and into the early fall. Impatiens thrive in shade and come in variety of hues - red, white, pink, salmon, and peach to name just a few - and all they really need is water. I have a little playhouse in the back of my yard under some big old oak trees. Every year I put a little flower box under the window and fill it with red and salmon colored impatiens. It looks so cute and the colors literally pop out from the shade!

One way to make your garden really sing is to choose impatiens that compliment the color of your house or echo some of the other plants in your yard. The same hue dotted around the property has a way of tying the landscape all together. And if you have an especially dark spot, plant white impatiens - it goes with everyting, and the brightness can really draw the eye to an area that might otherwise fade into the background.

Impatiens comes in many vibrant colors

Impatiens comes in many vibrant colors

Powerful Periwinkle

Periwinkle was the first plant I ever ordered from a catalog. In most parts of the country, this easy-to-grow flowering groundcover thrives in shade. Periwinkle provides tiny blue, white or pink blooms in the spring, and a dense carpet of green throughout the summer months. This low-maintenance plant spreads and becomes fuller with every year making it the perfect option if you want a luxurious, rich looking garden but don't have a lot of money to spend. I must say however that you do need to buy a lot of little plants the first year in order to achieve more groundcover the following season.

Periwinkle spreads and gets fuller every year

Periwinkle spreads and gets fuller every year

A Great Resource

You Can Do It!

Hosta, impatiens and periwinkle are all easy to maintain -- just give them a lot of water in the beginning to help establish the roots. Then sit back and admire their beauty! Any one of these plants, or a combination of all three, can bring color, light and life to a dark area in your yard and make it easy to have a beautiful shade garden!


Kelly Kline Burnett from Fontana, WI on March 24, 2015:

Love all things natural and the garden especially. The hostas are an investment - they will last and multiply for generations to come - so many things in life are short term. To make a lasting impression in your home, the second best item beyond a tree is the hosta for me.

Jim from Kansas on March 17, 2015:

We have hostas, but I've never really given Impatiens much of a try. I might have to change that this year.

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Patsy Bell Hobson from zone 6a, Southeast Missouri, USA on February 18, 2015:

Great combo idea. I never think of periwinkle. Good old periwinkle seems so aggressive where I live. But I do like the color. ^+

Marsha Musselman from Michigan, USA on July 31, 2013:

The periwinkle almost looks like a bell flower (I think that's the name). I never realized that impatiens spread when planted in the ground, although I tend to stay away from annuals other than one hanging plant a year.

I'm getting some free hostas in the fall as the person that is giving them away can't see them to enjoy them anymore. I have hopes of getting my garden completely weeded so I can enjoy the actual flowers more.

Thanks for a great hub and gorgeous pictures.

elle444 (author) on May 02, 2011:

Hi Silver Poet, thank you! It was just a lot of trial and error! Thanks for checking out my hub!

Silver Poet from the computer of a midwestern American writer on April 30, 2011:

Sounds like you're a landscape artist!

elle444 (author) on March 21, 2011:

Thanks for checking out my hub!

apStumbo on March 21, 2011:

Nice, thanks a lot!

elle444 (author) on March 21, 2011:

RTalloni - thanks for your comment! Glad it helped!

RTalloni on March 21, 2011:

Thanks for the periwinkle reminder. I need to get busy and transplant some!

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