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Finding Perennials for Semi-shaded Areas

July 01, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

There’s still some time to plant and I have an area at the front of my house that just don’t get a lot of sun. Some years ago, I started to plant various things to see what could survive.  Now I need to really learn which “Shade” or “Semi-Shade” plants are actually going to work in each of the “trouble” spots. Today’s article focuses on semi-shaded areas.

Closest to the front of the house, the plants in this area only get the sun from dawn to about 11am. Most of the day they are in the shade caused by the shadow of the house. Thus, I need plants there that can handle semi-shaded sun.

Hostas make a great plant for semi-shaded areas. I have planted hosta in this area and they have done very well. Some were started with just 3 to 5 pieces from someone else’s garden. Hostas with lighter-coloured leaves do appreciate more sun, so some of those are now planted under the trees near the pool where it is lightly shaded for part of the day but still sunny.

To the left Solomon's Seal with a host in front of it. To the right, a variegated Solomon's Seal. 
Solomon’s Seal is another perennial that I have in my front yard and it is doing very well in the semi-shaded areas.  These actually look like a giant Lily of the Valley.  I have one that has deep green leaves, another with lighter green leaves and another with variegated leaves.  Each started as a group of 5 stems.  Now they are each groups of 40+ stems.  So, you can dig some out and disperse them to your friends every year if your available space is tight.

I’ve been growing Lily of the Valley in this area now for about 6 years. The plants are fragrant blooming in the spring and early summer in our area.  I have several in my front garden. The stems are covered with tiny white, nodding bell-shaped flowers. The leaves are a medium-bright green.  They form attractive red seed pods after flowering; but, know that they do spread. They prefer partial shade and moist soil but can (apparently, but I haven’t tried it) adapt to full sun or full shade, depending on the amount of moisture the receive.  I quite like mine and may add some to the side gardens.

This past winter, I read that Primrose, which are perennials, should be planted in lightly shaded areas.  That should mean they can be planted in some sections of this shaded area. And the article stated that the soil should be well-drained and amended with organic matter. It told me to place primrose plants about 6 to 12 inches apart and 4 to 6 inches deep. That should help me determine how many plants to buy.  I’m to water them thoroughly after planting and add a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture. I’ll be starting that planting soon.

Jacob’s Ladder is a woodland perennial that prefers a shady to semi-shady spot for growing. Its leaves tend to scorch with too much heat or sun. The plant forms a clump of densely packed leaf stems each bearing tiny leaflets, almost fern-like in appearance, that rise along the stem like the ladder of the Biblical dream of Jacob. This ladder formation is known as a pinnate. Each plant grows from 1 to 3 feet high with a spread of 1.5 to 2 feet wide. Loose clusters of flowers hang like bells from the long stems and come in white, pink, blue or yellow depending on the cultivar.  I don’t have any of these yet so they may be added.

Tiger Lilies are also doing well in the garden. I love their blooms but their blooms are short lasting. I’ll  keep them though as I have  several different colours of them and when in bloom they are very nice.  They  tend to do better with some sun. Indeed, many nurseries list them as requiring full sun. But I’ve found they tolerate partial shade and can actually benefit when shaded from the hot afternoon sun. They must be tougher than they look. 


Bottom line: The best perennials plants for these spaces for me have been Hostas, Lily of the valley, Tiger Lilies, and Solomon’s Seal.  And now I have a few more to try out. 

But I do like my marigolds, and coleus so more on those in a future edition!

A Reminder: When shopping, make sure you know how much sun each area of your garden gets so you can select the right plants for it. You can go out from sunrise to sunset every hour or two and note the level of sunshine in order to purchase just the right kind of plant that needs the level of shade or sun that your garden requires. 

Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

Member of the Ontario Horticultural Association

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